Leadership

Intelligent support that is accessible just-in-time at the point of need.

In a short time, our world has changed dramatically. No longer is knowledge and information bound to printed volumes or even desktops. We now have the ability to create interactive elearning content and publish it on mobile devices, including iPhones, making it instantly available anytime, no matter where we are.

Gone also are the days of memorizing vast amounts of information for instant recall.  We now have instant access to vast libraries of information, far more than we could have ever hoped to memorize in a lifetime.  Mobile accessible eLearning makes it possible for us to access just about any knowledge we desire wherever we are, just when we need it.   In this way, it represents a tremendous breakthrough for reference and performance support.   But having all of this information at your fingertips can also be overwhelming. The real breakthrough is achieved when learners are able to find exactly the right information, when and where they need it.

In the late 80’s and 90’s Roger Shank, then Dean of Northwestern’s Institute for Learning Sciences, pioneered research into expert tutoring systems using artificial intelligence.  That evolved into “ask” systems that let users access relevant help by simply selecting the question that they want to have answered.  As a practical matter, these systems were never really “artificially intelligent.”  They relied upon developers and programmers to develop hard coded pathways that they believed would best serve the learner.

Fast forward a decade… Google and others have made huge strides toward anticipating which website we are searching for when we enter a request into their search engines and serving up the information most relevant to us.  This technology has given way to a new generation of “ask” systems.

The latest generation of performance support pioneered by the Blueline team, leverages these new “ask” system capabilities. Search responses, relevant links and associated content are determined using a gaming engine model (rules and probabilities) to predict and share the most relevant content for each user. The engine “learns” from previous users’ choices and the designer’s intended objectives.  So in this case, you could say that the learner’s experience evolves “intelligently” based on the succession of choices they make.

Pair this next generation of “ask” systems with mobile delivery and you have an unprecedented business tool.   Intelligent support that is accessible just-in-time at the point of need.

Would you like to explore potential strategies for putting these exciting new platforms to work in your organization? Blueline is here to help!

Increase your EQ (Emotional Intelligence) through Simulation

In some of our recent blog posts we’ve explored the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and how your EQ may be even more important than your IQ at predicting success. So, is your Emotional Intelligence Quotient like your Intelligence Quotient — you have what you are born with and nothing is going to change that? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding no! You can very much develop and increase your EQ long past childhood.

The question is how? And within the context of business, how can I use EQ to increase success for my organization and me?

It all begins with the three keys to enhancing your EQ — Awareness, Observation, and Reflection.

The first step is to become aware of the dynamics of EQ and how they operate. Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management provide the critical bedrock for your observations and reflections. Basic awareness can be established in simple ways: by reading a book about EQ, doing Internet research or completing any one of a myriad of training programs.

But being aware is just a first step.  Just like any other muscle in your body, EQ must be exercised to grow. No one’s biceps ever got bigger by reading a book on weight lifting. And the best way to exercise your EQ is through observations and reflections.  These require life experiences. The basic premise is that you must observe yourself (and others) and look for patterns, insights, and lessons that you can apply in similar, future experiences. As you apply the insights and lessons you learn, you raise your EQ.

From a business perspective this can be a bit of a problem. How do we help people develop their EQ without them having to “learn from experiences on the fly?” Is there a way to exercise the EQ muscle “safely” rather than in a critical team meeting or during a call with a vital customer?

Actually, this can be accomplished through well-designed simulation experiences that provide realistic opportunities to practice observe and reflect. Obviously, for these experiences to provide real value, they must model realistic scenarios. For example, a salesperson needs to practice observing and reflecting after a simulated call on a customer, and a manager needs to practice observing and reflecting on simulated supervisory and leadership scenarios

Blueline is effectively using custom simulations to build awareness, and to provide opportunities for rich observations and reflection in “safe” environments. Here critical insights, lessons and behaviors can be developed and even practiced before they are needed in high-stress, mission critical situations.

Point/Counter Point: Live Role-Play vs. eSimulations

Point: Robert Coates

The latest “craze” with social and mobile learning will not replace classroom training any more than books replaced lectures, television replaced radio, or video tapes and DVDs replaced movie theaters. Each new innovation in technology provides additional ways of communicating, but doesn’t totally supplant the old ones.

My position is that, as good as eSimulations have become, there are still some aspects of live role-play based skill practice that can’t be duplicated or replaced. What eSimulations excel at are providing opportunities to evaluate a situation and weigh options for responding. It’s at the level of “human” communication, rather than decision-making, that they can’t yet replicate.

Albert Mehrabian and others have investigated the non-verbal aspects of human communication and are often quoted as saying that the meaning of a communication is only 7% the words you say, 38% the tonality, and 55% the body language. Actually, Mehrabian concludes that those percentages are the formula we use for resolving the meaning of inconsistent messages (see Silent Messages 2nd Edition pages 75-58). The point that How you say something is just as or more important than What you say is almost axiomatic. Just changing what word is emphasized in a sentence can completely change its meaning.

It is in this critical non-verbal area of communication that I believe live role-play excels. Subtle communications like tone of voice, timing, eye-contact, and body language play a huge role in our interactions with others. These are also behaviors that can be practiced, improved upon and coached. Currently, technology does not allow us to evaluate the learner’s use of these through eSimulation.

Counterpoint: David Milliken

Just 10 months ago I would have agreed with Robert. But today, because of the many advances that have occurred in eSimulations, for many applications they are actually better. Here are a couple of reasons why:

  1. Level 4 eSimulations (using a rules-based gaming engine) are extremely realistic. Now that developers can create hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of video-based nodes, eSimulations can accurately reflect small changes in tone and body language. Throw in the use of voice-recognition and you have an unparalleled user experience!
  2. eSimulations deliver a consistent experience for every user. Notice that I didn’t say the same experience. That wouldn’t be accurate because, in theory, depending on the number of nodes, hundreds could face the same choices and have the same opportunities, but because of the decisions they made, have a completely unique experience. eSimulations eliminate the variability inherent in a live human role player and can be scored in such a way that they eliminate rater (coach) bias as well.
  3. eSimulations can provide for significantly more practice opportunities than classroom based live-role play. For each live role-play you need to engage two people and optimally three, who often then rotate roles. In the same or less time, all three people could accomplish three rounds of practice each, and probably more, through eSimulation.

However, eSimulations still aren’t for everyone. While development costs have dropped dramatically as developers have improved processes and tools, the relative value of this technology is still dictated by the volume of users who can benefit. While some off-the-shelf solutions can serve small numbers of users cost effectively, if you need to develop something custom, typically you need an audience of 100 or more users for it to be cost effective.

We want to know what YOU think! Lend your voice to the conversation.

What can we learn from the world’s best business schools?

What’s the one thing that everyone with an MBA shares? — One or more experiences with team-based simulations. They are perfect for the B-School environment:

  1. They facilitate team-building,
  2. They provide a quick and effective means to assess the strengths and weaknesses of other students,
  3. They are fun and engaging,
  4. They are an outlet for extremely competitive students, and
  5. They teach practical application of a broad range of skills: business strategy and finance, project management, brand management, leadership, market strategy, sales strategy and trust.

Until recently, these simulations ranged from “simply elegant board games” to sophisticated LAN-based computer simulations with unique information presented via “dash board” for each learner to analyze, make and communicate decisions.

Remote team-based activities and simulation

This summer, the Wharton School of Business presented a case about the effectiveness of team-based activities run remotely — either synchronously or asynchronously — at ASTD’s National Conference. Wharton’s experience (with their Executive MBA Program) was that, in addition to significantly reducing travel time and cost, learners retained more and were more productive when they had more time between sessions to digest and apply information. Their typical design approach incorporated a series of individual and group exercises. It included podcasts, webinars, white papers, remote office hours, and a remote group activity followed by a capstone live classroom experience.

While there have been notable exceptions in our past (e.g. broadly successful roll-outs of Simulearn’s Virtual Leader) historically, for most organizations, distance learning has meant delivering PowerPoints via webinar.

However, that’s no longer the case. Blueline recently launched: Enspire’s Business Challenge. Business Challenge is a web-based, single or multiplayer simulation in which participants take the helm of a virtual business and compete for market leadership. The simulation is set up and debriefed remotely via Webinar. At the client’s option, it can also be supplemented with a series of case-based elearning modules called Fluent in Finance. It presents a unique combination of elearning, simulation and virtual classroom in its design.

Today, we live at the intersection of technological innovation and learning. We feel that the ROI on remote team-based activities and simulation is so compelling, that we regularly include elements of it in the work that we are proposing and designing for clients this fall.

Reengage Your Employees by Building Cultures of Trust

The worst recession in three generations has wreaked havoc on our markets and the companies that operate within them. And our employees are living with fear and uncertainty about the economy, their jobs and their careers.

More than ever, there is urgency around building and restoring trust – between departments, within teams, across suppliers, with customers, and in the marketplace.

Now the organization looks to you. How are you, as a learning professional, going to help your leaders to rebuild trust in your organization, trust in its leadership, and trust among peers?

On August 24th and Sept 1st, Blueline Simulations will be holding a complimentary webinar on Building and Restoring Trust in the workplace.  Should you be attending? Click here to learn more.

Organizations don’t build trust, people do — one conversation and one behavior at a time.

If you are facing a trust issue, please send us an email or leave a comment in the box below. We will do our best to tailor the webinar to the needs of the participants.

Most importantly, if you have a successful story or tip, please share that, too!