By Sterling Ta’Bon, Healthy Schools Manager for Cairn Guidance
In April, I had the opportunity to spend a week indulging and diving into all things system thinking. These training sessions take diverse and complex situations and wrap them into live board game scenarios. My recent experience with these simulations has started to redefine what it means to relearn systems, habits, and skills for the betterment of our missions. Systems Thinking; Systems Changing™ (STSC) and Friday Night at the ER®, can be used as an activity that leads individuals and organizations to find the perspective and steps to enhance, change, or innovate their systems.
My first time journeying through simulations occurred when our team, Cairn Guidance, hosted a Systems Thinking; Systems Changing (STSC) session in Tucson, Arizona. As you navigate the many barriers to communicate and establish a new policy within the school, the STSC simulation does a great job highlighting successes and barriers we face when change is happening. With a group of diverse professionals, my team found ourselves traveling through 3 years of school: talking to community champions or teachers, surveying the community, providing professional development to staff,and talking to administrators. With each activity strategy selected, we willed our way into making sure administrators, educators, students, parents, and community partners were not only aware of the change but empowered enough to be proficient and champions of the change. While the simulation uses a game board to teach the lessons, the conversations and ideas expressed meet the reality of our needs outside of the game. This simulation shines light on the sometimes, slow progression, lack of representation or individuals who may not feel shared responsibility with the goal of the group. As we fist bumped, gave high fives, and peaked over to the boardgame of the team sitting next to us, we felt a sense of achievement! I think the feeling of accomplishment was in the belief that this activity opened our eyes to the journey of change and steps often overlooked to make it. STSC is a great simulation to justify that change is hard, but also… change can be shared as a responsibility if steps are intentional, and ideas represented.
As I left Arizona, I knew that my time spent with the Systems Thinking; Systems Change simulation would be beneficial to everything I do involving people and partners. The next stop of my tour of systems simulations was at the University of Chapel Hill in North Carolina. Led by the CEO of Breakthrough Learning, Friday Night at the ER was a completely different spin on systems thinking. In this simulation, four of us played a manager role during a hectic night at the ER of the Hospital we named. Although this simulation mostly resonates with those in the nursing or hospital system profession, we have all experienced a Friday Night at the ER moment in our professions. This simulation takes us through 24 hours of making sure patients are being processed through departments effectively, while managing events that occur. It’s amazing how the game board can be used to give context to the core strategies of: collaboration, innovation and data-driven decisions. Friday Night at the ER is a simulation in which participants find themselves being able to see how mental models can hinder or elevate effectiveness in their environment.
As I reflected, our professionals and experts need the possibilities of stimulation through game-like scenarios to better implement ideas to reality. Simulations give the ability to make tough decisions, while also being in a safe environment to fail, sprouts innovation. I believe simulations can revamp our methods of changing culture, gaining resources and empowering individuals to share the responsibilities of it all.
Cairn Guidance offers facilitation of two simulations- the Systems Thinking; Systems Changing simulation and the Making Change simulation. To find out more, click here. To download a flier, click here.
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