Simulations and Leadership Development

James Chisholm, March 6, 2006

Adapted from chapter written by ExperiencePoint co-founders James Chisholm and Greg Warman for the forthcoming “Experiential Education Handbook”, to be published by Pfieffer in the fall of 2006.

Leadership is, by definition, a process whereby an individual or group influences and controls a larger group towards a common goal. Considering that an organization’s common goal or direction is in a relentless state of flux, all leadership is change leadership.

Developing leaders is about more than building knowledge and skills, it’s about developing good judgement. Good leaders are wise leaders. Management guru Peter Drucker, in his book Management in Turbulent Times, may have said it best when he surmised that “(good) leaders know the right things to do, (good) managers know how to do things right.”

The classic Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom (DIKW) framework suggests that progress from knowledge (doing things right) to wisdom (knowing the right things to do) requires a deeper understanding of the fundamental principles informing a decision. Experiential methods such as simulation are particularly powerful means of imparting these core principles.

Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom (DIKW) frameworkSource: DIKW Pyramid,  en.wikipedia.org

Simulations, like ExperienceChange, can challenge participants to do the right things at the right time while operating within a realistic high-stress and emotionally-charged environment. This is the essence of leadership. The Leadership Engine that powers ExperienceChange, ExperienceChange Healthcare, and ExperienceCSR reflect three fundamental decision-making principles:

  1. Timing – make the right decision at the right time
  2. Sequencing – group related decisions with supporting interventions
  3. Execution – implement everything with excellence.

The Leadership Engine uses fuzzy logic mathematics to capture the fact that decision-making is rarely black and white, but rather is context specific and best represented as shades of gray. There are no single right answers or a “golden path” to success. In fact, with ExperienceChange, an astronomically large number of different combinations are possible (over 1.5 x 10^56), and only a small subset of these will yield success. Leaders and managers that can quickly understand the context and adopt a best practice approach to their decision-making will achieve this success – both in the simulation and in the “real world”.

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