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I know you said you would, but did you?

February 2, 2015

Hypothical multiple choice answers“Welcome aboard. Our highly qualified pilots and cabin crew are here to assist you. We have all correctly answered over 1,000 multiple choice questions that are designed to cover any circumstances that might arise during our flight today. Please fasten your seat belt in the manner indicated in answer C and place your seat backs and tray tables in the position shown in answer B.”

Feeling confident and comfortable in your seat? No. I thought not.

Nobody wants to fly on an airline where the only training for their  crew is to read the manual and correctly answer multiple choice questions on what to do when smoke fills the cabin! You want them to have practiced – in a real cabin full of smoke. You want the pilot to have flown real planes. You want them to have made some mistakes, crashed a couple of simulators and you want them to have had the chance to reflect on those mistakes and learn from them.

So why is it that most organisations are content to let their staff experience ethics or leadership training by discussing what they would do or asking them to provide answers to questions about what they would do?

A big part of what I do centers around the concept of practice. Of doing something rather than just talking about it. Saying you would report a hypothetical team member for a major breach of the Code of Conduct is easy to do. Reporting a friend who you have worked with for many years for a minor breach (but a breach nonetheless) is a very different matter.

The consequences are much, much higher.

That is the problem with the usual sorts of training – there are few consequences beyond those associated with not attending. Once you have shown up it doesn’t much matter what you say:

  • You can say you think you would do the right thing and think that you would.
  • You can say you think you would do the right thing and know that you wouldn’t.
  • You can say you would do the wrong thing and think that you just might. It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter because nothing happens when you say what it is you would do. There are only ever consequences when you actually do it.

That is why I am not interested in what you would do. I am only interested in talking about what you did do and what happened as a result of a your particular actions.

  • What were the consequences?
  • How did the presence (or absence) of other people who were witness to your actual choices affect the choices you made?
  • What story did you tell yourself to justify the choices you were making?
  • What did you do when you saw other people making choices different to the choices you were making?

They are the types of questions that arise in the debrief and group reflections that are part of the Samurai Game. Participants have a lived experience of what it is like to try to operate according to a set of values, within a dynamic environment governed by rules with real consequences attached to the choice to follow them or break them. They are able to reflect on the choices they made knowing there are always multiple possible choices but not always a single right answer.

Sound familiar? It is the organisational equivalent of a smoke-filled flight simulator cabin and there is no value to be had in describing it in more words – it needs to be experienced.

If you would like to gain some insight into yourself, to uncover a little about how you show up in the world please join me for our next public Samurai Game offering. You can find all the details of upcoming workshops here. If you would like me to facilitate a workshop a little closer to where you are drop me a line. Just know that I will be flying on an airline where the crew have actually


If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

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After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. meganbtw permalink
    February 3, 2015 11:26 pm

    This describes my experience in the Samurai Game in so many ways. A very worthwhile practice for me, and one that I would like to do again. Fabulous blog, Paul.

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