Training for Conviction, Not Just Compliance

For Learning to Work, Simulations Must Match Real-Life Situations In Many Respects

New training metrics are increasingly based on developing conviction and commitment, not just awareness. The success of the primary learning objective is answered by:

1) How do people actually behave when no one is watching, and/or when stressed?

2) Do people improvise the philosophies to appropriately adapt it to situations not covered in the formal course?

A well-designed simulation may be the only tool available to meet that goal in a scalable and measurable way. Simulations can do this through the following five properties:

>> Matching actions available to the student in the sim to real-life situations, with reasonably high fidelity and nuance.

>> Matching contexts to the student in the sim to real-life situations. Real-life financial decisions, for example, are made under the pressure of meeting stretch goals and balancing and optimizing a thriving business ecosystem, not the sterility of an ethics class.

>> Matching and visualizing the invisible system in the sim to real-life situations. For example, a naive employee may open an e-mail with some special offer and respond to it. An employee who understands phishing attacks and the roles and techniques of organized cyber mobsters never would open that same e-mail.

>> Giving the student ample opportunity and motivation to test his or her theory in a fair and realistic environment, as well as alternative (and less naive) approaches. Only after some frustration are students primed to actually develop conviction in the new models they “discover” and then practice.

>> Having the experiences learned in the sim be reinforced by their real world. Sims have to capture the nuance and texture of real life, not life as the sponsors wish it were. Said another way, a sim may contain five formal levels. But levels six through infinity are the real world.

—Clark Aldrich is an independent contractor based in Madison, Conn. The author of four books, Aldrich works with clients to create effective and innovative educational simulations. He has been called an “industry guru” by Fortune magazine. Visit him on theWeb at


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