Simulate to Stimulate

Pilots are required to invest hundreds of hours in simulated flight scenarios before taking command of a live aircraft. Race car simulators help drivers prepare for the unexpected, so that they’ll be fully ready for unforeseen circumstances. Astronauts first experience weightlessness in a simulation chamber so they can become accustomed to a gravity-free environment.

Simulations are used by top performing surgeons, symphony conductors, and professional athletes. Attorneys hone their skills in mock trials while boxers spend hours sparring in the ring before the big fight. Closely mimicking a high-stakes experience before it actually happens invariably leads to better performance.

Now think for a moment about the work that matters most to you. The importance of interviewing a new job candidate, holding that mission-critical team meeting, or giving an impactful performance review of your team member. Or maybe you’ve got a big upcoming pitch – to an investor, new client, or key partner. Your products and services may be high stakes as well, whether you organize mountain climbing excursions, produce luxury hand-finished furniture, or run a retail shop in a busy shopping mall. How you perform determines how well you’ll serve your customers, family, and community. With such important outcomes on the line, have you first bothered to do a dry run?

In the business world, we’re just supposed to know what we’re doing: 50+ hours a week of performance with virtually no time for training and preparation. The idea of an NFL player running zero practice drills before the Super Bowl or a Broadway performer never bothering to rehearse for opening night sounds crazy. Yet isn’t that exactly what we do in our professional lives?

If we truly care about performing at the highest level, we must follow the lead of the greats in other professions by embracing a series of simulations before game day. In business, this can often be accomplished through role-playing. For example, if you have a big sales presentation coming up, don’t do the pitch for the first time in front of your prospective client. Instead, gather two colleagues and present to one while the other takes notes and records key points of feedback. Next, rotate and have one of your colleagues pitch you while the other plays the observer role. A few rotations a day, and you’ll start to build powerful muscle memory, which will allow you to optimize performance when it really matters. This small investment in simulation can become a game-changer when it comes to results.

I have no interest in flying on a plane with a pilot who’s never bothered to practice in a simulated setting. And you should have the same discomfort when performing critical business tasks without the requisite pre-game training.

If you run the drills in advance, your odds of success skyrocket. Use simulations to stimulate optimal performance. To perfect your craft. To drive better outcomes. And when you do, your victory will be anything but simulated.