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ICT Executive Director Explains How To Create Simulators for Leadership Skills

March 24, 2014

Lessons form chapter of new book on using experience to develop talent

At the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, Executive Director Randall W. Hill, Jr. steers the institute’s exploration of how virtual reality and video games can be used to develop meaningful learning experiences.

Hill explains how new and emerging technologies are enabling the modern equivalent of flight simulators for social skills in “Virtual Reality and Leadership Development”, a chapter of the new book Using Experience to Develop Leadership Talent. Edited by Morgan McCall, a professor of management and organization at the USC Marshall School of Business, and Cynthia D. McCauley, a senior fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership, the Jossey-Bass-published book is part of the Professional Practice Series sponsored by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

“Advances in the learning sciences and simulation technologies now make it possible to acquire leadership experience by practicing virtually before meeting reality, said Hill. “These breakthroughs enable leaders to practice and learn in safe environments where mistakes are not costly in human resource terms but are sources for reflection and learning.”

The chapter describes ICT’s approach to experience-based learning that allows students to develop the mix of social skills that leaders can apply to conducting one-on-one conversations and to navigating the complex dynamics of vibrant organizations. ICT-developed social simulations mentioned in the chapter are the ELITE and INOTS training systems, which use digital media to demonstrate concepts and virtual human role players for teaching informal counseling skills. Hill also includes UrbanSim, a video game-based practice environment for understanding the intended and unintended consequences of a leader’s decisions that leverages real-life experiences and simulations that model the beliefs, actions, goals and attitudes of individuals and groups.

Hill imparts some lessons learned over ICT’s nearly 15 years creating virtual reality simulations designed to improve leadership, negotiation, cultural awareness and communication skills. His key messages:

• Be prepared to leverage new technologies. They are going to change the way we educate and train the workforce, particularly in the area of social skills.
• Don’t just use technology for technology’s sake. Make sure you have a sound instructional design that includes a clear idea of what is to be learned and how it will be learned.
• Story and play are powerful elements for increasing emotional engagement and making lessons stick.
• Require a feedback system that ensures the correct lessons are being learned including, what happened, why and how to improve the next time.

“The approach we have developed working with the U.S. Army and Department of Defense are applicable to business and the society as a whole,” said Hill. “The combination of technology, instructional design and creative content will make possible a new era for learning.”

About the USC Institute for Creative Technologies
At the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) leaders in artificial intelligence, graphics, virtual reality and narrative advance low-cost immersive techniques and technologies to solve problems facing service members, students and society. Established in 1999, ICT is a DoD-sponsored University Affiliated Research Center working in collaboration with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. ICT brings film and game industry artists together with computer and social scientists to study and develop immersive media for military training, health therapies, education and more.