Leadership Development Games: Is 100% Online Really Effective?

Over the last 15 years we have been developing and deploying games aimed at providing rich learning experiences for top managers and decision makers to develop their leadership Skills. Such games are now used in Management Schools all over the world. Two of our key assumptions have always been that:

(1) Such games are best played in Teams rather than individually

(2) Such games are best played in a face-to-face mode at least partially.

We still consider the first assumption valid. Even if part of the learning experience is conducted individually (like in our WhatADay! Simulation – see below) the real learning comes when individuals discuss and compare the results of their experiences with Peers (in a team or large group) or with a Coach.

But recently we have decided to challenge the second assumption (and the advices you hear and read very often that rich processes in virtual teams always require the participants to meet at least once, typically at the very beginning of their online journey). In fact we have designed a 4 months long, intensive and totally game-based learning experience structured in 3 phases – WhatATeam!, WhatADay! and WhatANetwork!) in which 100s of managers (of a global organization) address and develop their leadership skills together without ever meeting physically.

First results from 3 cohorts of 100 managers each are extremely promising and we are currently collecting large amounts of data reflecting the richness of the online interactions taking place (via email, wikis, blogs, Webex sessions and a dedicated web 2.0 collaboration platform) and the self-reported learning and networking value of the experience.

In the following blog entries I will describe in more depth the actual experience the participants go through, as well as the data we are gathering, we the hope to be able to identify and discuss with you why such an experience can be effective (also in terms of stimulating participants to engage in deep and personal exchanges) even if no face-to-face interaction is taking place. For the moment, here is the overview of the learning experience, which is called ULead.

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