Pilots, Race Car Drivers and Managers?


June 17, 2011

A pilot, a race car driver and a manger all walk into a bar…..Oh wait, it’s not a joke.

Wonder why I’m thinking about pilots and race car drivers?  Because I think they are using a tool that we need to have in our manager toolbox.  A simulator.

Military pilots and commercial pilots have been using flight simulators since the 1930’s.  Even private pilots use simulators to hone their skills and responses to the enviromnent.  From commercial simulators designed by Boeing to the at home use of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X, a pilot has options of ways to practice.  The idea of having a pilot learn the basics of how to use the tools and instruments, to more advanced simulations that put pilots in crisis situations they need to manage, demonstrates that there is a need for people to practice what they ultimate need to perform.  And the racing industry is no different.  Drivers often practice in simulators.

What about for business?

Our best option may be using gaming to teach managers how to improve their skills.  Games like Farmville and World of Warcraft certainly teach and simulate some specific skills around managing resources.  In fact, online games like World of Warcraft take it a step further because by working with a live, virtual team, you can learn communication and negotiation skills for managing virtual teams that can be translated into the real world.

Today, management training often consists of case studies analyzed in small groups during a classroom style session.  While this has effective components, it lacks the feeling of being under extreme pressure.  It lacks the emotion that can lead to learning.   Our managers need to have their pulse quicken and “feel the pain” as they are faced with situational decisions.

What’s Next?

I’d like to see some of the HR technology vendors create modules in their performance management  portals that allow managers to actually simulate managing.  Show me simulations of a manager:

  • Making choices during a difficult employee conversation
  • Determining how to handle two employees who are having a verbal altercation
  • Choosing how to approach their role in an employee investigation
  • Handling various budget scenarios

The list of options is endless. What do you think?  Would this be a tool you would use in your organization to help your managers better learn how to manage? Share your thoughts in the comments.

One Comment

  • Ever since college, I’ve loved simulations – at least those that are well done. I believe they are very useful in helping us change perspective, thinking outside our realm of experience, and rehearsing difficult conversations. I wish more companies used them.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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