The Learning Curve

The two primary, traditional approaches to leadership education and professional development are either boring seminars or realistic, roleplaying exercises.  While there are advantages to using either approach, each option also places hurdles in the way toward establishing a steeper learning curve. 

Seminars are the traditional way of providing foundational levels of education on a topic to an audience that has little background on the subject.  There is a significant amount of information that needs to be passed.  And yet, most of us will not remember more than half of what was covered in a classroom.  Sure, seminars are more affordable than other options, but traditional methods of lecturing an audience fall short in ensuring knowledge retention for the numerous critical tasks that need to be performed, especially during a crisis.  On the opposite hand, realistic, roleplaying exercises are exciting, complicated, and drive home lessons learned in a shorter amount of time.  These exercises are also very expensive.  Most organizations can hardly afford to conduct a major exercise more than once every few years.  By the time an organization has gathered enough money to conduct another large-scale training event the leaders have likely rotated out of their roles and moved on; this means there will be continual training requirements on the same issues, over and over again, as leaders assume new roles.   

What is knowledge retention?  In the crisis response world, knowledge retention is your ability to recall important information that you have learned when you specifically need it to perform critical leader tasks. 

What is the learning curve?  Imagine that you have little understanding of a topic prior to some form of education or training.  There will be an immediate increase in your knowledge of the topic, but how long can you remember the important (often minute) details of your leader tasks?  Generally, you will retain a fraction of the information taught after the memories transition from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.  How do we create a steeper learning curve while also ensuring greater knowledge retention for decision-making during a crisis response? 

The learning curve analogy can help to understand the dynamics of knowledge retention compared to training repetition (frequency of training events).  The more stimulating the experience, the better a person can comprehend what is being taught, but without continued stimulation a person’s ability to retain that information is diminished.  In plain language, you need to have an engaging, visually stimulating experience to create better knowledge retention.  

Three primary considerations must be addressed to establish a steeper learning curve with better knowledge retention:   

Frequency.  How often are specific tasks trained on to establish a minimum level of proficiency?   

Engagement.  Are the exercises stimulating enough to aid in visualization and memory recall?   

Retention.  Will the selected exercises help the mind recall important information about critical leader tasks, including lessons learned from previous incidents?   

These considerations are important not only because it helps establish a steeper learning curve but also because it helps with recalling facts and lessons learned, as well as developing critical problem-solving skills.  In turn, better problem-solving skills help a leader balance the need for detailed planning compared to the need for adaptation during an actual crisis.   

CRLT is unique because we embedded our simulation within an integrated learning management system.  Nationally recognized references, pre- and post-test questions, advance AI triggers linking facts to our replay system, and a self-assessment tool are all combined to help with a steeper learning curve and help a leader to understand what critical tasks need to be accomplished during a crisis.   

CRLT combines turn-based mechanics, statistical probability of outcomes, and engaging video game technology as an innovative approach to tabletop exercises.  Our solution fills a critical gap within the leadership training spectrum: 

1.  Establish a foundation on the fundamental requirements for Incident Management. 

2.  Increase the professional development of leaders that are performing life-saving duties daily. 

3.  Increase community outreach.  Including the community (other responder organizations, schools, businesses, and volunteers) within your training plan helps to reinforce trust and transparency, as well as a sense of cooperation.  This way, when an incident occurs, every leader is better able to recall important information and make lifesaving decisions. 

By Tod Langley
Mar 31, 2022


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