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Is an Off-the-Shelf Simulation on Target with Your Needs?

My last blog made the case for simulation being a uniquely effective way to both immerse and engage your learners for maximum adoption and retention. I outlined the types of simulation and discussed how they can be used to:blueline-solutions2

  • apply knowledge, skills and behaviors in context
  • deliver just-in-time, just enough performance support
  • assess needs and pinpoint skill deficiencies

Yet for all of their plusses and performance points, the objections I hear most often are around development time and investment associated with custom simulations. Despite the fact that the time and expense associated with developing these immersive learning designs have shrunk through the use of innovative new technologies, there are still many scenarios where time and cost can be barriers.

Notice I said can be. But contrary to popular belief, they certainly don’t have to be.

Off-the-Shelf Options
Before you dismiss simulation as a viable training solution in your organization, I challenge you to weigh your options with off-the-shelf offerings proven to build enthusiasm and maximize retention across a broad range of competencies.

Blueline Simulations offers a number of off-the-shelf simulation experiences on topics ranging from sales and marketing to leadership development, business acumen to innovation. These time-tested offerings have been the catalyst for learning and development in leading organizations for many years without the costs typically associated with custom development.

We’ve simplified the process of choosing the simulation that aligns with your needs by creating matrices of our offerings across the categories. I invite you to take a look at our sales and marketing, leadership development and business literacy product matrices to help determine whether the magic of these simulations’ discovery and experiential learning methods is what you’re looking for in your organization.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll address three more critical questions to ask yourself to determine whether simulation is right for you. In the meantime, I invite you to contact us to learn more about any of our custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 14 years.

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Using Simulation to Put Learning in Context

There’s little question that adoption and retention are driven by immersion and engagement. And there’s no better way to both immerse and engage your learners than through simulation.

Simulation is uniquely effective because it creates an opportunity for learners to apply knowledge, skills and behaviors in context. Many simulation designs also are able to deliver just-in-time, just enough performance support at the point of need. And some simulations can even be used as assessment instruments, helping to identify learners with the greatest need and pinpointing specific skill deficiencies.

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Types of Simulation

There are essentially two types of simulation: branching/decision-tree and spreadsheet.

Branching/decision-tree simulations can be used to model interactions with people, software and machines. They range from simple hard-coded faux sim designs that give the illusion of choice to robust designs that distribute and repurpose thousands of nodes based on algorithmic rules and probabilities. This type of simulation is very effective at developing a broad range of interpersonal and decision-focused competencies such as sales, service, coaching and problem-solving and can incorporate interactions with relevant software and machines.

Spreadsheet simulations use complex scenario-modeling frameworks to simulate business strategy and marketplace dynamics. They range from simple sim-board designs that require teams of participants to move chips and tally their own results to sophisticated networked designs that mirror the dynamics of a rapidly changing marketplace. This type of simulation is effective at developing competencies such as business acumen, leadership, change management and judgment.

Despite major technological advances that have reduced development cycles and associated costs, custom simulations typically cost more than other learning alternatives. And the higher the fidelity of the simulation and the more integrated with technology, the greater the cost.

As a third option, our signature Blueline BlueprintTM designs borrow elements from branching and spreadsheet simulations to achieve similar levels of engagement and retention at a lower cost. Blueline BlueprintsTM have been proven to build enthusiasm and maximize retention across a broad range of competencies using both discovery and experiential learning methods.

Over the next month, I’ll be addressing four critical questions to ask yourself to determine whether simulation is right for your needs. In the meantime, I invite you to contact us to learn more about any of our custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 13 years.

Insight Matters: A Model That Opens Doors and Closes Sales

Anyone in sales can tell you that the rules today are much different than they were 25 years ago. The playing field has changed in numerous ways. Those who haven’t kept up are sure to be kept out as customer expectations continue to evolve.

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The bottom line? It’s no longer enough to build relationships, uncover needs and solve challenges. Of course those things are still important, but today’s salespeople must take things a few steps further (and deeper) in order to succeed.

The Challenger Sale

Of the countless books out there designed to teach good salespeople how to be great, one that truly resonates with me – based on an exhaustive study of thousands of sales representatives across numerous industries and geographies – is The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.

The basic premise of the book for me is simple: Today’s customers value insight and education every bit as much as they value service and your knowledge of their business and its unique needs. In other words, “You don’t have a great value proposition unless you can bring insights and value that they didn’t know they needed to the first conversation.”

Instead of bombarding customers with facts and features about their company and products, Challengers approach customers with unique insights about how they can save or make money. They tailor their sales message to the customer’s specific needs and objectives.

That concept led me to ponder Blueline’s value proposition and ask myself: Does Blueline bring unique insights and value to its prospective customers? Do we tailor our message to our customers’ specific needs and objectives?

Our focus has always been on asking questions to gain a clear understanding of needs and then formulating a solution that encompasses the best way to address those needs. And although that’s still a viable model, today’s customers demand that you prove yourself by offering insights and value before they’ll commit the time to help you understand their challenges. That’s as true for my customers as it is for yours.

So today we start by making the case for using business simulations and engaging people. We share insights about the evolving demographics of their workforce and the often-misrepresented role that engagement plays in changing belief systems, retaining knowledge and transforming skills.

We also make the case for a mix of technologies that maximize the impact of a three-pronged learning strategy that includes reference, immersion and community. By doing so, we earn the right to explore our customers’ unique requirements and put forth a recommendation.

Our belief in and commit to this approach is such that we have transformed the way we serve up these insights and others via our website. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to spend some time on our site, and let us know if we’ve hit the mark.

In the meantime, if you’re wrestling with how to meaningfully implement skills and strategies from The Challenger Sale in your own organization, the team at Blueline would be delighted to share our insights with you.

I also invite you to contact us to learn more about any of our custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 13 years.

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Reflections on Coaching: Why a Mirror Might Be Your Most Valuable Development Tool

Organizations worldwide have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the years on peer assessments and live skill practice, all in an effort to hold a mirror up to their leaders.

The goal? To get leaders to see themselves as their employees and others see them – namely in coaching situations – and build on their strengths while improving on their weaknesses.

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This approach reminds me of a time when I coached my sons’ youth sports teams. I was that guy on the sidelines, screaming at a group of 8- to 9-year-olds to do this, stop doing that, run over here and block over there – all in the name of winning.

Of course, at the time I didn’t see myself that way. After all, coaching pre-teens in an athletic environment is easy, right? Kids trust quickly, expect to make mistakes, love to learn, and the culture on the playing field is one of constant coaching. Besides, I cared about the kids and enjoyed the incredible environment in which they trusted me and craved my coaching.

But then came the video

I asked my wife to shoot video of some games so I could watch them afterward and look for ways to help the children improve. What I discovered came as a shock: It was me who needed to improve. The videos were key to learning about and improving my own coaching weaknesses.

Through the videos, my coaching style evolved, and I became supremely confident in my skills with the children. I discovered how to challenge them, pick them up when they were down and even occasionally inspire them to greatness. To this day, many of my sons’ friends still refer to me as “coach.”

Your associates, of course, aren’t children in a sports environment; however, I believe there are still some important lessons to be learned from my experience. To enjoy success as a leader, you need to:

  • Build a culture of trust and constant coaching. Encourage your people to take risks and make mistakes.
  • Honestly assess your skills as a coach. You likely model a compilation of everyone who has coached you over the years, which may or may not be a good thing.
  • Find a “mirror” so that you can watch your skills evolve over time. What you see is likely to be truly eye-opening and possibly career-changing.

If accessibility and cost make finding a “mirror” difficult, I’ve got great news: Blueline’s simulation technology offers an exceptionally affordable mirror that enables anyone who needs it to develop and hone their coaching skills in a safe environment. Imagine rehearsing delivering difficult feedback in a range of real-life performance improvement scenarios to a broad range of employee personalities. Imagine using these newfound skills to build a culture of trust and constant coaching. Imagine the positive impact your high-performing team will have on your organization. Demo the simulation now to experience the possibilities.

Contact the coaching specialists at Blueline today to learn more about our leadership-related offerings or any of our custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 13 years.

Making the Grade with Simulations

Although once reserved for the business school environment, team-based simulations have earned their rightful place in the training curriculums of learning organizations worldwide during the past decade. And the reasons are plenty:

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

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Proof positive

The Wharton School of Business presented a case on the effectiveness of team-based activities run remotely — either synchronously or asynchronously — at ATD’s National Conference a few years back.

Wharton’s experience with its 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.

The typical design approach incorporated a series of individual and group exercises that included podcasts, webinars, white papers, remote office hours and a remote group activity followed by a capstone live classroom experience. A far cry from when distance learning meant PowerPoint presentations via webinar.

One of Blueline’s popular simulations is Abilitie’s Business Challenge, a web-based 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, the simulation can be supplemented with a series of case-based elearning modules called Fluent in Finance. The modules present a unique combination of elearning, simulation and virtual classroom experiences.

I invite you to contact us to learn more about any of our custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 13 years.