At Absolute-North we are big fans of artificial experience, our experiential training method.  We have seen how it connects with people and opens the mind to new possibilities.

What it does to the brain

When you only discuss challenges and problems, your mind is using your prefrontal cortex, which is useful but it removes the high levels of emotion that you normally experience in the workplace everyday.  This means you take the issue out of context and are dealing with it in a way that leaves out a key variable – emotion.  We know from the neurosceince research that when the System 1 “lizard brain” is triggered the prefrontal cortex completely shuts down and we revert to our survival instincts which are flight, fight, or freeze.

In our training programs we have seen this time and again.  We see great discussions with people about problems.  Fantastic advice is given how to handle a challenging situation but when we place people into a highly realistic simulation of the situation, put the pressure on, and give them the unexpected, we so often see the great advice thrown out the window and the fight, flight, or freeze reaction suddenly appear.  Time and again we see it, the participants see.  We even laugh about it after the role-play and participants often say “how did I end up dong that?”

It is simple – it is how our brain works.

How to change this

I was reading an article from Forbes contributor Brent Gleeson, a former Navy Seal.  He explained his training this way:

As a former Navy SEAL, I can assure you that … our training is so hard. Everything you do is live fire, live explosives. When you’re moving dynamically through the kill house taking out targets, those aren’t blanks we are shooting. One misstep and people can get shot. When you’re in the desert or fields of Arkansas doing land warfare training, you’re running and gunning for sixteen hours a day. It’s hot, exhausting and loud as hell. And when you get tired, mistakes can happen. But the level of intensity serves a specific purpose. To prepare you for war. As the Navy SEAL Ethos says, “We train for war and fight to win.”

You don’t realize how well trained and prepared you are until your first gunfight. The training is designed to mitigate fear and fatigue so that you stay focused. So you maintain the ability to move, shoot and communicate effectively as a team – channeling the natural tendency towards fear into focused aggression.

Our training is founded on the same premise (read more about how we developed this method).  We put people into the business equivalent of “live fire” giving difficult and unexpected challenges to trigger the fear response and put their brain on the defensive.  We do in this over and over in a typical development program for many hours straight.  Why?  Because we help people to learn how to move beyond their “gut” lizard brain reactions and learn to work smarter.

Many training companies use role play.  But most do not carry it out to the level that Absolute-North’s trainers do.  We understand the neuroscience and how to use that to develop people to be better prepared to lead and win.