What a Way to Learn!
Unlike any other class I have had in the past, Leadership in a Global Context provides the opportunity to engage in experiential learning: a mechanism, by many recounts including my own, thought to be the most effective form of teaching . Unlike traditional rote memorization, experiential learning places the student into an uncomfortable environment, forcing them to utilize certain concepts in order to succeed. It does not give students a guide or protocol to follow but instead challenges them to create their own solutions. It gives students the opportunity to use their individual skills and ideas to perform a task, emphasizing concepts that were taught in class. It relies, purely, on the effectiveness of application.
Leadership in a Global Context utilizes this ideology by providing leadership simulations that test our prior skills and the knowledge we had developed through our experiences. The first of these simulations, titled “Judgement in a Crisis,” places participants at the head of a medical corporation that is designing blood glucose monitors. These monitors, named “GlucoGages,” are major products of the corporation and their design and sale have cost a lot of resources. Unfortunately, the GlucoGages, despite extensive lab testing, are proven to be inaccurate when used by patients. As a medical product that has a direct impact on the well-being of a patient, accuracy is critical and these complaints are incredibly impactful. The company cannot simply ignore the issues and must take immediate steps in resolving them. The student is placed at the helm of the corporation and tasked with making the major decisions in the process. The individual must discover the root of the inaccuracies, decide how to fix these issues, and allocate funding/resources effectively in order to generate a plausible solution.
A crucial aspect of the simulation was the role of cognitive biases in decision making. Cognitive biases unconsciously create ideas/assumptions in an individual’s mind, clouding their decision making. Whether this is confirmation bias, the sunk cost effect, anchoring bias, or framing bias, each of these concepts create fallacies that differ from the true opinion of an individual and move them towards a sort of “groupthink.” I found it incredibly surprising how much of an impact each of these biases had on my decisions. The survey results showed that I was subject to confirmation bias, sunk cost effect, and anchoring bias when I believed that I was making unbiased, true to myself decisions. It is incredibly important to be mindful of these biases as we make decisions. They can change our outlook on a subject and result in less efficient decision making. In order to combat cognitive biases in the future, I want to have someone always check me on my decisions. They need to be able to play “devil’s advocate” whenever possible and ask honest questions about the possible consequences of my actions. While staying true to yourself is important, it is crucial that we, as current and future leaders, factor in all of the possible scenarios in order to come to the best conclusion for ourselves and our team.
Challenges are normal (and welcomed) in experiential learning and this simulation was no different. One of the major challenges that I faced was a lack of experience in the field of interest. I am sure that if I was an executive that had been making major decisions that would change the fate of the organization for a decade, I would have been much more comfortable in the steps that I took. Unfortunately, this was not the case and I went into the simulation with no experience. However, that lack of context and comfort that the simulation brought out were aspects of a crisis. Crises can occur at any time and leaders must be able to asses the situation and tackle the issue head on, whether or not they have any experience or prior knowledge. This is one of the key concepts that this simulation emphasized.
Because of the magnitude of the decisions and lack of experience, stress and ambiguity were common. I did not feel confident in any of the decisions that I made. However, in order to combat this, I set out a procedure. I knew that the decision I made were well thought out and I had the best intentions in mind. All of my decisions were made to help patients, consumers, physicians, and the company. While they could backfire (and some definitely did), I felt confident that I was putting my best foot forward and immersing myself into the simulation. It is this confidence in myself that powered me through the stress and ambiguity.
Many companies have been faced with this scenario in the past. Products will always malfunction, despite the best technology and testing. It is important for these companies to take ownership and address the situation in a way that they deem necessary. Specifically, car companies face this situation very often. Cars are made to transport humans and have an incredible influence on their lives. A car with proper safety features can save a life. Many car companies have had to recall their vehicles due to safety concerns or mechanical issues that could severely hurt their consumers. They tend to take immediate action, own up to their mistakes, and offer additional benefits to the consumer.
I think the glucose detector corporation handled the crises well. They took ownership, apologized, and offered a procedure for their next course of action. They wanted to make sure that they resolved the issue and, more importantly, that it never happened again.
I truly enjoyed this simulation and can not wait for the next one!