When people are enjoying themselves, they can be more open to taking in new information. And, if the material is compelling, they usually retain it longer than they would otherwise.
Consider the example of a holiday in Rome. It's easy to be fascinated and interested in Michelangelo's artistic techniques when staring at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or admiring his sculpture of The Pieta. The tour guide makes the stories come alive. Would you sit and read a book about such things if you weren't in Rome? Not likely. Modern psychologists would agree you are more likely to retain the information learned by visiting and experiencing the art than by reading about it.
In our decades of experience in the business leader learning space, the same is true with participants in a business simulation. Leaders don't normally stop to think about how their actions impact the balance sheet, but when they're visiting "Rome" - or rather, running a business that feels realistic - they've got skin in the game. By gosh, that Balance Sheet is now fascinating!
An immersive experience of any sort can open learning channels - especially when it connects back to your everyday world. Simulation participants learn differently when outside of their silo and specific market focus. It's possible to challenge their perspectives all while keeping them in the contextually familiar business environment of a simulation. Like visiting a foreign country, it offers the opportunity to see business issues through a different lens. The competitive adrenaline with peers in the room feeds the excitement. Discussions are thoughtful and full of insights and shared examples from other participants with real-world experience.
Our simulation facilitators are experienced business people with great stories and examples to share. They help ensure the material is compelling, expertly facilitating discussions to address key learnings. Leaders - who are now open to hearing about new techniques for success - recognize the connection between their leadership decisions and the business results on the page.
Participants tell us that these exciting experiences stick with them long after the simulation ends. They have tangible, personal memories of a rich business experience they can draw on. They've had stimulating debates and conversations with peers about how to think through the realistic business challenges experienced in the simulation.
You don't have to pick up a hammer and chisel to appreciate the extraordinary talent of Michelangelo. Neither do participants need to manage a "real" business challenge to gain perspective, learn from their peers, and examine the effectiveness of their leadership behaviors. How can you prime your leaders for learning? Offer them the proverbial "trip to Rome" - the opportunity to learn by doing, by having fun and by seeing their leadership role with a whole new perspective. Your business will be glad you did.
Pamela Roller is a Director at Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich, immersive business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.