Expanding mental schemes to learn.

Polanyi (1996) classified human knowledge into two categories: tacit and explicit. Tacit knowledge is that which is difficult to express in any language. Explicit knowledge refers to knowledge that may be expressed through words, drawings or any other mechanism of articulation. While tacit knowledge may be possessed as it is, explicit knowledge has to rely on being understood and applied tacitly. In any case, all knowledge is either tacit in itself or is based on knowledge that is tacit. And this can only be indirectly expressed and transferred using a metaphor. Just as Michael Polanyi emphasises, we often express ourselves and transfer our knowledge only indirectly, using metaphorical explanations.

The source of organisational knowledge lies in the tacit knowledge of its individual members. However, organisational knowledge is not a simple accumulation of personal knowledge. Individual members’ knowledge needs to be shared and legitimated before it becomes organisational knowledge. (Tsuchiya, 1993)
The only way to reform interpretive environments is by creating new knowledge, free of the restrictions of existing knowledge, then carrying out new actions and decisions based on that new knowledge, and interpreting the results (Tsuchiya, 1996).

Using games and simulation, members of organisations can generate metaphors using words, data, graphs and images. These metaphors make it possible to create knowledge which is free of the restrictions imposed by existing interpretive models. This new knowledge changes the members’ decisions and actions and, through interpretation of the results of the new actions and decisions, they develop new interpretive environments.

These new interpretive environments possess the advantage of having been generated by the participants themselves, through a natural, fluid process, so they are automatically integrated and legitimated as valid. Gaming/simulation permits the legitimation of knowledge by providing it with the necessary processes, legitimacy often depending more on the adequacy of the processes than on the results (March & Olsen, 1976). At the same time, gaming/simulation allows for the creation of new cause maps. A causal map is a summary of the suppositions that people make about a certain structure (Weick, 1979). With the causal map, the new interpretive environment acquires rationality and foundation, thereby consolidating its validation.

Modification of mental models has particular relevance for learning, as it permits what is known as Level 2, or double loop learning, in contrast to the technical learning of Level 1, or the single loop. In the latter, what we do varies by analysis of the results of our previous actions. We modify our ways, working the content within our schematic, reinforcing the governing mental model. In Level 2 however, it is the very way of thinking, the way we do things, which is changed.

For the organisation to be capable of evolving and learning, it becomes necessary to incorporate these new mental models that will enable it to experiment and go beyond its existing limits.

If an organisation should starve or suffocate some types of mental structures, these will probably undergo some form of modification, or remain in the shade. In a company, the longest-serving supervisors and employees show newcomers what to do and what not to do, and how to proceed. This is called “socialisation”. New employees may, in some cases, be indoctrinated with company philosophy, any deviation from which could result in their not being promoted, or not assigned an exciting job, which is known as “marginalisation”. Or they could be ignored and excluded, which is “ostracism”. (Maruyama, 1998)

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References:
Polanyi, M (1996) The tacit Dimension, Routledge and Kegan Paul, LondonMarch, J.G.& Olsen, J.P. (1976). Ambiguity and choice in Organizations. Bergen: Universitetsforlaget.
Maruyama, M (1998), Esquemas Mentales: Gestión en un medio multicultural. España. Dolmen.Polanyi, M (1996) The tacit Dimension, Routledge and Kegan Paul, LondonTsuchiya, S (1993). Improving Knowledge Creation Ability through Organizational Learning. IIIA, Proceedings of International Symposium on the Management of Industrial and Corporate Knowledge 93, 87-95.


Ricardo Zamora
Training Games
Managing Director

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How can games or simulation change the mental models?

 

Simulation is popularly defined as a partial representation of reality which selects essential characteristics of a real situation and makes a replica of them, within an environment or place which is free of risk. (Saunders & Powell, 1998)
Here, we define gaming/simulations as an activity that works, entirely or partially, by the players’ decisions. The simulation is an operational model which involves abstraction, and the representation of a much larger system.
Thus, we distinguish between simulation as an exercise in representation and gaming/simulation as a human, relational activity which uses said simulation as an instrument. This subtle difference is of particular relevance since the gaming/simulations create a new, shared, mental model.

Three essential components may be identified when describing gaming/simulations:
1) a basic operating model
2) human activity
3) a scale representation of reality. In contrast to pure games, which have no representation, and to pure simulation, which has no human activity in the operating model.
Fruit of this human activity is the exchange and modification of individuals’ mental models, on which Professors Tomoaki Tsuchiya and Shigehisa Tsuchiya ask:
How can games or simulation change the mental models that guide us, and create a shared mental model which goes beyond the different values, interests and vision of the world of its participants?
The reasons are the following

1. Voluntary Learning
When forced to learn, we learn little, as we usually resist accepting anything new in the governing mental models. The fun elements of simulation and games encourage us to participate in an experiential learning environment in a simulated world, and to learn voluntarily.

2. Creation of Turmoil
As Festinger points out (1957), the first step in the process of changing attitudes, beliefs and suppositions is to allow participants to doubt the validity of the mental models that guide them. The conflict and turmoil created by gaming/simulation raises the doubts in their minds and lessens their resistance to change.

3. The Big Picture
The schematic approach allows participants to share a holistic view of the matter. This counteracts the narrow perspectives derived from specialization and provides a model for retaining details. Once the whole is understood, the participants’ individual mental models grow. Consequently, compatibility between their mental models increases and the creation of shared mental models becomes possible.

4. Compression
LCompression of time and space makes experiential learning possible and accelerates the learning process. Gaming/simulation enables participants to experience the outcomes of their decisions and actions within a short space of time. In the real world we have only little opportunity to learn from our experience, mainly because the results of our decisions and actions often lie beyond our learning horizons. In addition, accelerated learning processes provide a more solid acquisition of knowledge. Individuals are often unaware that there is a problem and that it can only be solved by altering the mental models that control us. Once we discover this miss-match however, our mental models are affected and altered, though the change may be imperceptibly small. Gaming/simulation allow the participants to experience numerous cycles and thus to accumulate these small changes until they become visible, resulting in a stronger, double-loop, learning process.

5. Risk-free Environment
Gaming/simulation lets the participants experiment with new policies, strategies and learning skills, without risk. Actions that in the real world are irreversible or have no turning back can be carried out countless times. Thus the risk-free environment provided by the gaming/simulation broadens the range of experiences that make sense to the participants.

6- Shared Experience
Participants’ individual mental models converge through shared experience and as a result of this, commensurability is increased, something essential for the creation of a shared mental model.

7. Rich Interpretation of History
Our understanding of past experience, or “history”, through gaming/simulation allows us to learn from small episodes in the real world. These small pieces of experience are used to construct a theory of history from which a variety of additional scenarios are generated which, though not carried through, are nonetheless possible. The rich interpretation of history facilitates experiential learning.

8. Cause Maps
Uncertainty and ambiguity in the real world pose obstacles to our experiential learning, because they make it difficult to find meanings or invent explanations. The cause maps, developed through participation in their design and use in a gaming/simulation situation help participants to interpret and make sense of their lives.
(Tsuchiya, S & Tsuchiya, T 1999)
.

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References:
Festinger, L (1957) A theory of cognitive dissonance, Stanford University Press Stanford
Saunders, D & Powell, T. (1998) Developing a European media simulation trough new information and Communication technologies: the TENSAL project in Simulation & Gaming Yearbook: Simulations and Games for Emergency and Crisis Management, 6 pp.75-80
Tsuchiya, S & Tsuchiya, T (1999) The unique contribution of Gaming/simulation: towards establishment of the discipline. The International Simulation & Gaming Research Book: Simulations and Games for Strategy and Policy Planning, 7, pp 46-57


Ricardo Zamora
Training Games
Managing Director

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The concept of gaming/simulations embodies knowledge garnered from various scientific disciplines and attempts to make these complex realities understandable.

 

The concept of gaming/simulations embodies knowledge garnered from various scientific disciplines and attempts to make these complex realities understandable. Games and simulation help us understand complex dynamic contexts and, thus, are ideal for learning to acquire systemic skills. The gaming/simulation permits the breaking of hard, rigorously hierarchical social forms of organisation, by creating groups who are responsible for themselves; it allows the development of flexibility, dialogue and creativity, emphasising personal initiative, encouraging group self-organization and models of communication-based on systems competence. (Kriz & Rizzi, 1998).

Throughout history, many have been the studies which have demonstrated the suitability of the discipline of gaming/simulators in the understanding of systems. In his Doctorate thesis research, Willy Kriz analysed 125 people, using a series of trials destined to reveal their knowledge, personality, interests, styles of interaction and so on. A few months earlier, some of these people had participated in a program imparting training in systems competence, which was based on simulation and games. The difference between the two groups consisted in that this latter group confronted risk and doubtful situations better, encouraged a more sustainable use of resources, created more communications structures and more efficient work groups. They were more interested in the development of their group and co-operation relationships between its members, proposing discussion, a definition of roles and a more detailed distribution of the workload and, finally, they came up with solutions to improve the process as a whole.

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References:
Duke, R. (1998) The Gaming Discipline as perceived by the Policy and Organization Sciences. Gaming/Simulation: for policy development and Organizational Change. Tilburg University Press, pp.21-27Kriz, W. & Rizzi, P. (1998) Simulación y juego para el desarrollo de los Recursos Humanos. Los Juegos de Simulación: Una Herramienta para la Formación. 25, 131-137


Ricardo Zamora
Training Games
Managing Director

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Experiential learning is based on the assumption that knowledge is created through the transformation brought about by experience.

The concept of learning may be defined as an adaptive change to inputs from the environment (Witteman, 1997: 6). In the Theory of Education, it is cognitive learning that receives the most attention. Cognitive learning means the interpretation and processing of information. It’s about making sense of things, which means choosing, interpreting and situating information. It is a process by which individuals develop cognitive maps of their environment. It makes sense of the environment by recognising the events which do not fit in with the individual’s experience, then absorbing and codifying them, taking the reference framework as the basis from which to work. Making sense of something is a self-referential activity, which implies that the selection of what makes sense or not is based on the actor’s framework of choice (Cisca Joldersma, 2000).

Experiential learning is based on the assumption that knowledge is created through the transformation brought about by experience. The particular experience is translated into an abstract conceptualisation which is actively tested through new experiences. Kolb’s cycle of experiential learning ((Kolb, 1984) perfects the work of other authors following the same line, such as Lewin (1951), Dewey (1938) and Piaget (1978). It is centred on the idea that experiential learning exists as a particular form of education, distinguished by the central role that experience plays in the learning process.


Organizational learning
Individuals are the origin of all organizational learning. It is the thoughts and actions of the actors that influence learning at the level of the organisation. Individual actors all have their theory-in-use, which is implicit in the results of the actors’ behaviour patterns. On interacting, the actors exchange their theories-in-use, creating the organisational theory-in-use. Shared behaviour cycles are created, involving negotiation and agreement on the significance different situations may have for the organisation (Weick, 1979)

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References:
Cisca Joldersma, (2000), Policy learning through simulation/gaming, in Simulation & Gaming Yearbook: Simulations and Games for Transition and Change, 6 pp.79-80Dewey, J (1938) Experience and education, Kappa Delta, New York
Kolb, D (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development, Prentice Hall, New Jersey
Lewin, K (1951) Field Theory in Social Sciences, Harper & Row, New York
Piaget, J (1978), What is psychology, American Psychologist, July, pp 648-52
Weick, K. E (1979) The Social Psychology of Organising, 2nd, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MAWitteman, H P J (1997) Styles of Learning and Regulation in an Interactive Learning Group System, Nijgh & Van Ditmar


Ricardo Zamora
Training Games
Managing Director

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