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Human Resources
Jul 23, 2018

The Exit Room: A Simulation Made for Learning Agility

Sponsored Content provided by Dave Hoff - Chief Operating Officer and Executive VP of Leadership Development, EASI Consult

Those of us in human resources – and, more specifically, talent management – know the time- and cost-investment of creating real-life work scenarios and challenges to help participants demonstrate whether they have certain necessary skills for their roles. Talent management folks, many of whom are industrial/organizational psychologists, can spend countless hours and thousands of dollars developing these simulations.

Recently, I discovered an activity that – while often used for entertainment purposes – could provide a means of assessing/developing learning agility.

My discovery happened when I went with a group of acquaintances – some I already knew from a social club to which I belong, and some I met that afternoon – to participate in an activity called The Horoscope Killer, part of the national trend of escape or exit room games.

The facilitator of the game set the scene for us – we had just fallen through the floor of a building that was the home of the “Horoscope Killer.” The killer would be back in one hour, so our objective was to escape. The room was dark, but we were given miniature flashlights. 

Our first task was to uncover information that would allow us to turn on the lights in the room. No one was “in charge” of our group, but one person was given a small walkie-talkie, which was our means of interacting with our facilitator. 

From time to time she would give us clues, but it was up to us to work together and solve the puzzles we were given. No one had assigned roles in the group, which gave each of us the freedom to go in any direction we chose. It also led to us being inefficient with our time. There was a big clock on the wall counting down our time remaining.

During our briefing, the facilitator indicated that there was a desk in the room that we might want to use as a place to collect information. There were also pens and blank sheets of paper. 

At some point in the simulation, I sat down at the desk and assumed the role of scribe. People would bring me random pieces of information and some fit together. Other information we simply recorded on the paper until we found a connection to something else. 

We did combine enough information and solve enough puzzles to get into a second room but did not achieve our overall objective to escape within an hour. While there was a sense of urgency among the team members, we were not in a panic.  Maybe if Buffalo Bill arrived back on the scene – or if we saw this being more similar to our jobs and if the consequence of not solving the problem was that we would lose our job – then the tension likely would have been higher. 

If the group I was with had been co-workers I see daily, our interactions and group dynamics would have been different. And although our group did not discuss learning agility as part of the simulation, I couldn’t help but think about how this could be incorporated in a learning agility exercise in the future.

To review, learning agility is finding yourself in a situation where you have never been before, not knowing what to do and figuring it out. I don’t know how many of you have interacted with a “Horoscope Killer,” but this was my first experience, so I certainly didn’t know what to do.

The nine dimensions of learning agility are:

  1. Flexibility – Being open to new ideas and proposing new solutions.
  2. Speed – Acting on ideas quickly to discard those that aren’t working and accelerate more promising possibilities.
  3. Experimenting – Trying out new behaviors (i.e. approaches, ideas) to determine what is effective.
  4. Performance Risk Taking – Seeking new activities (i.e., tasks, assignments, roles) that provide opportunities to be challenged.
  5. Interpersonal Risk Taking – Discussing differences with others in a way that can generate unique opportunities for learning.
  6. Collaborating – Finding ways to work with others that lead to unique learning opportunities.
  7. Information Gathering – Using various methods to remain current in one’s area of expertise.
  8. Feedback Seeking – Asking others for feedback on one’s ideas and overall performance.
  9. Reflecting – Slowing down to evaluate one’s own performance in order to be more effective.
In our case, we were just a group of people out for an afternoon of fun. But if we had wanted to use this with a work team, how could we have embedded learning agility?

The facilitator could define learning agility and the nine dimensions during the initial briefing and tell participants to be conscious of opportunities to demonstrate the nine capabilities. Participants could also be informed that there would be a debriefing of the simulation afterwards in terms of the nine learning agility dimensions. 

Participants could be asked to complete the Learning Agility Inventory before the day of the simulation and then share their results as part of the briefing.

After the simulation, the facilitator could ask each person to rate himself or herself on a scale of 1-10 (10 being high) for each of the learning agility dimensions, then ask each person to rate the overall team against the nine dimensions.

The facilitator could ask each team member to discuss what learning agility dimensions they could have used more effectively and what they could have done.

My intent with this article, of course, is not to ruin an afternoon of fun, which is what my group had. But there is also
But there is also a rich opportunity in this fun trend for a group of individuals and/or teams to better understand and work on learning agility.

EASI•Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI•Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI•Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email [email protected] or call (800) 922-EASI.

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