I live in Michigan. Sometimes the weather gets pretty ugly in the winter and I was recently talking to my father, brother, and brother-in-law about driving in the snow. We all agreed that the best way to learn how to drive in the snow if to find an empty parking lot and go wild.
Of course, I would like to say don’t ever drive recklessly, this is a professional driver on a closed course, etc, so don’t try it at home.
Having said that, one of the best ways to learn is to try new things in a safe environment. We do this on a very regular basis in the form of role play. Role play is something that we all experience in the 3rd person when we read but reading only gives us one potential version from a number of variables. By taking those variables and goofing around with them we are able to witness and explore the cause and effect actions of manipulating multiple variables in several ways.
While reading Gamification of Learning and Instruction by Karl Kapp, I read that one of the considerations made by game designers is the ‘re-playability’ of games. This increase when there are more variables to take into account and when the player alters these variable they get different results, potentially increasing their score. The game is no long a “do-this, do-that and win” but it becomes something that the player will play over and over trying to best themselves by adjusting the variables, and thus honing their skills.
When you drive a car in a parking lot with nothing but snow, you’re taking the variables, speed, acceleration, steering, brakes, and you’re tweaking them with the goal of getting ideal results, traction. Of course, in order to get there you end up doing a couple of donuts but that’s part of the experience! We are the sum of our experiences and in order to know how to drive a car on the road in snowy conditions, you’ll want to know what it feels like to slide.
We see this done in school in science labs and psychology experiments. We do this as children; how far can we push our parents? When is a good time to ask for money? We spend our entire childhood building experience and using it to better our position!
This tried and true method of learning is used constantly by childhood and in school but how common is it in the corporate world. We are often asked to get our…stuff…together and produce results but we are given limited opportunity to try a few different alternative and see how it goes.
How do we do this? Maybe we should ask ‘When should we do this?’ Corporate life is more or less about effective use of resources and getting results. We should take the initiative to ask questions of those that came before us. With psychomotor stuff we need to see that first hand to feel what it’s like but for most of the rest, we should be able to go to our collective experience. Failure shouldn’t be avoided at all cost but we don’t need to learn everything first hand. I can’t think of a single parent out there that didn’t want their kids to learn from their mistakes, but that doesn’t mean they talked openly about them. Sometimes it’s difficult to admit failure. No one likes being embarrassed but when we spin the significance of failure from something ‘you screwed up’ to something ‘you learned and can share’ it becomes a lot more enticing to talk about it.
Now, if you’ve asked around and no one has tried a particular set of variables, I say give it a shot. It could be the next big thing!