Well, after many years of holding back, I finally managed to use a geeky sci-fi reference as a management and coaching lesson. Be prepared for one from Battlestar Galactica (the new one!) shortly now that I have broken the seal.
Here is the general premise: in the imaginary Star Trek universe, all Starfleet cadets have to go through the “Kobayashi Maru” simulation to see how they respond in a realistic challenge to being in command and encountering a no-win situation. The article below talks about how this is an exercise in ethics and leadership, and I agree with the premise. However, there is also a more practical and tangible benefit.
Most people have their comfort zones and default decisions they rely on when they are pushed beyond their limits. Simulations help us practice key situations under pressure. However, they are also a diagnostic tool. They show coaches and performers what situations we are not prepared for and what fundamental skills and competencies need more attention.
A dynamic, realistic simulation is perhaps the most useful tool in identifying how people will really perform when the s*** hits the fan. Perhaps the best argument of why a coach should use them is when your performers resist them. That means they may not want to know what they don’t know.
Astronauts, pilots, police, athletes, Navy SEALS, and so on all use simulations. Even if your consequences of losing are not life and death, maybe it is smart to use the best tools available to develop people. After all, that is what the best do.
P.S. Go watch Battlestar Galactica. I promise, you will write me a thank you note.
The real test of the Kobayashi Maru is not how you respond in the simulator, but how you go on from there. Do you recognize that the universe may present you with situations your knowledge and powers are inadequate to address? That logic and ethical formulae can only get you so far? That sometimes the least-bad is the best you can do?