What have aviation, medicine, emergency services and the military got in common?

They’re all high stakes professions where mistakes or failures can have devastating outcomes. The magnitude of the risk is matched by the rigour of the training. Such professions are synonymous with impeccable training, facilitating appropriate and automatic response, under conditions of high stress. This ‘muscle memory’ isn’t just the result of knowledge gained in the classroom, it’s the consequence of application, repetition and feedback which ingrains practices into neural pathways.

Practicing high stakes activities is inherently dangerous. Therefore such professions leverage learning methods which accurately portray real life scenarios, while limiting the potential for negative outcomes.

They all use simulation.

Simulation is a form of Experiential Learning – Leaning by Doing. Whether this takes the form of learning to land an Airbus A380 on water, or effectively treating a heart attack patient, simulation allows people to experience scenarios that would be challenging or impactful in real life, and to learn from those experiences with limited risk.

Simulation allows you to experience hundreds of repetitions of scenarios, such that when they actually happen, perhaps only once in a lifetime, response is appropriate, effective and automatic.

IT Incident response is another discipline where the impact can be substantial. Organisations can lose £millions per hour during downtime events, not to mention damage to reputation and customer loyalty. Significant incidents may be a rare in many organisations, but this often means that when they do happen, the response is woefully under-prepared and the impact is higher than necessary as a result. Uptime Labs offers experiential learning via simulation, bringing the same approach to building effective incident response skills as aviation and other high stakes professions.

How does experiential learning work?

Experiential learning is the process of learning-by-doing. Educational Psychologist David Kolb published his Cycle of Experiential Learning in 1984. Rather than emphasising a pedagogical (teaching) approach, experiential learning emphasises the experience itself as the primary driver of learning. In the case of an IT incident scenario, the experience is the incident and the participants’ efforts to effectively manage the situation and to restore service.

While experience itself is the necessary foundation upon which learning is built, it is not sufficient. Kolb showed that for learning to occur, the learner must also:

  1. Reflect: Reflecting on what happened during the experience, relating it to past experiences and conceptual understanding.

  2. Conceptualise: Distilling these observations into concepts, rules or heuristics that can be applied.

  3. Experiment: Testing these concepts out

  4. Repeat through further experience

This forms Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle.

We use simulation at Uptime Labs to enable players to experience realistic incident scenarios and to build their skills upon these experiences. Our scenarios are built to nurture effective learning by guiding the user through each stage of the learning cycle.

Why is simulation effective in mastering incident response?

Incident response is a complex socio-technical undertaking. It combines technological challenge, with teamwork, coordination and communication, all under stressful conditions where impact can grow by the second. Understanding of the technology and the conventions of incident management is one thing, but performing optimally under stress is an entirely different challenge which is best learned through experience.

Simulation offers the opportunity to experience all aspects of incident response and can expose the player large numbers of incident scenarios in a short amount of time, accelerating the opportunity to learn. Simulation also offers a variety of experiences that would take a lifetime to gain if one had to wait for them to occur in reality. This process of building ones personal ‘library’ of experiences can be vital in helping incident teams to respond appropriately in real life situations by referencing recollections of similar scenarios experienced in simulation. This process is called case based reasoning.

It’s also fun and deeply engaging!

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