"Okay class, open your textbooks and we'll get started with today's lesson on ..."
Chances are the minds of most people close shut on cue with such a tepid announcement. If you’re among them, take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone. Research has proven that traditional instructor-led training (much like the kind you remember from school) delivers astonishingly poor comprehension rates and even less in terms of retention.
“Hey, did anybody catch what page number we were supposed to be on?”
At best, participants turn in a half-hearted effort that might provide some sense of progress on paper, but rarely does it go beyond that. Naturally, a gifted expert in his or her field can captivate audiences for a given period of time, but ask anyone who has sat through a ‘break-out learning session’ during an industry conference what they took away from it – you might be lucky if they remember the color of the person’s tie or if they wore glasses.
That small example illustrates the very big problem with many formal learning and development initiatives. They fail to engage learners in any substantive way, contributing to an environment where important information doesn’t just fall through the cracks; it drops into a chasm that can take your training budget with it.
Yet, there’s hope for a classroom-based approach that doesn’t leave the details on the table. Specifically, one that incorporates business simulations and gaming mechanics into the curriculum. Foremost authorities in the field have termed it, “Discovery Learning,” and its advocates include Ken Jones, author of Games and Simulations Made Easy.
“Games and simulations are powerful tools. They are based on learning from experience … which confers power into participants to ‘own’ the event,” Jones wrote. “Classroom-based simulations and business games [allow people] to make decisions, including the power to make their own mistakes. Sometimes the participants are so involved to the point that their experiences are so memorable that they can be recalled in detail days, weeks and even years afterward.”
His conclusion is that games and simulations are about people. “They are real, not theoretical.” In this regard, three things stand-out:
1. Hands-on learning (by way of games and simulations) provides a shortcut for learning;
2. Engaging the senses helps participants take an active role in their environment, rather than as passive spectators within it;
3. Discovery learning, as described above, accelerates the learning process and makes it stick!
The last word goes to Brent G. Wilson, professor at the University of Colorado, who revealed why classroom-based simulations and/or games work: “When designed well, both simulations and gaming environments can facilitate students’ learning [both of] specific domain knowledge and concepts, and of several cognitive skills like pattern recognition, decision-making and problem solving.”
There is also another, shorter name for it: Business Acumen 101.