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The Exit Room: A Simulation Made for Learning Agility

For those in human resources – and, more specifically, talent management – coming up with real-life work scenarios to test skills can be a time-consuming and costly endeavor.

But I recently discovered that a national entertainment trend – exit rooms – could also provide a means of assessing/developing learning agility.

My realization came during an exit room game, “The Horoscope Killer,” in which I participated with a group of acquaintances – some I already knew from a social club to which I belong, and some I met that afternoon.

This was our scenario – we had just fallen through the floor of a building that was home to the “Horoscope Killer.” The killer would be back in one hour, so our objective was to escape… in the dark and armed only with miniature flashlights. 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.

Our first task was finding clues that would allow us to turn on the lights. The facilitator would occasionally give us clues, but it was up to us to work together and solve the puzzles we were given.

None of us were assigned specific roles, which gave each of us the freedom to go in any direction we chose. It also led to us being inefficient with our time, as evidenced by the clock on the wall counting down our remaining time.

At some point in the simulation, I sat down at the desk – a good spot, the facilitator had indicated during our briefing, for collecting information. There were also pens and blank sheets of paper.

So, I decided to assume the role of scribe. People would bring me random pieces of information. Some of the information fit together. Other information, we simply recorded until we could find a connection.

Although we were able to figure out how to get into a second room, we did not achieve our overall objective of escaping within an hour. While there was a sense of urgency among the team members, we were not in a panic; we knew this was a game. But if we had seen a connection to our jobs – or there were career consequences to not solving the puzzle – then the tension likely would have been higher.

The topic of learning agility didn’t come up with my group during the simulation, but I couldn’t help but think about how the exit room model could be used as a learning agility exercise. My group was a social one; these were not co-workers I see daily.

But if we had wanted to use this with a work team, how could we have embedded learning agility?

As most of you know, learning agility is about finding yourself in a situation in which you have never been and not knowing what to do, then 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.

In order to bring the game into a learning agility context, the facilitator could define learning agility and its nine dimensions during the initial briefing and suggest that participants look for opportunities to demonstrate some or all of those nine capabilities.

Ahead of the simulation, participants could complete the Burke Learning Agility Inventory® and then share their results as part of the initial 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 also ask each team member to note which learning agility dimensions they could have used more effectively and how they could have done so.

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 a rich opportunity in this fun trend for a group of individuals and/or team to better understand and work on learning agility.

David Hoff is the chief operation officer and executive vice president for leadership development at EASI•Consult®. EASI•Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI•Consult specialties include individual assessment, online 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 ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.

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