As I see it, there are four things that make the simulation of an organization remarkably effective.
When participants begin to recognize their own processes, structures, working practices, agreements and culture in the simulation, it not only means that the time is well spent, but also that participants are prepared to invest a huge amount of energy in the simulation. This means high impact in a short time span.
Freedom to experiment
There are a number of different ways to get results. A good simulation offers participants the opportunity to take alternative routes and to experience the effects of their actions. Experiential learning: both respectful and productive.
This effect is increased when participants collaborate. They discover the effects of the sum total of individual decisions and behavior. In short, they learn together to optimize results, and that leads almost immediately to quantifiable results back in the workplace.
We regularly build simulations facilitating various experimental strategies. Needless to say that it’s many times cheaper to fail in a simulated environment than in reality.
Recently, I watched a very detailed simulation of a large organization. A beautiful representation of reality. Thousands of variables dancing up and down. I was lost in admiration. However, as an appropriate tool for learning and change something important was missing, namely, focus. Participants take a long time to understand such complexity and are not quick to zoom in on the relevant part of the simulation.
It is better to make intelligent choices in the development process so that the simulation is a simplified version of reality that directs attention to the relevant section of the system, namely, the parts the target group are able to influence something.
Organizations are complex systems. Just to mention a few factors; it isn’t easy to understand how cause and effect are related, short term solutions are often at odds with long term solutions and most decisions have unintended consequences.
Simulations are an excellent place to understand these complex, but extremely relevant issues and to apply the learning in the participant’s own practice. Participants learn to understand how solutions can be found for long-lasting conflicts, ‘insoluble” problems and regularly returning bottlenecks.