Designing A Leadership Development Program That's Experiential - Part II

Post by Capsim
February 21, 2017

At the 2017 Training Conference I led a session on driving awareness through experiential leadership development programs, in which I included a brief case study that highlighted using simulations as an experiential learning activity. After the session, I was asked what other activities might be used when designing a leadership development program that is experiential.

Part I of this blog series took a deeper dive into what is required when designing a leadership development program that is experiential. With that framework in mind, let’s explore some of additional learning activities that can be used within an experiential leadership development program.

  • Role-play
    • Create a realistic scenario participants might encounter as a leader
    • Identify roles on a team
    • Rotate roles within the scenario to experience looking at the situation from different points of view
    • Role Play Experiences- Battlefield for strategy or A Day in the Life of a CEO
  • Problem based project
    • Identify a problem/challenge within the organization
    • Individuals can bring their own functional problem/challenge as ideas and the teams can vote on which problem to solve
    • Mix teams up by functional background to help look at the solution from different points of view
    • Allow the groups to present the challenge they worked on and the proposed solution
    • Allow the groups to select the best solution
    • Perhaps have the groups present their findings to Senior Functional leads
  • Case study – leaderless discussion
    • Pick a case study that is relevant to the group
    • Divide the case study up amongst the team
    • Individuals share what they took from their portion of the case study
    • Hold a brainstorming session to identify the questions that senior leaders should be asking about the information presented in the case study
    • Keep it leaderless to see who emerges as leaders and how all participants can be leaders in one way or another when working collaboratively
    • Real-time case study
      • Works best if the program is extended over a longer period of time
      • Recommendations can be made as to how they may have approached things differently
      • Groups observe and discuss how their company or an external company is handling:
        • Growth
        • A specific problem
        • Or even performing on a quarterly basis
    • Job Rotation
      • Identify what functions the participants should rotate through
      • Allows for cross functional understanding of the organization
      • May require a longer timeline to complete a full rotation
    • Gamification
      • Shorter in duration than simulations
      • Works great for repetitive behaviors or actions
      • Works well for addressing a specific scenario
      • Caution-don’t make it too much like a video game
      • Keep it relevant to their current or future roles
    • Board Games
      • Works well for shorter duration programs
      • Business board games
      • Don’t rule out games you know and love for non-business objectives
        • Change the rules
        • Put them in teams(collaboration)
        • Imagine playing the game Risk as a team competing against other teams to work on strategic thinking skills
        • Make sure to tie game lessons back to their real-world roles
    • Simulations
      • Business Simulations-strategy, business acumen, financial acumen
      • Functional Based Simulations-Project management, Operations
      • Task based simulations

The great thing about experiential learning activities is that they allow for learning by doing, teaching and mentoring others in your group, and using facilitators as guides in a classroom setting to tie in relevancy. All aspects of the 70-20-10 model for learning are represented in experiential learning programs. Remember any of these activities should be conducted in a safe environment to allow experimentation. We are developing leaders, we are not in a selection process.

If you’d like to talk further about designing a leadership development program that is experiential, please reach out to Kiersten DeBrower, Capsim’s Manager of Training and Development, at

Stay tuned for our next blog on using off the shelf simulations versus custom simulations.

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