Experiential Learning

By Paula Bruskiewitz, Kepner-Tregoe 

In Better Living Through Simulations: Digital modeling is improving everything from firefighting to bridges and toasters, the Wall Street Journal’s “Inside View” columnist, Andy Kessler, extols the limitless virtues of simulations for helping us achieve endless accomplishments. He notes that 50 years ago, when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon, his first impromptu comment was to calmly remark on how easy it was to walk. Facing the unknown, simulations had prepared him for potential walking difficulties and he calmly observed it was easier than anticipated.

Simulations help learners apply skills as they learn them, which makes using new skills the priority. As you use newly acquired skills, you can experience the unknown, like walking on the moon, or simply the unfamiliar, like landing a jet. When you need to act in reality, simulations can prepare you to act with the calm of an astronaut or a fighter pilot because you have (almost) done it before.

Fifty years after simulations helped astronauts prepare for space travel, they are innovating and improving everything from product development to logistics to AI and healthcare. With advances in software and increased appreciation of their value, simulations also support a wide range of skill development programs. As millennials entered the workforce, simulations have provided training more in sync with a generation accustomed to immediate interaction with technology. Learners of varying ages, cultures, languages and geographies also benefit by quickly overcoming engagement issues with “real life” scenarios in a low risk, practice environment. 

At Kepner-Tregoe, simulations are used to prepare people to tackle complex problems with greater confidence and ability. Simulations allow problem solvers to address time-sensitive, critical issues, without putting too much at risk. Problem solvers grow more confident in using a structured, problem-solving process. When it is time to resolve a complex issue in real life, they are more likely to trust their abilities to work through an issue critically and calmly because they have done it before.

These experiential training programs can quickly up- or reskill learners as new technologies replace old job functions.  Employees with advanced, distinctly “human” capabilities are actually in growing demand (See the World Economic Forum: The Future of Jobs Report 2018). Accelerated changes of new technologies pressure organizations and employees to prepare now for this increasingly high-tech landscape by building analytic and advanced problem-solving capabilities. 

The tech-based training approach of simulations not only quickly moves learners from training to application, it can be used to encourage teamwork. At KT, learners can work in teams to use simulations to develop structured problem-solving capabilities. With team-based work increasingly common in today’s agile workplace, using a shared problem-solving process is critical in tackling problems never experienced before on the high-tech frontier. When things do go wrong and tension is mounting, a shared problem-solving process guides the action, prevailing over conflicting opinions and unnecessary actions.

Just as simulations prepared Neal Armstrong for the unknown, they can prepare employees for an uncertain future. The lower stakes of simulations are building the distinctly human, critical thinking skills that prepare us for the unknown and rapidly changing world that lies ahead.

About Kepner-Tregoe

Kepner-Tregoe has been the industry leader in problem-solving and service-excellence processes for more than 60 years. The experts at KT have helped companies raise their level of incident- and problem-management performance through tools, training and consulting – leading to highly effective service-management teams ready to respond to your company’s most critical issues.

We have a range of courses that use simulation to prepare learners for what they will face in a real life situation