The power of experiential leadership development

It has been just a few years that experiential leadership development has gained some popularity in India. Though, experiential learning as a concept has been around for a few decades, it did not catch up in India. The reason, I an not sure, but it could be that management does not find value in it.

In fact, just a few days back somebody asked me… How do you measure success of outbound training? This indirectly means, how to measure success of experiential learning.

Good question? Here is what I gave as an answer:

  1. How do you measure Teamwork?
  2. How do you measure Leadership?
  3. How do you measure synergy?
  4. how do you measure behaviour?
  5. how do you measure empathy?

Can we measure them?

Now, let us understand – when we see a change in these parameter, there is an increase in productivity, there is an increase in performance and there is an increase in profitability!

These changes are triggered by a experiential training. All the things listed above are a byproduct of outbound/experiential trainings.

So What is experiential learning?

In very simple terms, experiential learning techniques involve individuals being subjected to a series of scenarios. Each of these scenarios has been designed to test their ability to cope with a pre-defined set of circumstances. The individual does not know much beforehand.

The process of such exercises generally follow the pattern of:

  1. Creating a scenario depicting a potential situation.
  2. Working through the exercise in real time to observe people’s reactions/decisions/taking on leadership roles in this simulated situation.
  3. Subsequently reflecting on decisions that were made/actions that were taken, etc, with participants discussing in detail how their actions (or lack of) affected the outcome and also what could be done better if a similar scenario were to be faced again.

This puts focus on

  1. Understanding the importance of decision-making and
  2. Being placed under the pressure of having to make these choices in a real-time setting

This focus plays a crucial role in helping individuals to better understand how they may react in real life situations.

Big Impact on Leadership Development

Experiential learning is all about simulations, enacted in relatively safe environments. Experiential Leadership development through such techniques help the present, & the future, leaders to reflect on the decisions that they took in such pressure situations.

Best thing about such trainings is, the choices that are made during an exercise will have no consequence outside the simulation itself. It therefore encourages individuals to attempt courses of action that they might otherwise be afraid to. This also to gives people a sense of what it would be like to be in that position for real.

In today’s competitive world people can greatly benefit if they are offered the chance to learn more about themselves through such systems of training and development. Being immersed in difficult situations and venturing outside their comfort zone is a fantastic way for individuals to ‘build their leadership muscle’.

The benefits of an experiential approach to learning

The list can be exhaustive and i can go on discussing about the benefits, however, let us list down a few here:

  1. Helps individuals to challenge their current mode of thinking
  2. Understanding reasons behind the way people act and the decisions they make can be analysed at the end of the sessions.
  3. Identify areas where people can improve their skills, knowledge and understanding.
  4. Individuals receive feedback on how their own actions affect others in their team.
  5. Transfer and build experience through practice rather than in theory.

People who are put through the paces of experiential learning simulations can benefit from a definitive jump in their levels of experience when faced with similar situations in the real world.

This form of accelerated development is therefore highly beneficial and it is a technique that every sector of Indian industry should draw upon to great effect.

Indeed, the idea of gamification is one that has come to the fore in recent years, with a considerable potential for this form of rule-setting, competitive and analytical style of training to develop significantly in the years ahead.

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