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Simulation Learning for the 21st Century Leader

Practice makes perfect, the old adage goes, but what happens when the circumstances are too unpredictable and the stakes too high to risk mistakes? An increasing number of professions are turning to simulation-based learning to better prepare for the unexpected – from pilots and nurses, to military strategists, law enforcement agencies, even the hospitality industry. 

That’s because simulations provide opportunities to jump-start the process of embedding newly gained knowledge into one’s tacit recall, deepening the potential for transformative learning. In today’s turbulent global climate, simulations are more vital than ever. That’s where the GCSP-CCL Leadership Alliance comes in.

It was the final day of a four-day workshop on "Leading Effectively in Turbulent Times," a signature workshop for senior-level leaders in the peace and security sector – from former ambassadors and diplomats, to directors of NGOs and business leaders. After spending the week learning new mindsets, skillsets and toolsets, participants got to put it all into practice through an innovative new simulation designed to replicate leading in turbulence. 

"Traditional simulations often have winners and losers. In the turbulent real world, it's usually much more ambiguous," explains the designer of the simulation, Dr. Geoff Cox of RSVP Design. “Short-term wins inevitably carry with them the potential to become less attractive in the long term. In this climate, leaders need to be versatile thinkers and agile learners, continually assessing their operating environment and recalculating the basis of their decision making. This simulation is designed to rapidly and repeatedly change the operating environment in order to give participants a practice field for their learning agility, and the constant re-evaluation of their core leadership concerns.”

Participants were each given roles as lead of a particular innovation project for a fictitious large, international NGO. Turbulent scenarios were then introduced along with the questions: How does the change in circumstance affect your project? Have the new operating conditions promoted, or demoted, its potential value to your organisation?

During the course of the simulation, participants came to see which leadership approaches and techniques proved effective in a team context, and which were more counter-productive. By the end, they had come to the collective decision to stop advocating just for "I" and move to advocating for a shared mission.

As testified by Dr. Petri Hakkarainen, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C. and a participant on the programme, the simulation represented “a very efficient way to revisit all of the elements discussed over the past three days. The facilitation was knowledgeable, hands-off in just the right way, allowing us to experience the challenges for ourselves instead of imposing the lessons on us.”

In September 2015, the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) launched the Leadership Alliance to provide much needed support to organisations that have traditionally been excluded from accessing world-class leadership development – either for financial reasons or because of minimal relevance to the significant and complex challenges they face. Its purpose is to help individuals and organisations get better at leading to achieve their desired impact faster and more sustainably.

Interested in the Alliance’s cutting-edge, blended-method approach to leadership development? Apply now for our next executive programme, “Leading and Influencing with Impact,” taking place at GCSP from 18-20 September. This programme is ideal for current and aspiring managers who would like to increase their ability to lead and influence at the individual and team level.


>> Apply here