Anthro Simulation

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The Anthro-simulation method creates a game-based safe to fail environment for experimentation and learning, supporting sense-making in various contexts. Anthro-simulation is a game based technique which involves human games masters controlling an eco-system where whatever you do, you fail. It is designed to create an environment in which tolerated failure is used to imbed learning via a social environment through human-controlled simulation.

Name and history

The method was originally developed for use in sense-making experiments, but can also be applied to training environments. The title of anthro-simulation emphasizes the human as opposed to the machine/agent environment of other types of simulation.

Anthro-simulation is designed to create a social environment, based on a metaphor or counter-factual, in which tolerated failure is used to embed learning through a human-controlled simulation. Human facilitation (as opposed to a machine/agent simulation environment) allows the amplification of surprise and creates a safe-fail environment for experimentation and discovery. The method builds on the fact that people learn faster through partial tolerated failure and under conditions of uncertainty. It works by displacing people into an environment based on a metaphor or a counter-factual and setting up situations in which they can only fail.

This approach is designed around human sense-making and pattern matching. The method involves bringing together human experts in a field to create a meaningful situation in which the trainees or experimental subjects are placed. Subsequent evolution of the situation is controlled by those experts to maximize surprise and create a safe-fail environment for learning and discovery. The method incorporates aspects of war gaming. The method builds on the fact that people learn faster through partial tolerated failure and under conditions of uncertainty.

Prior knowledge

List of concepts, frameworks and necessary understanding to use the method (it is OK to say none). This includes any key principles that need emphasising in this context or during the application of the Method.

Preparation and requirements to use this method

Facilitation skills Required

Please note whether this Method requires any skill in complex facilitation and if so, what this should focus on. General principles are set out in in the facilitation article.

* Linked to Method property "COMPLEX FACILITATION SKILL": How much training and skill in complex facilitation does the Method require?

Preparation

Access is required in the preparation phase to a diverse body of expertise in the domain area which is being studied, or the environment into which trainees will be expected to work. In an ideal world, this access should be over two half day workshops separated by a period of several weeks to allow data to be prepared. However this can be shortened to a single workshop and subsequent virtual review if necessary and if the problem area is reasonably well known and bounded.

Ideally all participant output should be captured in forms, preferably self entered onto a computer or recorded as audio or visual. This will require appropriate technical resources to be in place. If Sensemaker™ is in use, then it can be used to capture such user output as well as narrative (and the output can be treated as a sense-making item).

If the method is used as part of a programme of such events for training, then a narrative-based learning repository can be created over many programmes as a knowledge asset for the organisation and all participants. It can also be used to monitor trends and measure training impact.

* Linked to Method property "COST & RESOURCES": How resource-intensive is the Method in terms of materials and tools required, and thus costs?

Participant Onboarding

Note whether any preparation or prior knowledge is required on the part of participants in the Method.

* Linked to the Method property "ENGAGEMENT GRADIENT": How challenging is engagement of participants into the Method likely to be?

Key elements and artefacts

This Method may be used in diverse environments. with differing resources and setup, such as:

  • A workshop environment with participants having access to a computer or other display mechanism, with the data points relating to the situation shown to the participants.
  • A realistic setting, such as a battlefield command post, waiting room in an A&E Unit or like which is a mock up (or a real instantiation) of the environment. In this case, data points are fed in whatever form is appropriate or realistic. This may include the use of actors or other such techniques
  • A metaphorical environment used for the displacement option. In this case realism is probably a bad idea as it may distract, and human imagination is better placed to create the context. An open space environment is probably best here. Either of the aforementioned techniques can be used for distributing the data-points.

Workflow

STAGE INSTRUCTION COMMENTARY & TIPS
Working with the experts, a series of datapoints are created which can be presented to the participants. These can include single line feeds, complete situations or a video. As far as possible these should be realistic and as close as possible to real world data. The data need to be suitable for multiple options spread over extended periods of time. During live running it may be necessary to cycle forwards over varying periods of time. The data needs to contain the possibility of multiple possible branches in future history. Do not go overboard on making it obscure however, in general people miss the most obvious of weak signals. It is worth warning people who assist in preparing data that a lot of the material may not be used - it’s just that you do not know what in advance! This prevents potentially senior people getting upset that their pet data set was not used.
A decision should then be made on whether the simulations are to be run for individuals or groups, and if groups with what composition. Group based sense-making should be considered the norm for this method.
This material is tested and prepared so that it be fed in to the group for each simulation run. As a rough guide, one can handle two to three simulation runs in half a day, or three to five in a full day
The physical space is prepared and any technology tested. All data feeds should have alternative delivery mechanisms in case of failure. The facilitation team as a whole need to be part of this and it should take place several days before the event to ensure that there are no bugs.
At the event itself, the facilitator should start by briefing the participants on their roles. They should be told to expect a degree of uncertainty, and also a degree of ambiguity in the instructions. This will reflect real life. The level of instruction given will vary according to the objectives. It may not be appropriate to disclose the objectives fully in certain circumstances, for example where it would enable the learning outcomes to be gamed by a savvy participant or where the research results would be compromised. If the Displacement Option is taken then the source of the metaphor’s construction should not be disclosed (see later for the reasons behind this instruction)
The first simulation run then starts. The participants are placed in the situation and fed the first set of data-points. The data should not be dumped on the participants. It should be fed in at a realistic rate - which can be accelerated to a degree over real life.
The participants are then told to perform a situational assessment based on the data. What is happening, what has happened, what might happen in the future. Strict instructions are given NOT to discuss what interventions if any should take place, or the consequences of any such interventions.

Forms should be used for this, or a specific prompting question if Sensemaker™ is being used.|| All discussions should be recorded for subsequent study if this is a research programme. If it is for learning, a video may also be useful for participant self assessment of guided learning. If Sensemaker™ is being used the material can also be indexed and used as research and learning material. It might also be made available to participants for subsequent runs.

Once this is complete the participants are asked to determine what interventions they would make and their anticipated impact. These are again recorded on forms or via Sensemaker™ This first cycle in effect forms the control run and new techniques should not be introduced if an experiment is being run. From the second cycle on, new methods and tools for situational assessment and intervention design can be introduced. It is advisable not to do this on the first run as you will need that as a control. This rule is less important in training but still useful. A tool should be introduced before the assessment or intervention design to which it relates is introduced.
Once complete, the facilitators should agree on the next simulation. This involves deciding how far forward to cycle the situation, what data to provide to the participants and the degree of surprise. As a general rule, unless specific learning objectives require it, the next situation should be one that the participants did not anticipate. Given that you are going to present an unanticipated situation, it is important to make sure that it is realistic given the data (ideally with no new data being introduced although this is legitimate: “you discover that you were not told that ….”). However you need to balance surprise with the groups’ capability.
The cycle then starts again with the participants being presented with the new situation and a new data-stream started. It is normally advisable to plunge the participants directly into the data stream allowing minimal time for them to discuss what has happened.
At the end of each cycle the participants are asked to assess the value of the new method or tool either via a form or using Sensemaker™ or both. Using more than one assessment tool can be useful here - for example contrasting an analytical tool and a narrative based one such as Sensemaker™
A third and subsequent cycle is then started.

Displacement option

It is often difficult for people, particularly if they already have experience to learn by talking about their actual situation. In this case the training or experimental environment can be constructed as a metaphorical space. In order to do this it is necessary to add to the pre event analysis a study phase, and time to construct and test the metaphor.

Do's and Don'ts

Simple bulleted list including common mistakes

Virtual running

Simulations may be run virtually by utilising SenseMaker and online collaborative software, however would always be facilitated in real-time by active human facilitators.

References

Link to other articles on this wiki if they are relevant.

Articles

Specific articles can be referenced here

Blog posts

Cases

Link to case articles here or third party material

Related methods and approaches

Sensemaker™ can be used as a resource as people go through the exercise, and to create a knowledge repository for subsequent use. This use would either be as a source of research data or as a learning mechanism for participants in a training course. In effect, this uses Sensemaker™ as a narrative database. The stories of the participants are captured in the immediate context of their experience and are tagged by those participants to allow subsequent analysis and access.

Method card material

This material will be extracted for the method cards

Possible symbols or illustrations

Front page description

The Anthro-simulation method creates a game-based safe to fail environment for experimentation and learning, supporting sense-making in various contexts.

Back of card summary

Anthro-simulation is designed to create a social environment, based on a metaphor or counter-factual, in which tolerated failure is used to embed learning through a human-controlled simulation. Human facilitation (as opposed to a machine/agent simulation environment) allows the amplification of surprise and creates a safe-fail environment for experimentation and discovery. The method builds on the fact that people learn faster through partial tolerated failure and under conditions of uncertainty. It works by displacing people into an environment based on a metaphor or a counter-factual and setting up situations in which they can only fail.

How can it be used?

for diagnosis

for analysis/understanding

for intervention

Method Properties - Ratings

Represented by symbols - interpretation/voting scales are:

COST & RESOURCES: How resource-intensive is the Method in terms of materials and tools required, and thus costs?

  1. Requires only common office equipment (eg paper and pens)
  2. Requires simple facilitation materials (special hexies, printouts, whiteboards etc)
  3. Requires some inexpensive but specific tools and materials
  4. Requires moderate investment in tools or software to apply
  5. Requires significant investment in software or other specialist tools

COMPLEX FACILITATION SKILL: How much training and skill in complex facilitation does the Method require?

  1. No complex facilitation experience is required
  2. Some complex facilitation experience needed - practice in a safe space
  3. Should be mentored while developing complex facilitation skill
  4. Requires Mentoring until proven, familiarity with theory critical
  5. Advanced, requires deep knowledge of theory and experience

ENGAGEMENT: How challenging is engagement of participants into the Method likely to be?

  1. Ad hoc technique - can be used in multiple contexts with relative ease
  2. Requires time commitment but overall, engaging and not difficult to achieve
  3. Mild uncertainty or discomfort, may need work to keep people engaged
  4. Indirect/ambiguous method, requires engagement through sustained levels of uncertainty
  5. Challenging method – may incur resistance if people expect a more traditional approach