February 6, 2008


It is much easier to learn things when you experience them yourself than when someone tells you about them. I think back to my old days as a neuroscientist... I had several courses where we covered the basics of neurophysiology and all the related mathematical formulas. I could describe them and could pass tests that asked me to regurgitate them, but I didn't really understand them until I spent time in the lab sticking tiny neurons with electrodes and seeing the results myself. I would increase or decrease the voltage and the currents across the cell membrane would change. Now I got it! The formulas came to life and I finally understood them.

I now spend my time coming up with experiences that allow people to experiment with a wide range of skills, such as opportunity recognition, challenging assumptions, leveraging limited resources, negotiation, etc. I have found that just as my experience in the lab, you need to experience and experiment with these variables before you truly understand them.

One of my favorite simulations uses custom made jigsaw puzzles. Essentially, several puzzles are mixed together and each team is given a handful of pieces and a stack of poker chips, which is the currency of the game. They are challenged to complete a puzzle. There are fewer puzzles than there are teams, and the "marketplace" changes often as I throw new twists into the game. It is fascinating how much the participants learn in just one hour. Check out this short video to see this exercise in action.

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