Tuesday, May 06, 2008

How real is a training simulation?

In my training career, one of the wishes I've seen a lot of professionals express is; "I want the training to be as close to reality as possible". While I appreciate the intent, its often important to understand that there are various reasons why a training environment should not model reality a 100%. Here's why I think so:

a) A "real" environment generally has a mix of experienced and inexperienced individuals. Trying to mimic that environment with a group of inexperienced folks does NOT model reality.

Note: A simulation is meant to be a ground to fail fast and learn from mistakes. The trainer brings in his/ her experience into such an environment through briefs/ debriefs so that students can learn by way of a semi-controlled activity.

b) A "real" environment gives each participant at least some time to prepare/ plan for the activities that follow. When students have no idea of what's coming up, they have no way to either plan or prepare.

Note: To run an effective simulation, the trainer should be willing to do the background work for the students (preparation for client meetings, deciding agenda, collecting material, etc)

c) A "real" environment could at times involve a mix of roles which could potentially be absent in the classroom. In absence of these roles, students could miss out on perspectives they'd usually have during the real situation.

Note: To ensure that students dont miss out on different perspectives, the facilitator should plan the debriefing sessions to point out the areas that students didnt think about. This will help them relate back to the mistakes they made and reinforce their learning.

Things to remember about Simulations:
  • Please, please, please have a plan ON PAPER. Try to have a logical sequence to the activities that you wish to conduct, with enough time for briefing and debriefing.

  • Make yourself available at all times to provide guidance and to facilitate the process.

  • If you have volunteers helping you out in the simulation, make them understand their role and give them enough information to do it exactly the way you'd imagine.

  • Be clear about the learnings you wish to drive out as part of each activity and rehearse how you'd bring these out during the debrief.

  • Please, for heaven's sake, dont take "reality" to the extreme. Always remember, if your students were ready for reality, they wouldn't be in your classroom!


thekua said...

Nice post again Sumeet. What I would also emphasise in your post is the idea of creating safety and fail fast loops - something people don't necessarily focus on in the real world.

As a result, in the real world people stop taking calculated risks, instead of finding ways of failing fast to learn from them

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