Workplace Simulators: Critical Thinking, Teamwork, Leadership

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WHAT IS A “WORKPLACE SIMULATOR” THAT WILL BRING OUR YOUNG ADULTS ALL THE WAY TO “JOB-READY” STATUS?

The initial conceptualization of the Workplace Simulator followed our experimentation with replacing the school desks and school chairs of a traditional classroom with a large seminar table with leather chairs (see photo of experimental classroom at top of this page).  This changed the dynamics of the traditional classroom in that it created a greater sense of trust and community among the students and that, in turn, helped pull up their collaborative creativity and heightened their self-expression.

The Workplace Simulator was conceptualized to become a major advance in student internalization of learning because teams of six students each would have the opportunity to enter the Simulator and, for a four-hour period, they would become players in scripted scenarios (aka theater games) that immersed them in difficult work environments with multiple and simultaneous obstacles to be dealt with and overcome.  The analogy to the Workplace Simulator is the aircraft flight simulators that all the airlines use to keep their pilots and aircrews at a high level of proficiency.  In the aircraft flight simulator, every conceivable flight problem is thrown at the pilots and crews from bad weather, engine failures, structural problems, landing gear malfunctions, instrument failures, passenger actions, and the like.  In the Workplace Simulator, there is no limit to the different scripted scenarios that can replicate any work environment and its inherent problems.

The Workplace Simulator is designed to become the epitome of experiential learning, wherein the students must immediately engage in highly realistic work environments of all kinds based on scripted scenarios (aka theater games) that lead to planned learning outcomes.  The student teams receive work input by incoming conference calls, regular mail, e-mails, SKYPE, and telephone calls.  Additional work input is created by visits from faculty actors who play the role of customers, auditors, regulators, media representatives and others posing stressful problems to be prioritized and dealt with accordingly.  Faculty coaches will occasionally call for a time-out to critique the student team and steer it back toward the intended learning outcomes.

The most fundamental outcomes sought are to familiarize the students with the 21st century global workplace and its performance expectations, and to help pull up the creativity and leadership potential of each student, thereby closing the gap to “job-ready” status that employers constantly call for.  The Simulator scenarios are designed to enable students to exercise and improve their critical thinking processes to determine how the world actually works and learn to navigate through what the pundits call “The New Normal” to pursue their destinies with good judgment, a sense of equanimity, and with an inner compass reflecting a high social consciousness.

CONSTRUCTION PHOTOGRAPHY SHOWING DETAILS OF THE SIMULATOR

We constructed the initial Simulator in a warehouse that had a loft area from where the operation of the Simulator could be observed from above by faculty coaches and researchers.  It was envisioned that the students and the coaches would wear electronic devices to facilitate communication between one another.  And the researchers could observe and listen in to the communication between student team members and communications from the faculty coaches.

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    The Simulator included three work components:  (i) the central work area with six workstations for the student teams, (ii) the conference area, and (iii) a manager’s office to facilitate the supervisor dynamic.

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  The manager’s office to the far right.

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Closing the gap to reach full job-ready status on the part of our young adults will entail a close working relationship with employers who will participate in the development of scripted scenarios (aka theater games) that are nearly identical to actual operational interaction within their respective organizations.  And there must be considerable repetition and practice by the student teams that make use of the Workplace Simulator, much like aircrews in aircraft flight simulators return frequently for more practice under the most diverse and difficult conditions.