simulation

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.

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.

PART II Is the notion of an artificially intelligent simulation dead?

(Or: Why you can be confident our simulations will never rise up to extinguish all of humanity.)

Last week, I posted my thoughts on the “failed promise” of artificial intelligence. (Did you miss it? Click here.)

Today’s pioneers in artificial intelligence are no longer chasing the dream of replicating the complex processes inherent in the human brain. Instead, according to Steven Levy, Senior Writer at Wired Magazine, they are using “machine learning, massive data sets, sophisticated sensors, and clever algorithms to master discrete tasks.” Steven cites examples that can be found everywhere: “The Google global machine uses AI to interpret cryptic human queries,” he writes.  “Credit card companies use it to track fraud. Netflix uses it to recommend movies to subscribers. And the financial system uses it to handle billions of trades (with only the occasional meltdown).”

Clearly, the power of AI has found a comfortable, unassuming role in many corners of our culture. So what should the new vision of A.I. in learning be? How can we leverage this important technology to build cost-effective training solutions, with reasonable development timeframes that create a unique experience for each learner?

At Blueline, we are taking a two-pronged approach.

First, we have been exploring solutions that leverage a gaming engine (with rules, probabilities and randomization dictating the occurrence of certain nodes), voice recognition and thousands of nodes that lead the learner to believe that the simulation they are interacting with is artificially intelligent. This allows us to provide an experience so robust that you could practice interactions for weeks with in a single simulation and never have the same interaction twice.

That’s just the beginning. We have partnered with a neurobiologist who has been doing breakthrough work to transform the public education market. His solution tailors the entire experience to the learner using complex algorithms to assess individual learning needs combined with affordable and easily implemented simulation techniques. His approach has created solutions that consistently demonstrate 300% improvements in retention over control groups. (No, that was not a typo. 300%. Let that sink in.)

Are these solutions TRON-like yet? Not even close. But they do allow us to help clients deliver effective individualized training, at a reasonable cost now.

Give us a call. We’ll show you more.

And, we promise our simulations will never, ever rise up against our clients in a bloody mechanical apocalypse.

Is the notion of an artificially intelligent simulation dead?

(Or: Why you can be confident our simulations will never rise up to extinguish all of humanity.)

PART I

“Artificial intelligence” is just one of those terms. It grabs the imagination, doesn’t it? What does it make you think of? Maybe it evokes images of sci-fi adventures like TRON in which an altruistic prodigy programs a world of artificially intelligent beings more perfect than their creator. Or, perhaps you think of darker images such as the chilling, mutinous computer HAL from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (As for the “rise of the machines” in Terminator 2… let’s not even go there.)

For me, artificial intelligence is not the stuff of sci-fi thrillers, but rather something much more utilitarian and closer to my vocation in the field of learning. I imagine an e-based learning experience that can adapt to the unique needs of each learner.

Okay, so maybe that’s mundane stuff for most people, but I think there’s still a lot here to be excited about.

Nearly a decade ago, a friend of mine, named Clark Aldrich, developed the first “artificially intelligent” business simulation. Clark and his team at Simulearn called that program Virtual Leader, and used it to teach interpersonal skills to leaders. In addition to creating a real breakthrough in design through the use of avatars and a powerful gaming engine, Virtual Leader was the first of its kind to adapt to the individual needs of the learner.

As you engaged with Virtual Leader, the simulation’s AI engine seemed to identify your bad habits. For example, let’s say you demonstrated a habit of interrupting and talking over other people. The computer would “notice” this behavior and then adapt to expose it as an area of developmental need.

Sounds pretty amazing doesn’t it?  We all thought so. In fact, we thought that Virtual Leader would forever transform the way that e-based learning was designed and delivered.

But that didn’t quite happen. Mainstream application of these techniques has proven quite elusive for lots of reasons, including development costs in the millions of dollars; project timelines that can take years instead of months; and the difficulty of creating access within locked-down corporate IT environments.  And so the promise of artificial intelligence in business learning never quite came about.

But all of that is about to change. Check in next week to learn how.