By Christoph Goldenstern, Kepner-Tregoe 


As IT invades every aspect of business, HR and Learning & Development leaders are relying on building critical thinking skills to better address the problems and opportunities IT brings to the workplace. 

The Rising Demand for Problem Solving Skills

Unlike most technical skills, critical thinking skills, particularly problem solving, are enduring capabilities that hold their value over time. As an organization undergoes change and new technologies are introduced, challenges arise from the general increase in complexity, new processes and uncharted opportunities. Employees who share an effective approach to problem solving can tackle issues both independently and as a team, which in this new interconnected world has become even more important. 

With employees stretched thin in many organizations due to the increase in role complexity, experiential training programs can quickly build problem solving capabilities by engaging learners right from the start with activities that are directly applied to relevant job challenges. This early application of new skills accelerates the transition of those skills to the workplace. 

Demands for evidence of training effectiveness have accelerated from months to weeks or even days. There are many competing initiatives and organizational change projects underway in most companies. Any skill improvement that is not proving to be effective and results-producing is likely to be thrown under the bus as we embark on “the next big thing.” 

Experiential Learning and Technology

Simulation, gamification and other experiential learning technologies help learners apply skills as they learn them. As millennials become a growing part of the workforce, these approaches are in sync with a generation that expects immediate information from and interaction with technology. Simulation and other approaches also favor a diversity of learners of varying ages, cultures, languages and geographies overcoming engagement issues by using “real life” scenarios in a low risk, practice environment.  

Learners who develop structured problem-solving capabilities in simulations and other technologies learn to work with others as they practice resolving issues. Having a shared problem-solving process back on the job, enhances troubleshooting by encouraging teamwork. When things do go wrong and tension is mounting, the problem-solving process guides the action, prevailing over conflicting opinions and unnecessary actions.  

The Power of Simulation-Based Training 

Experiential training has the unique ability to minimize time away from the job while optimizing the application of new skills. To learn and practice problem solving in a meaningful way, the experiential approach can expose learners to scenarios with multiple information sources as well as scenarios with incomplete and changing information as people interact with them. 

Unlike traditional case studies, simulations provide learners with consequences for their actual behavior and introduce new, and perhaps conflicting information as learners work through the environment. The sense of reality increases dramatically. 

Using simulation-based training to practice effective methods to address business issues has been used in environments where real life training would be very expensive or dangerous—think airline pilots, commercial shipping or military training for missions. With the changes underway in today’s high-tech workplace, the ability to anticipate problems and resolve them effectively is required.  Pairing experiential learning with structured problem-solving methods is poised to bring workforce capabilities in line with the growing need for better problem-solving capabilities throughout our technology-enabled workforce. 


Learn more about Experiential Learning from Kepner-Tregoe


Kepner-Tregoe has been an industry leader in problem-solving techniques, training and consulting for more than 60 years. Companies large and small in all industries use KT methods to improve employee productivity, build better products and solve some very big operational problems. To learn more about how KT can help your company. Contact us to learn more about how KT can help your organization.