The recent Conference Board, Inc.® Learning & Development Summit in New York City included many fascinating presentations. The Program Director John Gillis, Ph.D. from UPenn, brought together a group of his Ph.D. peers and the result was a fantastic, learning-rich program.

One particular presentation caught everyone’s attention. It was a conversation between Shannon McNamara, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Mount Sinai West, in New York City, and Jim Davis, Deputy Fire Chief of the City of Columbus, Ohio. Though they had only just met the day prior, they presented a talk completely in sync on each of their findings on simulations in learning.

Here are three key tools for leaders from medical simulations that you can use today in your learning ecosystem:

Implement an After Action Review

In Dr. McNamara’s simulation practice and Experiential Learning Fellowship program, the doctors and medical staff in the program utilize an After Action Review (AAR). This is a simple process in which a team analyses lessons learned from a recent experience, after every simulation. For their purposes, the AAR is mere moments in length, but rich in findings that become immediately applicable to their real work. Dr. McNamara said their After Action Review paraphrased from PEARLS Healthcare Debriefing Tool, and consists of:

  1. Create a safe learning context.
  2. Explore feelings.
  3. Clarify facts.
  4. Analyze and explore performance.
  5. Identify learning points.

Using this in high-risk and technical environments has obvious value. In addition, it could also benefit leaders in any circumstance. Explore using (or deploying) this tool within mentor/mentee relationships. It can also be used with Executives and their Executive Coaches, as well as a debrief for significant meetings, or unforeseen conflict or disruption. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Create a “Speak Up, Speak Straight” culture

When an organization has struggled to become one that encourages speaking up, your leaders may need a simple tool to begin the process of culture change. In industries that deal with human health and safety, it’s particularly difficult to create a culture that speaks up because the potential personal guilt and fear of retribution is high. Hence, any company can inadvertently create a culture that disdains “speaking truth to power” by punishing mistakes severely. They also may put down those that speak up when they see trouble ahead. Likewise they may silence anyone that makes waves.

A simple tool that could support your culture is CUUS Language, and the acronym is fun, too.

Empower your people to say:

  1. I’m Concerned
  2. I’m Uncomfortable
  3. I think this is Un-Safe

If this tool works for you, great. If not, find the one that will work for you. Get your leaders using it and talking about it. Encourage a “speak up” kind of culture and you will avoid some disruptions to your organization.

Aggregate and Share Your Knowledge

Dr. Davis’ work focused on recreating Sentinel Events (situations in health care settings where a patient is injured or dies due to a mistake or error) to source what went wrong. Through simulating the Sentinel Events with the original crew and other same-rank crews, he found the root causes of the events and even extracted critical lessons unrelated to it.

The knowledge that comes from After Action Reviews, from near-miss events and other defining moments provides immediate insights. It also screams for distribution to those in the critical need to know throughout your organization.


Interested in leadership development through Experiential Learning? Explore all your options HERE or check out the Brace for Impact Leadership Experience that has particular impact on change management and leadership through crisis.