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Using social simulations to assess and train potential leaders to make effective decisions in turbulent environments

Phillip L. Hunsaker (School of Business Administration, University of San Diego, San Diego, California, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 10 July 2007

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe two social simulations created to assess leadership potential and train leaders to make effective decisions in turbulent environments. One is set in the novel environment of a lunar moon colony and the other is a military combat command. The research generated from these simulations for assessing the decision effectiveness of potential leaders with different personality traits and decision styles under varying degrees of information quantity, uncertainty and complexity is summarized. Opportunities and limitations of applying current computer assisted technology to social simulations for assessing and developing leaders' decision effectiveness in turbulent environments is discussed.

Design/methodology/approach

College undergraduates and officer candidates in university ROTC programs made a series of decisions while being subjected to varying degrees of environmental turbulence in social simulations. The decision effectiveness of subjects with different personality characteristics under varying degrees of environmental turbulence was assessed through researcher observations, self‐reports, and peer ratings.

Findings

Social simulations are a cost effective way to assess and train leaders to make effective decisions in turbulent environments. The results of controlled experiments in social simulations have suggested that leaders with high levels of cognitive complexity and incongruity adaptation are more likely to be successful in highly turbulent environments than leaders with lower levels of incongruity adaptation ability and cognitive complexity who are more effective in more stable and structured situations.

Research limitations/implications

The ease of modifying computer games renders them effective as low‐cost virtual worlds that have relevance in military leadership experimentation. However, the use of computer simulations alone fails to capture the impact that relationships and emotions have on leader decision making, highlighting the continuing need for social simulations that include these interpersonal aspects of decision making.

Practical implications

By participating in realistic social simulations, leaders can experiment with new decision styles without the risk of making real world mistakes that could jeopardize their own and their organization's future. The leaders who are most successful in adapting their decision style to the more complex requirements can be identified for promotion or assignment to appropriate settings.

Originality/value

Both military and civilian organizations are in need of cost effective way to assess and train leaders to make effective decisions in turbulent environments. Social simulations provide a unique approach to meeting these needs and can simultaneously provide a venue for research in associated areas.

Keywords

Citation

Hunsaker, P.L. (2007), "Using social simulations to assess and train potential leaders to make effective decisions in turbulent environments", Career Development International, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 341-360. https://doi.org/10.1108/13620430710756744

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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