Leveraging Simulations and Storytelling to Enhance Leadership Development

Dr. Wanda T. Wallace, Ph.D. joined Stephen Baer, Managing Partner, The Game Agency for a webinar discussing how to leverage simulation and storytelling to enhance leadership development. The video of the webinar can be found here.

About the Presenters:

Dr. Wanda T. Wallace:

Managing Partner of Leadership Forum
Author of You Can’t Know It All
Host of “Out of the Comfort Zone” podcast
Speaker, Executive Coach, and Facilitator

Stephen Baer:

Co-Founder of The Game Agency and The Training Arcade®
Monthly contributor to Forbes.com
Speaker at EdTech conferences
Former Director of Marketing @ Atari Inc.

Stephen Baer: Let’s talk about simulations. They absolutely fall into the bottom part of this graph, because they are an active learning experience. If you look at this graph, think about all the different ways that you can educate someone. I have focused most of my career and most of my efforts on active learning because active learning really drives much greater retention along the way. That’s what the numbers are down the middle of the path. If you think about passive experiences like lectures or reading or audio/visual demonstration, they’re going to have a relatively small amount of retention after that learning experience where you’re actually engaging with material or practice (which simulations fall into that category) where you are actually teaching that information. Teaching someone else requires that you really engage with the material on a much deeper level.  On the right-hand side, we have a different chart, which I’m going to pass over to Wanda to talk about. But I think that they really speak to each other. 

Dr. Wanda T. Wallace: Well, the right-hand side, the 70%, 20%, 10% comes from going to executives and asking them what was most useful for you in preparing for your next level of the job. And most 70% of executives say that they learned the most for preparation on the job, 20% from feedback and coaching and mentors by the way, and then 10% from formal learning. And that’s kind of consistent with a passive and active, though I think both of these are a teeny bit simplistic because I think that 10% formal learning if used in a really good way, helps make sense of the 70% and 20% that you’ve gotten in other places. So I would argue that there is a small place even for lectures or reading but left alone on its own without some integration and some more active learning we’re missing the mark.

Stephen Baer: Yeah, I would agree. And I don’t think that there’s one solution that fits all. But I think the takeaway in my mind is whether you’re learning on the job or you’re learning in an active learning experience in the classroom and being able to really apply what you’re learning real-time to the topic at hand. Most of the work that we do at The Game Agency and with The Training Arcade® is often a single-player experience. When we worked with Wanda, which is one of the key things we’ll be talking about today, it was about classroom engagement, people working together and really digging into the material and doing peer to peer conversations. So we’ll get there, but I think that that’s really important when you think about what that simulation experience is. Is it 100% on your own or is it in collaboration with others?

The other thing that we’ve talked a lot about at The Game Agency is storytelling, and when it comes to simulation, storytelling is absolutely critical for several reasons.  First of all, it further engages the person, the learner, with the context. It makes it much more emotional, more memorable, and it gives them lots of things that they can relate to. Whether it’s scenarios, settings, characters, or challenges. It’s things that they can say ‘Gosh, I’ve experienced this in my work environment, and having played through this scenario here I can understand how I can apply myself in a different way back in the office tomorrow.’ So I love storytelling. I think it’s absolutely critical, and I think that when it comes to anything we’re building at The Game Agency, a good game or a good simulation has to have a really strong story arc attached to it.

Dr. Wanda T. Wallace: My original academic research is actually in this area. So let me not bore you with that one. But let me just sort of say first a personal story. Whether I like it or not, across all of my years of work with leaders in every training and development, what people remember afterward is the story I told, not the brilliant insight that I tried to offer on any particular occasion. It’s the story. I think as human beings, we are hardwired to remember stories, that is our survival mechanism. It’s what gives us our sense of identity, and it tells us what is going to help us survive or not survive. And if it’s that strong evolutionarily, then it’s really important in terms of developing leaders. And I think that’s why mentorship works so well. It’s basically an exchange of stories. People are telling stories about what they’ve done and how they’ve done it. And I think that’s why feedback and coaching carry 20% of it. So the last thing I want to say is I don’t think we use them nearly enough in our training of development. We don’t think about the story, the arc of the story, the implications of the story, or a discussion about the story beyond anything other than case studies. And I just think this methodology gives us a whole new level to take it to.

Soft Skills

Stephen: If you look at Google, a company that most people are familiar with, they say that seven out of the eight most important hiring and skills for them are soft skill related. And if you think about stories, they are all wrapped around soft skills. It’s about how we interact with people, how we feel emotionally about situations, how we act and behave based on different scenarios that we’re in. So these skills are only improved and really worked on through a story-driven learning experience. So I believe that ultimately simulations are the best tool to address that in the long run.

Considerations for making a simulation game

These are six considerations that we talk about a lot, that if you ultimately can check off all these and that you really give some thought to each one of these as you’re building a simulation. I think your ultimate deliverable will be so much stronger. 

#1 – Number of Branches

So when you’re building out a scenario, you can go multiple paths. We always talk about branching dialogues or branching scenarios, ultimately representing the situation that a player or players are in and the decisions they make are going to take you down one branch or another. As a designer, you can make these branches as complicated as you want. But I am a firm believer that is a horrible experience for an instructional designer and often not such a good experience for the learner. So I have two little charts here. 

I have one that is on its way to becoming a potentially very complicated branch and the one below it is the one that I actually prefer. It’s about giving choices to the learner, letting them see the different directions they can go, letting them see the repercussions of their decisions, but ultimately bringing them back to a path that is going to be the way that you want them to learn. You want them to see something. Now, it’s not a linear experience, but it’s important to think about if I can give them options, but I can ultimately direct them. I think that’s the best-case scenario, no pun intended.

#2 – Relevant Choices

The second one is about relevant choices. So when you’re thinking about the choice that you’re going to give someone to make, you want to make sure that the choices feel authentic and relevant. Think about what type of thing might you say to somebody or what type of decision might you make?

The choice on the right-hand side says “throw coffee at your computer”. It’s probably not a relevant choice, right? It’s probably not something you’re gonna do. You want to make sure the choices don’t feel like it is tongue in cheek. You want to make it feel like it is a relatable or realistic choice that you can make and have someone choose hopefully the optimal way. 

#3 – Number of Choices

I spend almost every night with my family just relaxing and watching something on Netflix. But what’s interesting is that it’s almost a ritual- we spend almost more time trying to decide what to watch than we spend watching it because there are so many choices. I think it is critical whether it’s in that environment or it’s in this learning environment that you reduce the number of choices to make sure that it feels like a manageable number. As we think about any scenario or any simulation that we would go through, we’re going to have X number of choices that we can make that would feel relevant, that would feel realistic, and keep it to those. Because that’s enough to have a manageable branch and a very valuable lesson learned. There was a great TedTalk by Sheena Iyengar on the choice overload problem. 

#4 – Voice

I think that voice is really critical on two fronts. The first one is to be thinking about as a subject matter expert. What are the critical points that you need to be making? Whether it is technical points or it is the tone, you want to make sure that you’ve made the right points. But also, it’s the tone of the voice. It’s thinking about how would this stakeholder say something to me. And you want to feel once again relevant and realistic. So it’s not just about what the choices are, but it’s also what are the things that someone might say to you? I think that these are all important things to be thinking about as you’re building out a simulation. 

#5 – Useful Feedback

Next is useful feedback. So this image where it says “wrong” in big letters, that is, in my opinion, the wrong way to do it. I don’t think that just “wrong” is useful feedback. Useful feedback in a simulation is seeing the repercussions of your decision. So if I say something to Wanda, because Wanda happens to be the character in the simulation I’m playing, she’s going to respond to me one way or another. She can say, “Stephen, that’s a great point” or “Stephen I actually disagree with you” but she won’t say “WRONG!” You want it to feel like it’s useful information that’s going to alter the way you’re going to act, and the ultimate decision you’re gonna make in that simulation.

#6 – Visuals

The last point I want to make is about the visuals. There are a thousand ways you can do visuals in your simulations, and we will talk about a few of them. The one on the top left of those is the first one we are going to talk about. It is a simulation that Wanda recently worked on with us and what’s really interesting is if you look at the faces they are not incredibly defined with features that are going to make you think about a particular culture or particular age. I think in some ways that’s really important. Thinking about the situation and not about the person. Not thinking about the culture, not making predefined decisions. Of course, sometimes, you may want to focus on the culture and/or focus on the individual in a deeper way, in which case you might want to use video. For other things, you might want to do illustrations that are more lifelike. You might want to do animations that will show you certain things. I think it’s really identifying what the topic is, who the audience is, and what you want to convey. And I think that the visuals have to speak to those priorities.  

Wanda: I think these six are really important because these are the ones that are going to let your audience say ‘That’s realistic, that fits me, that’s an incredible story.’ And mix any one of these with too simplistic of branches, and people are going to say, ‘Yeah, but that wouldn’t happen here’ or have insufficient choices and they’re going to say, ‘Yeah, that was too easy.’ But it’s the six in combination that leave people feeling, ‘Oh, this is a story I can relate to, it fits me’ and that’s where we get the engagement, the memory, the credibility, the learning and everything with it.

Stephen: Couldn’t agree more. Let’s get into some real examples and we have a few that we are going to talk about. And I really want to pass this over to Wanda for the most part. The first example is one that was run by Leadership Forum just using our technology, The Training Arcade. It is called The World of Sabrina and I’m going to ask Wanda to talk about EQ and IQ because I know that was a big priority in the design

Wanda: It was designed for women in the organization, and it turns out women and men in the organization who were at the early to mid-career stages and who will be facing some career challenges. The intent is to get them more prepared for the cases, the challenges that they’re going to face before they actually have them. So they are much smarter about the choices they make. EQ smart, an IQ smart. That’s also a way to let them see why mentorships or strong networks or EQ understanding really become effective for the scenarios that happen. That’s what this is all about. 

Here we have 13 choices, things you could do in your career, ways in which you can invest marginal time, such as take a class, get a mentor, you know, those sorts of normal things that happen. And there’s where you get your choice set and then things happen. Scenarios happen, pieces of the story for Sabrina. Here’s this chapter. Here’s what happened to her. 

Then you get choices, usually three, sometimes five, but it depends. And each choice has consequences. No choice is perfect in and of itself. Each choice is perfectly viable under some conditions. And what we’re trying to get people to do is to debate when is that choice the right choice or a better choice? And what are the consequences of making that choice? And can I manage that choice? So we’re getting them to think.

That’s where you get the IQ and the EQ. What’s the impact on my stakeholders as well as the impact on my business? That’s where IQ and EQ start to come together. 

What I think is unique for most game simulations and what we’ve done here is that we’ve done a blended approach and I don’t mean distance and classroom blended. I mean blended in terms of methodology, so you’ve got a simulation that really carries the story. That is the story of Sabrina, what happens to her, and just plausible things, all of which are real events that have happened for clients. And then I believe because I’ve seen it so frequently, that when groups get together and can debate the choices and the consequences, they have a very rich conversation. They see things in a slightly different way because they’re coming at it from different perspectives. And that’s where the boost in confidence really comes from. Because ‘if you didn’t know the answer to this and I didn’t know the answer for it, well, I’m not in such bad shape, after all, this is where I am in my career. Oh get it, let me ask for help.’ So that group dynamic, but I also happen to believe that if we just let groups early in their career carry on having conversations and debating choices by themselves they’ll make the same old mistakes that they’ve always made, so it’s a blind alley. I want just enough instructor input to make sure that they are seeing the right kind of implications for it and thinking about the right series of questions. Now that we want to give them an answer, I don’t think there is an answer. I think it’s a thinking process, a discovery process. And that’s what we’ve tried to do here. 

The last thing I want to say is just to echo the piece that you said earlier about the graphics. We intentionally chose a very sparse graphical selection because I didn’t want it to have a nationality. I didn’t want it to have a particular voice, it’s text only for exactly that reason. I didn’t want a particular ethnicity. We were trying not to be particularly white or black or Asian or brown or any other ethnicity. Now, that’s never perfect because everybody will look at the characters and say, oh, I think that’s X or Y. But the intent was to be as neutral as we could be, giving just enough visual, but really to emphasize the story itself as the engaging factors, not the graphics.

Stephen: So for some more questions, this started really as focusing on women and they then became something that became an issue that was equally relevant for conversation with not just women in the room, but all genders. Could you talk about how you flexed it accordingly with that? 

And something I would like to add is what I love about what you guys did here, which is something that we added to The Training Arcade’s Scenarios game was based on this, was the Multimeter. There are a lot of simulations that look at, ‘Am I advancing sufficiently?’ or ‘Am I hitting a toggle of this better than this?’ What you guys have done, which is really hard to see in these images, is you said let’s identify what some of your top priorities are, and let’s see if all your decisions are mapping to those. Could you expand on that some as well?

Wanda: Let’s focus on that last bit first. What we did was create five gauges, and we said there are five things that you have got to manage if you’re going to progress your career. One is you have to manage your time and by time we mean your marginal time. There’s a limited supply of it, you can’t do everything. So how are you doing it? And then we want to make sure that your work is having the right impact. We want to make sure your stakeholders are in the right place, that you’re managing those effectively. We want to make sure that you are seen as ready for the next step. Then the last one is you have to have a business impact because if you’re not having a business impact, what’s the point? So you see constantly throughout this, ‘How am I doing against those five gauges?’ And that’s your metric for your progress. It’s also your metric for how you’re competing with other teams and who has a better answer, or worst answer or whatever. It’s the combination of those tradeoffs.

 Then you asked about how we did design this one intentionally for women. We were immediately getting from our clients, which are across industry there are quite a few of them. So professional services, financial services, and some more standard industries as well. We were getting questions about men. Can we do training for men? So we’ve run this with mixed groups of men and women, and it’s the same outcome at the end of the day. It’s an interesting debate about why people would choose A or B. It’s the same scenarios that men encounter as well as women, and I think there’s a lovely leveling effect in that discussion. 

I will say the three components that I think make this one work so well are the group discussions, story component, and the instructor input which is not required to be face to face that lends itself to be done either in a session together or virtual as well. 

Stephen: That’s great. One person asked to explain the difference between simulations and scenarios?

Wanda: So scenarios in the typical sense of training means that we have a future scenario of what the world might look like in maybe three years, six months, or five years from now. We try to imagine what it is to live in that scenario and make some decisions and understand and look backward and say, ‘Well, given that world, what does that mean we need to be doing now to prepare.’ And it is a fabulous way to think about complexity and think about uncertainty and the unknowns and ambiguity. I do use the word scenario, but what I mean here is it’s a situation. It’s basically an event in a career life that we have to deal with in the events. For instance, somebody asks you to do an extracurricular activity, do you say yes or no? Somebody suggests that maybe you should cancel a vacation, do you or don’t you? Somebody takes credit for your work or you need to persuade people over whom you have no authority to get something done and they’re not delivering, what do you do? It’s those kinds of classic career scenarios that everybody has to manage. So you should think of the world much more as scenes. 

Stephen: I would agree with that and I would just say that to roll it out the simulation is the framework in which different scenarios may fall. I think of the simulation as a type of game or a type of learning experience, and it’s going to have in this case, many scenarios in there that you have to navigate as a learner or as a player.

The World of Sabrina is a great example because it has many use cases. Here we have another two examples of simulations that are story-driven. The first ones illustrated and the second one is video-oriented, both focusing on soft skills. So the one on the left is focused on educating health care professionals about therapeutic diagnoses based on the patient’s symptoms and really having those conversations and understanding that. The one on the right also happens to be in the healthcare space. It is about having very difficult conversations with patients, specifically the HIV category and guiding them into care after they’ve been diagnosed, and those are hard conversations. Once again, very much about soft skills, having very difficult conversations, and making sure that you’re able to guide that conversation down the right path to either understand the situation better or to influence a decision that someone is going to make more effectively. These are both important and you can do them with video or illustrations. At the end of the day, you have to understand who your audience is and what’s going to be most applicable for the content and what you’re trying to articulate.

Wanda: I think my entire professional life has been about how to drag practice and practical advice into whatever training and development we’re doing, wherever and however that happens. And so I want to talk about two that are not typical formats of classic gaming simulation, though they could be, one that I’m particularly fond of. Many of you will have seen using actors in some sort of session but typically actors come in to act out a pre-scripted scenario. I don’t like using that, I like having actors come in to be a character in a scene, in an event, and having people in the session react in real-time to that actor, to that character, and to that face of a real person. Now, we can do that a bit with video, but you still miss that visceral response of, ‘Oh, my gosh, they just said that now what am I supposed to do?’ And I just think they’re valuable for being able to navigate some of the difficult conversations. A final one that you probably don’t think about in terms of simulation, but could just as easily be a simulation, that’s using an assessment, whether it’s a 360-degree assessment or self-assessment. It’s a way of helping you understand where you sit on a set of skills versus someone else. The discussions and the exercises, the practice that comes out of that representation, that comparison can be just as insightful as any number of other things. One day I’m actually going to build a simulation in which we do an assessment, and that’s the branching strategy that takes you then straight to the pieces that you need to work harder on.

 Stephen: I love that. And we talk about this actually a lot over at The Game Agency. Many games are used for the purposes of understanding what people know. While simulations really focus most mostly on how people behave. And I think that’s a really important distinction in understanding behavioral trends, identifying persona types, identifying how someone can hone in on particular skills, and where they best belong in the organization. These soft skills and these soft categories, I think are critical, and simulations and scenarios within simulations are really fantastic in identifying some that key information. 

I do believe that whether you are doing these simulations as an individual user experience or potentially as a group activity, I think that certainly engaging remote workers with one another in scenarios like this are critical.

I want to introduce Carlos Vargas. I’ve known him for 20 years and he is over at Advantage Performance Group and has been focusing on this for a vast majority of his career, simulations, in-classroom training, storytelling. I wanted to ask him to join us just as another point of view. Carlos, you’re seeing a transition from simple classroom experience to mostly digital experience, which I know that you do both. So I’d love to hear your thoughts on what trends you’re seeing there and how you’re planning in your own world and what you’re seeing above others, your colleagues during two transition simulations into a virtual experience.

Carlos Vargas: Thank you. I’m really happy to see The World of Sabrina at work. It really demonstrates the power of what can be done when you have a combination of amazing subject matter expertise and solid technology. I had the privilege of working with some of the best simulation-based training organizations, and that goes back about 20 years. So we’re getting in front of people to deliver training, I think mostly for senior executives. We would be in front of the audience. It’s been great to see the evolution of this type of learning and how new players are coming in, especially like The Training Arcade where what you guys have put together really combines what you need to be able to migrate something that is life, that works in a live setting, and then moving to a virtual environment. 

It comes down to three things that I think are so important. The first one is the simplicity. If you have a chance to have access to The Training Arcade platform it doesn’t require a lot of technical knowledge to be able to upload and design a simulation experience.

The second one is the scalability, so how fast can you be able to make something simple and make it available to thousands at the same time? And that’s so important. Even if you’re going to be working and delivering a conference or to be in a virtual environment with thousands of people. 

And the third one is the rapid development process. I think back in the day you would take one or two weeks to validate changes with clients and get things done. Now, with what you guys have put together it’s going to come down to maybe a few hours, two or less to create/update something. So that’s in terms of being able to migrate something that has been working face to face into something that can work remotely. 

Now you have something about trust. And I wanted to address that topic because it’s really one of the toughest challenges when we talk about delivering content using simulation technologies. I think it comes down to some of the key drivers of trust. And the first one is that when you are in a life situation, face to face environment, you can work on your empathy, and you can do that very easily. But when you’re doing something remotely you probably have to work in advance to learn about your participant, so that you can create that connection. That’s a little extra work that you have to put in the structure, but that’s available because you know who’s going to be there. You know, the type of audience that is going to be present, so then you can anticipate what’s going to happen.

The second one, it comes down to the design concept you guys were talking about.

I think I would put that up there with the word count, authenticity, and relevance. It is different to have a number of people in an audience and clarify a question in about a couple of minutes then to get to the discover/learning portion of a simulation. In a remote environment, you don’t have a day anymore you have maybe two/three hours. So capturing the attention and staying authentic and relevant is key. 

And I come back to that concept of simplicity on your platform. And I think it goes back to the logic. And when I say logic, it’s more about the content you’re putting out there. Wanda has years of research-based publication. That provides automatic credibility for anyone that is going to be in front of the audience delivering the content because the credibility of someone who has worked on that subject, who has the stories is there.

Stephen: It’s all great points. I particularly like where you went with the trust and of course our platform. I think that the question about trust and establishing the type of learning environment that it’s going to feel valuable to people in a remote setting, in a quite honestly, a very distracting setting is really critical.  

Wanda: I think this is where simulation is actually the key to bringing people in because it’s so engaging. It’s the story. It’s going to grab your attention if we get that content right, as Carlos says. And as you said at the beginning, where the qualities I think that’s the instantaneous pull. I think that’s important. But what I’m finding surprising to me is that creating trust in a virtual learning environment has become easier than I would have expected it to be even in a face to face classroom. It’s partly because I think we’re all feeling our masks are down a little bit when it comes to video calls from our homes. You see my home behind me and I see your home. So the authentic part is a little bit more visible already to anybody who’s on a webinar or a video training session. I think this takes a layer down and we don’t have on our usual uniform, we’re more just people being there. I think that helps, and I’ve also seen that starting a training session with a really good question beyond the ‘where do you work?’ and ‘what do you do for fun questions?’ But a question like ‘what’s one skill you would really love to wake up tomorrow and have and don’t have and why?’ It’s an easy one for people to answer, but all of a sudden, you’re disclosing a lot more and you can get to that trust in this current environment, and in some ways easier than we have ever done in the face to face. We have to set it up and structure it that way, though, to make it effective. One last thing I want to say is I think one of the important parts about the virtual and learning environment in general, is creating the peer to peer discussions. I believe in that strongly but you have to make sure those peer to peer discussions continue. That’s an important part to consider as you’re doing this virtually. What happens after the virtual event that keeps those connections alive, I think is an important part.

Stephen: So I want to address a question that was asked. As so many budgets get cut, what resources, websites, research, etc are available to create interactive training internally with no money? And I think that there are some answers to that. It’s a hard question to answer because I think that if I were to say, ‘What can you do with no or very limited money?’ The very first thing I think I would point you towards is the thousands of great Harvard Business School case studies. You know, when I went to business school, I studied tons of them. And quite honestly, those are the stories going back to the beginning of this talk that still sticks in my mind 20 years later. They are not free, but they’re maybe fifteen dollars, but that probably still falls into your category of no money. I think that some of those are great frameworks for excellent scenarios and discussions, but I think that only addresses part of your question. Because what I read in your question is to create interactive training. So I think that part of it is the story, but I think the other part is the user experience, the user journey, the learner journey. In my mind, there are two parts to that learning journey. There is the classroom part. Which is ‘how are we going to go down this scenario together’ and ‘how are we going to make key decisions together’ and ‘how are we going to see what the repercussions of those decisions are?’ Some of that is qualitative and something that’s quantitative. If you’re just wanting to talk about a particular case study, there’s nothing you can point to very easily, with the exception of you can point to those quick surveys and say, ‘Hey, let’s look at this and see that 38% of us will go this way.’ So I think that’s helpful, but it doesn’t quite give you the full picture. But that is certainly the very small budget approach you could take to it. There are other tools and the one we’re talking about a lot today is called the Training Arcade and it’s relatively inexpensive. There are other tools out there. There’s a tool called Branch Track, which is more expensive, but also another branching path platform to look at. And then all the major rapid offering tools Captivate, Storyline, Lectora, they have tools to do that. The difference is you can build a branch with the Training Arcade in an hour or two if you have your content. It’s going to take 30 to 90 hours for those platforms. So I don’t know if that quite answers the question. But there are a lot of tools out there. Some of them are relatively inexpensive, and I’m hopeful that that’s a good starting point.

Wanda: There are hundreds of podcasts. I have one, Out of the Comfort Zone, you can go listen to it. There are hundreds of those out there that are really, really good, and they are free. The problem is that not a lot of people in your organization may have the time to curate that content. So curating that for them that’s using your time and legwork to create that byte, that snippet, that 10-minute segment, and then imagine how to structure a conversation around that podcast. So let’s say there’s a 20 or 30-minute segment that some people listen to, there might be an article attached to it or exercise attached to it. And then we’ve got a discussion group, not unlike a book club discussion group that is readily available, easy to do, if you put the time in and if you add tools like the Training Arcade, I think you get brilliant quickly.

Stephen: The other thing that I wanted to go back to, and I forgot to mention is that learning journey. It is one thing to be in a webinar or in a classroom, and as strong as a story is, I think that when we get back to our day to day business, hopefully, some of it will resonate and stick with us. But without continuing that learning journey, it’s going to leave faster than you want. So I do believe that having ongoing exercises or check-ins or scenarios that you can roll out as part of your training to keep the topic and the learning alive is critical. Quite honestly, you can build it and deliver it in, for the most part, as some pre-work, in the classroom, or in virtual classroom work and post-work. I think being able to tell that long story and keeping it alive is really critical.

Another question we have is, do you have to be an instructional designer? So I do not believe you have to be an instructional designer. I am not an instructional designer, I am a storyteller, I am a creative person, I’m a marketing guy. I am someone who kind of fumbled my way, 18 years ago, into the video game space and then into the learning game space and then into the simulation game of space. And quite honestly, I think if you can tell a good story and you can help someone go down a particular path by understanding the way that their behaviors result in certain actions, I think that’s great. And I think that instructional design, while it’s a nice skill to have to round out your ability to build a nice simulation is important. I don’t think it’s critical by any sense. 

Wanda: I agree

Carlos:  On this, you do not need to be an instructional designer. I think that a lot of us over the years have developed skill that is actually required for most work, which is to create a presentation. So when you’re creating a presentation, you’re making sure that you’re communicating some points across. So I think that more than having functional design work, you have to be able to start with the ending in mind. What is the learning that the participant wants to tap? And then from there work backward to create scenarios that will drive that journey from the learner to make decisions and learn as a result of making those decisions. I would recommend that if it is your first experience doing this then work with a team of people who can provide content so that you have some input from a design perspective just to make sure that it is going to be agnostic enough.  

Stephen: I would agree with that. I’m going to answer another question that I see.  Can the Training Arcade be used with Storyline’s 360? The answer is yes. It plugs in seamlessly to all the major authoring tools, and we see a lot of people doing that.

If you have five key takeaways from this talk, they should be these:

Number one, immersion. I think a successful simulation ultimately is a very immersive experience. You want someone to be in there and feel like they’re in another space. You don’t want them to be distracted by everything that’s around them, the people, or other distractions that are happening. You want them to feel like they can get in and they can navigate and they feel like they’re in a world that they can relate to.

Number two, peer-centric. And this has been my big learning as a professional over the last six months of working with Wanda on The World of Sabrina. It’s quite valuable if you can build a simulation that’s not just about a single-player experience, but it’s about building peer to peer discussions, having people talk to one another and understand the repercussions together of the decisions they make in that virtual world and how it might impact them in the real world.

Number three, applicability. Give learners something that’s relevant, but equally important, give them something bite-sized. We live in such a micro content world. You want them to come in, feel like they can relate to it, like it’s relevant, like it’s digestible, and you want them to build a takeaway, something that’s tangible, something they can apply in their everyday world by tomorrow or even in the next hour.

Number four, action-oriented. You want them to have a toolset, a particular skill that they walk away and say, ‘Gosh, I can apply that tomorrow, and I realized that I haven’t been doing that for the last 10 years.’ So I think that’s really important to make it action-oriented.

Number five, make it fun. It’s not just about making sure that you can checkmark all these things, but make sure it’s a fun experience. At the end of day, simulations and games really stick out because they should be something that someone can say ‘that was cool, that was a fun experience, that’s something I can take and actually apply to my day to day business. Not something I dread having to read or having to watch or a video from the 1970s that my company has been using for 40 years now.’ You want it to be a good, fun experience that feels digestible, immersive, and applicable. And if you’ve hit all those, then you’ve hit a grand slam.

The last question we have is, how can we work with the Leadership Forum?

Wanda: At www.Leadership-Forum.com Get in touch. We do a whole range of stuff. It depends upon what you want and what you’re looking for. But we do coaching and training and simulations and speaking and webinars and you name it. Come get in touch with us, we’ll be happy to talk with you. 

Stephen: All of our contact information is below. If you have any questions or are looking for any more information. Please don’t hesitate. We’d all love to continue this dialog. And hopefully, have it be less of a monologue or more of a dialog. We’d love to work with you and certainly be helpful if we can whether it’s actually jumping in and rolling up our sleeves together or just to get some other resources out there that we’re familiar with. We’re all happy to do that.

Please be in touch

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