Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Enhanced Simulations

Originally posted on October 13, 2017

Enhanced Simulations is a more complex form of role playing. It’s a response to the challenge of “teaching” in the face of the sheer complexity of systems. You can’t just teach—students will interpret too much in their own way. You’ve got to do a kind of role play and see how they understand and apply what they think is going on. That way you can identify problems that you haven’t anticipated. A simulation involves setting up the situation so that no one really gets hurt, loses a lot of money, etc. Then run the simulation as if it were really happening, observer where mistakes are made, misunderstandings happen. Based on that, remedial action can be considered and taken.

This last step is often challenging. It is said that in complex situations—and sometimes what seems simple is really complex—everything that can go wrong does go wrong. So what procedures can be implemented to minimize error? This is what people do with the results of military exercises. It’s not just practice, it’s seeing where the mistakes crop up. Then the hard part of figuring out what went wrong and how to minimize the likelihood of those mistakes or the consequences. Perfection is often an unreachable goal, so minimizing must suffice.

Enhancement adds to simulations some psychodramatic methods, such as doubling, role reversal, asides. These make explicit the thinking processes of the people involved. The downside is that it’s too time-consuming for simulations involving too many people, but this process of enhanced simulations is good for small groups or numbers. For small numbers, enhanced simulations is good practice.

This is because some situations are complex and each and every step, and all the responses possible, may not be anticipated even by conscientious trainers with all the time in the world! Often it’s all that can be done simply to set up a trial  situation. When (not if) people get into trouble, then, first, it’s noticed; and second, it’s addressed. It’s a small bunch of steps in one way, but huge in others, because management, officers, whoever constitute the higher ranks, are called to attention about certain matters.

Even so, some issues may be missed. Nevertheless, it’s a step in the right direction for planning. The bridging concept is for leadership to realize that it’s not a matter of knowing what you’re doing or not; rather, it’s recognizing that anticipating all possible moves is more problematic than possible.

Enhanced simulations combines the value of simulatios with the value of doing a trial run. It arises from psychotherapy, from suggesting patients do a role playing. But it is really a prepa-ration for the complexities of work challenges, situation challenges.

If I call it role play, it seems too superficial. It is role playing, enhanced with techniques derived from therapeutic role playing or psychodrama. It uses techniques derived from psychodrama, which makes people less worried about it being too psychological. It is quite psychological, of course—but it all goes toward anticipating errors and addressing them before the real thing.

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