Traditionally, crisis management is hard to train for. It's impractical to deliberately create multiple crises situations so everyone can practice. The last thing you need when addressing a real crisis is a bright-eyed new recruit saying, "Okeydoke, what now?" as the flames, real or metaphorical, start to climb the walls. Until now, a popular way to prepare for the unpredictable was the application of gamelike practice sessions. Participates would sit around a table and give responses to a pre-planned simulated crisis, somewhat like a cross between Dungeons and Dragons and an old-fashioned parlor game.
The basic concept behind this approach was sound—"Practice makes perfect" is as true as it is trite—but the practicalities were limited. Only so many contingencies and complications could be pre-planned for trainees to experience, and it could be difficult to track individual performance and contributions within a collaborative framework. However, emerging and vibrant technology is creating immersive training worlds which combine human ingenuity and the enormous informational potential of computing.
OilOnline takes a peek into that world by visiting with Oliver Diaz, CEO and creative director of cutting-edge media development company FuelFX. Diaz discusses the advantages of the newer experiential learning technologies and their applications for those working on the front lines in crisis management, as well as giving us a teaser about the program FuelFX is developing.
Diaz identified two key areas in which advanced technology's application to experiential learning can be particularly beneficial for crisis management training. The first is the ability of modern software to create complex, detailed simulations for learners to interact with, creating a scenario-based learning environment. FuelFX's upcoming program will present a "vast sandbox" for learning simulations to take place in. The simulating capability of the program, acting together with creative human contributions, will mean the possibilities are boundless. The program will come with some amazing features to geek out over: automated messages announce "in-game" events and developments, "news" reports offer information and updates on public opinion of the handling of the "crisis," and documents and media specific to the needs of a company or situation can be uploaded into the simulated world.
This world will initially be governed by an experienced crisis manager, whom Diaz described as essentially performing the role of the crisis itself. This seasoned manager invites participants to take particular roles within a simulation; she will also make judgment calls, choose how the crisis develops, and respond to user questions, all of which teach the in-program artificial intelligence (AI). Over time, this AI will learn to run simulations and answer many questions on its own, though a human manager still makes executive decisions and can override the AI's recommendations if needed. This learning capacity eventually allows less experienced people to manage simulations, offering them another perspective on crisis management and making it possible for workers to practice even in the absence of top brass.
All communications between participants take place within the program. Diaz explained that this, the second major benefit of this new approach, allows for the tracking of individual performance: Who is doing research, who is asking questions, who is coordinating others' contributions? (Who is rocking back and forth in the corner, silent tears streaming down his face?) How effective are these actions? The AI can identify and track these activities, and the data generated can be used to see who is effective in what roles and which individuals might benefit most from additional training in particular skills. This is a much more nuanced, valuable, and accurate result than is available without such software. Judging a single person's performance no longer need be a matter of pure perception, and this information can help managers build the most effective crisis management teams.
As technology advances, and as creative minds engage with its ever-increasing ability to create realistic and immersive simulations, experiential learning will become more common, more complex, and more effective. The crisis management field stands to benefit enormously from these developments.