Thursday, April 20

If you have been in the training industry for more than 3 years, don't bother reading this

I have given my share of speeches on simulation in the last six months. And I have come to a casual observation. It is the people who have been in the training profession for less than three years that actually make simulations happen in their organization.

This is not an age thing. There are plenty of people representing all different ages that are moving ahead. This is not a male-female thing.

The "newcomers" are excited to drive results. They think in terms of weeks and maybe months of making things happen, not months and years. They care about driving results now, and take a few personal risks when the pay-off is significant. They are not interested in proving to me, the sim guy, how smart they are. They are not trying to score intellectual points with their peers. They do not mistake cynicism for wisdom, nor are they process-centric out of the hope that the process will keep them from having to act. They instead want me to make the case, are tough, fair, and then they really want to move ahead. They are problem solvers, not problem creators.

I hope that randomness has placed so many "new-to-training" people who can't wait to act in front of me, and kept away all of the people with a long training background who know how to get things done. But boy, please, someone, prove me wrong!


Godfrey Parkin said...

Sounds like you have had a lot of painful or frustrating experiences. I can’t prove you wrong any more than you can prove yourself right. All I can say is that my experiences have been different. But then I’m not positioning myself as the sim guy.

I have been in the training field for nearly thirty years, and in the tech-enhanced learning field since dumb terminals and daisy-wheel printers. I cut my sim/gaming teeth on text-based MUDs and MOOs. About ten years ago I put my money (a lot of it) where my mouth was and founded an online sim company, and spent a lot of time with both publishers and end customers. My interest has always been in soft skills rather than mechanical or tech tools training. We explored a range of subject matter and potential markets, from school-to-life transition sims to entrepreneurship sims to interpersonal conflict management sims to perpetual immersive online worlds.

In all that time I hardly found an experienced trainer who did not “get it” and I rarely found an inexperienced trainer who did “get it”. The inexperienced trainers were all about the fun, the addictiveness, the immersion. The experienced trainers were all about the behavior changes that could be effected. Inexperienced trainers were about the means and experienced trainers were about the end. Inexperienced trainers wanted to play with the toys; experienced trainers wanted to make the toys work for them. It’s been a while since I dabbled in sims, so maybe times have changed.

There’s been a lot of hype and a lot of waste in the e-learning field, so those who have been burned tend to be a little more skeptical these days than in the past. That may be why experienced trainers hesitate and inexperienced trainers leap in. I’m the first to advocate the “just do it” approach to innovation in learning. Without plunging in and prototyping, you never get anywhere. But I am also an advocate of knowing why you are doing it and what the desired outcome is. Otherwise you are merely treading water, albeit enthusiastically.

Godfrey Parkin

Bill Brandon said...

Clark, I think your fears are more apparent than real. For one thing, people who cluster around the speaker after a conference session or keynote are a self-selecting group. They aren't representative of all the members of the profession. For another, my experience shows me that a lot of people are trying a lot of technology-based approaches to facilitating learning these days: weblogs, wikis, podcasts, synch/asynchronous "traditional" e-Learning, one-shot online games and simulations (a la Thiagi), standalone online games and simulations (a la you, a la Marc Prensky, a la the folks at San Diego State, etc etc). Most of the leaders in getting these things done have been around more than three years, too.

Personally, my first contact with computer-driven training simulations was in 1966 as a midshipman (the Navy had very good tactical ASW simulators that far back), and I've built and used them since 1968 in every organization I've been in that had the technology to support them.

Don't count us old guys out.