Why Use Virtual World Rehearsals in Business?
Broadly speaking, virtual world rehearsal, in business, is an emulation-based “immersive intervention” in which workers engage with a reality-analogous version of their work environment in a compressed time period. The Rehearsal provides a “safe-fail” or "fail fast, fail often, fail cheap, fail safe" environment in which to rehearse strategies to address current challenges or crises or to anticipate future uncertainties or deploy new technology.
The virtual world rehearsal has shown dramatic financial turnarounds for companies on the brink of disaster and accelerates learning and change to align organisational behaviour with high-level strategic goals.
The key to the success of The Rehearsal is learning through repetitive trial and error. Those who participate in the process unlearn outdated or unaligned knowledge and behaviours through failure, while practicing and learning implicitly how to deliver on non-negotiable goals. It allows participants to fail in the face of real time feedback and invent novel solutions until the goal is reached, drawing concrete links between behaviours and long-term consequences.
The Importance of Safe Failure in Business
In the corporate world we encounter considerable misunderstanding and overwhelming fear of failure. This is unfortunate when iterative trial and error is the only way to reach the highest levels of skill. And fear of failure is possibly the most crippling force in companies trying to innovate, or even remain current.
No one would expect an athlete to run a four minute mile the first time they tried or an Olympian to win a gold medal as a result of pre-planning on spreadsheets and a risk study. Doing it and doing it wrong, getting feedback and iterative refinement leads to success. The same is true for concert pianists, artists or scientists. These professions accept that setting a goal and iterative trial and error is the path to advancing your game.
At the same time, many highly successful people in business will tell stories about difficult challenges and how there were overcome through trial and error - how they literally "failed forward" to success. And they are highly aware of how these challenges made them who they are. So, why in business, is failure something to be avoided at all costs?
Failure is associated with shame, embarrassment and political suicide. Managers feel pressure to appear confident, all-knowing or even clairvoyant. And yet cognitive scientists know that this flies in the face of what is required to be truly accomplished. In truth, managers fear disasters. Embracing failure is actually a way to avoid disasters.
At its core, failure is really nothing more than an unexpected result. It can feel unpleasant or painful but only markedly so when the unexpected outcome is tied to other consequences. When there are no painful consequences, it’s engaging and interesting. Because the brain doesn’t like to have flawed theories, it also leads automatically to corrections and refinements. Trial and error is how we learn; we can’t avoid it.
Feedback that shows us the error in our thinking works best when it’s immediate. Our innate drive to iteratively explore, test theories and construct an understanding of our world is instinctive and is the primary mechanism underlying learning. It leads to learning and in depth understanding. Further, learning is accelerated if the cycles of trial and error are increased.
Controlled failure prevents catastrophes
Catastrophic errors in business are the result of decisions made with flawed theories of how things work, or how things work “now” when the world of business changes. Catastrophes are painful and the risks are real, but mostly they do not have to happen. If you build a safe trial and error system - a virtual world emulation of your business - you have the opportunity to rehearse find flaws in your thinking while they are still “interesting” and not catastrophic.