Simulation increasingly has surfaced as an effective training tool, especially for team building and problem-solving. It is a powerful fusion of knowledge and relationships to the point where the two become one. Favorite simulations are perilous or disastrous situations structured to dramatize the extent to which working together requires and ensures survival. Although such white-knuckle projections are unlikely to occur in real life, the current fascination of popular media with survivorship has provided realistic reinforcement. But another pervasive media pattern has surfaced, which might be equally absorbing and participatory but sustain a more difficult and desirable outcome.
All effective simulations typically dramatize and align two basic operational processes: problem-solving and interpersonal interactions. The first involves probing analysis, the second forming and sustaining relationships. The common denominator is teaming. Ultimately they are fused as collective problem-solving. Simulations generally do not focus on the individual but on tapping and optimizing the quality of group solutions and decisions. But as impressive as such gains are, they might not encourage divergent or out-of-the-box thinking. Indeed, one of the unfortunate and negative conclusions of disaster simulations is that groups tempted by that creative option usually wind up dead. The net result not surprisingly is that most simulations mirror company preference for steady incremental gains rather than eureka moments of creativity.
Instead, team-based forensics should be considered. Its information base is scientific, its favorite psychology is profiling, its team range is multidisciplinary, its driving mode integrative. Unlike task forces, its scope is never final or fixed but is shaped and reshaped by every new challenge it faces. Then, too, even its research-driven knowledge never limited but constantly amplified. Its leader is not so much a super sleuth as a gadfly compelling documentation and reformulation. The former provides convincing court evidence, the latter reframes the problem for solution.
Throughout, forensics taps into an older but now redefined tradition of the detective story. To be sure, the methodology of a brilliant and solitary Sherlock Holmes is now team-based, more lab-driven than intuitive, more patterning than eureka moments. But the key remains the classic drama of dead ends. The operating thesis fails. The favored suspect has an alibi. The operating assumptions have been misleading. The call is for a return to square one. Questions and assumptions not previously asked now surface. New perceptions emerge. Suddenly a new direction appears. To be sure, it incorporates previous knowledge painstakingly acquired to anchor and guide the new thesis, but now all is perceived in a new light. Prior failure imparts to the new and final solution the quality now of a team breakthrough. Indeed, much of its success might be overcoming the lock-step of initial group thinking. Finding the villain requires finding a new paradigm. To be successful, forensic teams not only have to be innovative, but also have to reinvent themselves constantly, each serving as the means to the other.
The distinction of the current forensic model is its inquiry mode. To be effective, the essential detective focus has to be enriched and extended by multiple specializations. But such variety of applications requires failure to compel a new creative redirection. Center and circumference, inquiry and context, meet for breakthrough as the integration of mutuality occurs. Indeed, synthesis itself is often innovative.
If creativity is valued as a driving training goal, then the forensics model has much to offer. It not only accommodates heterogeneous teams, but also facilitates their integration. The challenge of team management is finding the common ground of an inquiry system that facilitates specialists working together as generalists. Such integration together with problem reformulation is the threshold for innovative team solutions. But for the detective model of team creativity to take hold, the focus has to be minimally on the integration and optimally on the fusion of incremental and divergent thinking. Forensic simulations might provide the rites of passage of such synthesis.
Irving H. Buchen, Ph.D., is director of international programs for IMPAC University and senior research associate of Canis Learning Systems. Buchen will write an expanded version of this Forensic Simulations piece in his forthcoming book, “Doing Whatever It Takes: The 21st Century American Work Ethic.” Buchen can be reached at email@example.com.
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