Simulation article man shimshon suransky


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Simulation article man shimshon suransky

  1. 1. © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010 DOI: 10.1163/157180610X506974 International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 Training the Warrior-Diplomat: Enhancing Negotiation and Conflict Management Skills through Experiential Learning Ulrich Mans* The Hague Center for Strategic Studies / University of Amsterdam, Loudonstraat 53 2593 RV The Hague, The Netherlands (E-mail:; Gideon Shimshon** The Pax Ludens Foundation / Accenture, Zeestraat 100, 2518 AD The Hague, The Netherlands (E-mail:; Leonard Suransky*** The Pax Ludens Foundation / Webster University, Zeestraat 100, 2518 AD The Hague, The Netherlands (E-mail:; Received 23 February 2009; accepted 25 February 2010 Abstract Despite the wealth of experience among simulation scholars, there is still little consensus on how to link gaming attributes to specific learning objectives. This article aims to contribute to this discussion and argues that specific simulation design can lead to reaching pre-defined learning objectives. The authors present a teaching project developed and executed for the Netherlands Defense Academy, how it was set up in 2005, and the way it evolved over time. The authors discuss how the methodology fits into the academic debate on the strengths of experiential learning. The simulation methodology used is rooted in experiential learning and typically supports standard learning goals and styles. When dealing with a spe- cific target group, it is possible to pinpoint one specific, overarching learning objective. This allows trainers to link each individual aspect of the simulation design to that particular learning goal and, in turn, provides a valuable framework to develop, run and evaluate simulation exercises. The authors dis- cuss how two innovative elements in simulating gaming can help to make such an approach work: com- bining closed and open scenarios, and new communication software that allows for continuous supervision during the game. The conclusions discuss how students respond to the challenges during the game and what the data from debriefings tells us about the methodology’s learning appeal for a military target group. *) Ulrich Mans works as a policy analyst at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. **) Gideon Shimshon is the co-founder of the Pax Ludens Foundation and works as senior consultant for Accenture. ***) Dr. Leonard Suransky is the co-founder of Pax Ludens and heads the International Relations Department at Webster University in Leiden, the Netherlands.
  2. 2. 248 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 Keywords coaching; competence building; conflict dynamics; diplomacy; intractable conflict; mediation; Middle East; negotiation; gaming; simulation; training Simulations have long been part of training efforts in international relations. Teachers of various disciplines and different institutional backgrounds often use carefully designed simulations to train students and professionals in an attempt to address learning objectives in terms of knowledge, skills and behavior. A growing acceptance of simulation techniques in both educational and profes- sional training programs is in line with the fact that approaches to learning have shifted from ‘learning by listening’ in the past to ‘learning by doing’ in today’s teaching paradigm (Ahler et al. 2002: 441). In general, simulation games are thought to be an excellent tool to coach understanding in complex subject matters and that the experiential element to these games adds a specific educational value. In a parallel development, trainers have embraced the role of personal computers as means to facilitate simulation processes. However, there is an ongoing discussion on how best to use simula- tions as effective learning tools. As Baker et al. (2005) argue: “without the evalu- ation of the impact of games on specific learning outcomes, games will continue to be categorized as motivating and fun, but instructionally useless.” As a result, there is still little consensus on how to link specific learning objectives to the way simulation games are being designed. Given the complex character of most sim- ulation settings, this is not at all surprising. As Dempsey et al. (2002) point out, this disconnect may be explained by the fact that occurrences in a gaming envi- ronment are not easily reduced to a few variables. At the same time, however, scholars in simulation gaming insist that trainers can and should make an effort to bolster their argument on the unique educational value simulation games offer to students. “The challenge is to make explicit or referred linkages between gaming attributes and learning outcomes, and to tackle issues regarding develop- ment and appropriateness [of games] that remain unanswered” (Bedwell et al. 2009). This article seeks to contribute to this discussion and argues that a spe- cific simulation design can lead to reaching pre-defined learning objectives. The type of learning experience is central to this argument and will be discussed in the following section. The Role of Narrative in Experiential Learning Experiential learning has the power to give students a personal tie to the subject matter. Drawing from constructivist theory, such an educational approach assumes that knowledge has a personal meaning and is created by individuals through narratives (Thanasoulas 2002). Trainers therefore have a facilitating role, in fact enabling a creative group process where students immerse in preparing their spe-
  3. 3. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 249 cific roles. This type of approach goes beyond what early literature refers to as ‘banking education,’ and leads to a more dialogue-based relationship between teachers and students: “they become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. In this process, arguments based on ‘authority’ are no longer valid...” (Freire 1970: 61). A similar thought comes from Dewey (1966), emphasizing “the importance of having a student’s knowledge grow from experience” and cre- ate “a social environment, where students could come together to analyze mate- rials and to build a community of learners who built their knowledge together.” In essence, students create their own narrative during a simulation game and learn from the evolving stories. Kolb (1984) provides a useful descriptive model, as he defines four learning styles. Players have to do, watch, feel and think at the same time, and must be adaptive in order to switch between different modes of play in order to stick to their roles. This goes beyond a positivist learning philosophy that puts emphasis on the mere reconstruction of knowledge. Instead, students create new meaning about the subject at hand and draw on their personal imagination. Students are encour- aged to inhabit the being of a chief executive, a rebel leader or decision-maker. At this point, the more emotional aspects of learning come to the fore. The resulting narratives of such simulations have the power to make students ‘under- stand the other’: why does a prominent leadership figure find him/herself acting against their personal value systems? To what extent do high-ranking officials enjoy or dislike their power position? How do leaders experience personal isola- tion when facing two equally unattractive options? Some students actually migrate into their roles and inhabit their character’s mindset. One participant once claimed: “I wasn’t an American any longer, I was a Syrian.”1 Often, this transcen- dence lasts well beyond the end of the simulation exercise. This level of identification is only possible when the simulation design allows for a level of authenticity about what is probable in the real world. Students are generally more willing and better motivated when they feel that what they play is not entirely hypothetical. For example, the learning curve can be considered steeper when simulating political negotiations with the Taliban leadership in 2009, compared to playing a senior country representative at a multilateral meet- ing to negotiate an imaginary peacekeeping operation in a non-existent country. For trainers, it is an appealing thought that more realistic narratives in simu- lations can enhance the level of motivation among students. For the purpose of this article, however, this is not the core of the argument. Instead, the power of a carefully coached narrative lies in the fact that it creates mental ownership over the unfolding of events. If well integrated into the game design, this can then feed into specific learning objectives. The project described in the following sec- tions presents a way of going about this. 1) Evaluations from simulation exercise University College Utrecht 2005.
  4. 4. 250 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 Background of the Project In 2004, the Netherlands Defense Academy wanted to develop a simulation exercise for 50 senior military officers. This was part of a nine-week curriculum on international peace and security, which in turn was part of the so-called HDV – Hogere Defensie Vorming.2 The HDV is a one-year course for Dutch Major-level officers from army, air force, navy, military police and civilian staff members of the ministry of defense. The course is aimed to develop the skills and knowledge needed in order to per- form in the top management of the Dutch armed forces (which in a country like the Netherlands often includes diplomatic responsibilities). The course consists of three main themes 1) international peace and security studies, 2) military operational science and 3) business and management studies. The nine-week module on international peace and security focuses on the role of the officer as a diplomat and gives the students insight into the international and strategic relations within which the Dutch military operates. The course aims to give an integral and comprehensive vision on foreign and security policy devel- opments that are key to the Netherlands’ geopolitical standing. Participants are also trained in diplomacy skills required for potential future positions in interna- tional organizations. The curriculum consists of the elements as shown in Table 1. Under an outsourcing agreement, the Pax Ludens Foundation modified an existing simulation methodology, building on a year-long experience at Utrecht, Amsterdam and Webster Universities.3 In order to integrate the simulation into the rest of the HDV training program, it was placed at the end of the curricu- lum, with a focus on the diplomatic challenges across the Middle East. Since the first pilot in 2005, this exercise has gradually developed into a major pillar of the curriculum. The original methodology had been used for university courses in interna- tional relations. At the time, the trainers used note pads for inner-team commu- nication during the game. The setting for the HDV was significantly larger in scope. The first HDV program included 48 students, and was supposed to last for several days. In order to provide a professional environment that could cater to these conditions, Pax Ludens decided to develop a new software program that would facilitate communication among the students of the game. The name of 2) The peace and security curriculum is one of three major blocks of a one-year course for Dutch Major- level officers from the army, air force, navy, military police and civilian staff members of the Ministry of Defense. The overall curriculum is being managed by the Netherlands Institute of International Rela- tions ‘Clingendael.’ The latter has been outsourcing the final simulation to Pax Ludens. 3) This simulation methodology was developed in the 1980s by Dr. Leonard Suransky. Basic teaching principles and learning objectives stemmed from his research on gaming methodologies. For referenc, see “International Relations Games and Simulations: An Evaluation,” in R. Horn and A. Cleaves eds. The Guide to Simulations/Games for Education and Training, Beverly Hills, Sage Publishers, 1980, p. 163.
  5. 5. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 251 the software, InterACT, reflects the idea behind this methodology, combining the two words “interaction” (communication) and “acting” (role play). Since the inception of the software, this methodology has been applied in var- ious university settings as well as professional teaching institutions, with more than 450 students in total. However, the simulation designed for the Nether- lands Defense Academy remains the most comprehensive training program, and therefore provides the basis for the purpose of this article. Linking Learning Goals to Game Design The general learning objective for the HDV course is to prepare a carefully selected group of mid-career staff members of the Dutch Ministry of Defense to function in the ranks of the high and top-management level. Specific objec- tives of the simulation include: 1) integrating the separate parts of the interna- tional peace and security curriculum; and 2) enhancing understanding of and Table 1: HDV Curriculum Elements Theme Specific Topics covered Introduction to national and international security issues Fundamentals of political philosophy International organizations Workshops with members of the parliamentary military commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, EU, NATO Working visits to Paris/London or Berlin/Warsaw Role of the officer as a diplomat Training sessions in negotiation skills, bilateral and multilateral negotiations Writing policy papers and policy memos Current trends in international security International law Dutch security policy and security dilemmas In depth: European security, ethnicity and conflict, resource security and international terrorism Simulation exercise: The greater Middle East Introduction to Islam Introduction to the Middle East Simulation exercise (Pax Ludens) Country and regional studies In-depth lectures on US, Russia, China, India, EU (France, Germany, UK), Latin America, Regional lectures on Afghanistan, Iran & Pakistan, Eastern Europe, Africa, Caucasus
  6. 6. 252 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 improving personal skills in diplomatic decision-making processes in the context of international conflict. Whereas the former objective is of a more contextual nature, the latter focuses on a skills set that is of particular importance to the Defense Academy staff. In contrast to civilian target groups, military officers with years of professional experience in the defense organization are used to, in the words of Kolb, ‘do’ rather than ‘think.’ Staff is expected to deliver, execute orders under the most daring circumstances, and improvise quickly in order to finish in time. After 10–20 years in the military apparatus, most officers have learned to appreciate action-oriented behavior, adhering to the principle ‘tell me what to do, and I will find a way to make it happen’. When confronted with the politics of interna- tional diplomatic interaction, such an action-oriented attitude can be counter- productive. The HDV organizers therefore agreed that a simulation exercise should focus on the dynamics behind the decision-making process, in order to enhance the understanding of why political negotiations often lack significant progress. As a result, the key learning objective for the program was straightfor- ward: to enhance the understanding of political impasse, and to improve per- sonal skills to deal with it – in contrast to achieving measurable results. Pax Ludens developed a simulation design tailored for this overarching learn- ing objective. The concept includes a number of standard steps, including a preparation phase before the game and a debriefing phase thereafter. In order to match the needs of the academy, each element of the game design was linked to the agreed learning objective. Before discussing the operational implications of such a narrow learning objective, it is illustrative to look at the way trainers expect this design to come to effect during the game. The simulation is about diplomacy, and is therefore driven by the need to engage with other players in order to promote and reach one’s own objectives. Decisions have to be made throughout the game. They come in fast sequence and are numerous in kind, ranging a wide spectrum of issues and political trade-offs (in this case regarding, for example, the Golan Heights or Iran’s nuclear program), and they have to be made quickly. The HDV exercise plays with this element of fast-track decision-making, and uses the game design to create a ‘pressure cooker’, where frustration builds up and players are pressured to come up with adequate solutions. Students feel the heat of the moment, and the entire learning experience is intense as a consequence. Every aspect of the game design plays its part in creating this pressure and contributes to an environment in which students have to: 1) deal with ever-changing condi- tions; 2) decide whether to make concessions; and 3) find adequate compromise in line with their strategy papers. Fig. 1 below visualizes how game experience influences decision-making under pressure. Both players and trainers have their responsibilities during the entire process. The trainers, on the one hand, remain behind the scenes most of the time. They
  7. 7. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 253 select the various teams (in the case of the HDV, key stakeholders in the Middle East), develop the scenario and facilitate the performance of the players during the game itself. At the end, trainers synthesize the events of the game into a pre- sentation and feedback session, the final debriefing. The players, on the other hand, only start when receiving their roles, and are required to create their own role profile (both individual and per team). They then develop corresponding strategies for the game. After the game, all players submit a so-called justification document in order to reflect on the events of the game. Fig. 2 illustrates the three phases of the simulation design, how it unfolds into separate elements and highlights the subsequent tasks for trainers and participants. Taking account of the learning objective ‘understand and deal with political impasse’, all of the individual elements described above link to the learning out- comes. The underlying idea is simple: the more students find themselves con- fronted with political dilemmas, the greater the chance they experience real Figure 1. Decision-making under pressure in simulation games. Figure 2. The seven elements of the HDV simulation exercise.
  8. 8. 254 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 frustration during the game – and can be coached how to deal with such a situa- tion. The following paragraphs explain in short how every aspect of the game design can be linked to the learning objective. This approach is also illustrated in the figure below, making passing reference to Kolb’s four categories of doing, watching, feeling and thinking. The selection of teams and individual roles aims to create and increase ten- sions between the players. For example, the team of Egypt would include the president and the intelligence chief, rather than the minister of foreign affairs. This way, trainers encourage students to find out how difficult it is for a presi- dent to deal with a political rival who is in control of a significant part of the security apparatus. The students then create their personal role profiles based on literature, the internet and personal interviews with experts. The training staff acts as tutors during this process, and provides feedback on the evolving profiles. When stu- dents have finished their profiles, they identify with a particular ‘real life’ charac- ter. For example, Tony Blair might not only be interested in ‘scoring’ in his function as British Prime Minister, but also in preparing a possible career as top envoy for the region after his term in office. Based on the individual role profiles, students are required to team up with their ‘colleagues’ and create a joint team strategy, which they want to pursue during the game. This forces students, already during the preparation phase, to find work- ing compromises between the personal ambitions of their characters (as defined in the individual role profiles) and national (or organizational) interests. With the individual profiles and team strategies as major inputs, trainers start to develop a scenario for the start of the game. This way, students’ knowledge, ideas, dilemmas and strategic goals are taken into account and create a scenario with a ‘collective soul.’ While trainers have to ensure an adequate level of realism when designing these parameters, they take the players’ diverse agendas into account. Dilemmas can be highlighted; potential tensions can be brought to the fore. For example, given the current US strategy to stem additional settlements in the West Bank, trainers can opt to strengthen the conservative elements within the Israeli government by including in the scenario a recent attack on Jewish communities. When the game is on, trainers make sure players keep to their roles and that the evolution of the game retains an appropriate level of realism. At the same time, teams and individual players are encouraged to deal with various levels of frustration. For example, trainers could choose to obstruct the French team’s pursuit of more active Russian involvement regarding the Iranian nuclear issue. This is not to say that every constructive attempt at conflict resolution would be thwarted. However, the software allows for continuous supervision of all com- munications (as discussed hereunder) and enables the control team to encourage students to consider all possible bottlenecks on the way to a sustainable solution.
  9. 9. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 255 After game playing has finished, it is time for players to reflect on their actions and justify (in written form) how they view their own performance. If the game design fulfilled its purpose, students highlight their experiences with personal frustration and reflect on why impasses occurred during the game (see Fig. 3). While the game design can do a lot to support such a learning objective, the HDV training program also benefits from two additional features. First, it uses a combination of both closed and open scenarios. Second, the developed Inter- ACT software allows trainers to keep the players in check during the game, and to draw on quantitative data for the debriefing. The following two sections dis- cuss these features in more detail. A New Way to Combine Open and Closed Scenarios Out of the many types of simulations in today’s training practice, it is argued that they all have four aspects in common (Wenzler 2008; Wenzler & Chartier 1999). First, a simulation enables you to understand the big picture by helping students identify elements of a complex problem. Second, it facilitates the cre- ation of memories of the future, allowing students to test approaches within a safe setting. Third, it enhances communication between players and leads to a collective construction of meaning. Fourth, simulations enable greater commit- ment to innovation; to implement new skills and attitudes. More specifically, the breed of international relations simulations generally puts emphasis on the human aspect of learning, adding importance to individual Figure 3. The link between game design and learning objective. Trainers Participants Select teams Online research Create profile coaching Develop kick-off scenario Write strategy paper Supervise interaction Prepare debriefing Gaming Reflect & justify choices Evaluate Control Team Create antagonist players Nurture personal identification Integrate political dilemmas Stimulate personal goals Safeguard confrontation Explain reasons for impasse Feedback: deal with impasse stimulating political impasse Kolb’s learning styles Diverging (feel and watch) Assimilating (think and watch)Converging (think and do) Accommodating (feel and do) Legend:
  10. 10. 256 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 roles, interests and strategies. Simulations continuously demand that students respond to certain situations, and to adapt when circumstances change during the game. Many of these simulation exercises therefore revolve around a given scenario. The scenario gives context and meaning to the simulation and defines the kinds of limitations they have to deal with. This reflects the classic notion presented by Suransky in 1977 that there are two factors that determine the suc- cess of simulations in the classroom: 1) a willingness of the students to research and develop their adopted roles seriously; and 2) the achievement of specific educational goals. “Together, these factors promote a special, experiential learn- ing process which can generate a foundation of knowledge and the motivation for critical thinking” (Suransky 1980: 163). According to this view, a simulation that offers a real-life link for students – and does so intensively in the prepara- tion phase through the students’ own research for their role – is likely to deliver valuable interactions during the exercise. Highly motivated students tend to take away with them valuable insights into complex processes, to the benefit of their future careers. The scenario is the key tool to make this happen. It creates a (plausible) real-life situation in which all simulated action then occurs – and provides the foundation for negotiated outcomes of the dilemmas at stake. Many simulations are based on the convergent model, in which there is an emphasis on predictable paths of learning. In general, these training programs use the so-called ‘closed’ scenario, where students are encouraged to make choices between certain possible, predefined, decisions. Outcomes of these simulations are – to a certain degree – predictable, and therefore allow for a pre-defined debriefing at the end of the exercise. As trainers are fully aware of mistakes that could be made and the amount of alternative outcomes (there is a limited num- ber of possible combinations in these types of multiple choice scenarios), stu- dents can benefit from a well-structured training program. Closed scenarios are particularly useful when one can rely on existing ‘best practices’, such as the case of learning methods for leadership approaches, management techniques or media- tion strategies. Trainers of this type of simulation exercise often have access to an existing body of knowledge that allows for generalizations, and can make stu- dents appreciate learned lessons by others in similar settings. When teaching goals include management and coordination, many rely on ICT infrastructure to facilitate the exercise. This can include various levels of ICT applications, from calculating the new ‘scenarios’ for a second or third round of play (i.e. in international economy training programs) to full-fledged computer animations with a multiple choice catalogue for each individual participant. The latter type simulation can be very costly (particularly when it comes to military computer- aided exercises), and critics say that the ensuing learning process is often too technical in nature4 and that it suffers from the fact that it encourages ‘winning,’ rather than ’learning’ (Prensky 2001). 4) Frans Kleyheeg, Applied Natural Research Institute of the Netherlands (TNO), interview with the authors, May 2005.
  11. 11. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 257 The convergent model is grounded in the rational actor approach, where play- ers’ actions depend on rational choices. It assumes that decisions are taken based on a cost-benefit analysis rather than allowing for the more emotional elements in human decision-making. In essence, this translates into the key question: “this is the problem, how do we solve it?” (Christopher & Smith 1990). An alternative to a closed simulation is based on the so-called divergent model, which is also referred to as ‘high-fidelity’ simulation (Prensky 2001). These are designed around more open-ended scenarios, where students have the freedom to shape the simulation according to their own insights and abilities. These games often center on a certain set of issues, and students are confronted with a specific problem: “this is the situation and what could be done?” (Christopher & Smith 1990). In these simulations, trainers mostly work with a broadly defined framework, which serves as a guiding principle for coaching students during the exercise. For example, when it comes to simulating the negotiations around the independence of Kosovo,5 it might be decided in the simulation design to not include neighboring states and instead focus on the negotiations on the UN level in New York. Within the academic debate, the divergent approach can be placed close to existentialism, which claims that reality is not necessarily based on rational deci- sion-making. Instead, it encourages inter-subjectivity as a basic learning princi- ple. This approach underlines the importance of interaction, and that it is this dialogue between individuals and its outcomes that is of value. Some argue that the biggest problem of this model lies in the limited ‘reality-check’.6 As students are free to explore alternatives, they tend to overlook critical real-life issues (be it of an enabling or limiting kind), with unrealistic action as a consequence. Kauf- man (1998) puts it well: “any simulation is only as strong as its weakest team”. As a consequence, training results of open scenarios often suffer from a certain degree of disappointment among students about the fact that the experience might not be applicable in the real world. However, the divergent model allows for learning experiences on issues where there are no or little best practices available. This can be the case when exploring new investment schemes in China’s current political order, or anticipating alter- native futures for the oil industry.7 It also makes the simulation itself by far more a product of their own ‘making’. For example, a participant playing Sudan’s Presi- dent Bashir in a simulation on the Darfur crisis is likely to be more motivated when simulating negotiations about future options in 2009 than reconstructing 5) This simulation has been done by The Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), available at: 6) In the context of simulation exercises, the term realism does not refer to ‘reality’ as such. Rather, real- ism should be understood as a functional understanding of the right balance between abstraction and reality. 7) These kind of scenario-based simulations are being developed on a regular basis by Shell International.
  12. 12. 258 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 the 2005 attempt to reach the ill-fated Darfur Peace Agreement. An open-ended simulation therefore creates the necessary space for ‘learning by doing’. Both the divergent and the convergent model have their raison d’être. Yet, for the purpose of training programs in conflict resolution, a combination of the two might prove of value to trainers. While closed scenarios have a distinct advantage regarding the structure of simulations and the design of a debriefing presentation thereafter, open scenarios ensure room for creativity and greater motivation among students. When integrating the convergent (closed) and diver- gent (open) scenario models into one setting, the hybrid result provides the best of both worlds. The trainers take up a facilitating role that provides an open- ended learning environment, while at the same time safeguarding the highest possible degree of realism during the actual exercise. Also, this design increases students’ motivation through a ‘collective ownership’ of the scenario. While essential for the simulation, realism alone is not enough. For example, motivation suffers when simulations refer to real-life scenarios that have occurred in the past. Being a crucial part of the Pax Ludens training method, the scenario is placed in the immediate future, based on consultations with subject-matter experts and a multi-disciplinary assessment of the situation at hand. A couple of carefully considered extrapolations, coupled with the students’ input, then lead to a ‘future’ scenario. This in turn serves as a ‘kick-off’ reference for the simula- tion exercise. In most cases, this scenario would be distributed (in written form or digitally through the software) to the students just before the start of the training. This is not to say that such a simulation claims to forecast future develop- ments. Rather, students are encouraged to pose the question: ‘what if...?’ For example, a simulation would start with a scenario that confirms the election of Barack Obama before his actual victory,8 or assumes a Palestinian unity govern- ment before it came into being. Players therefore have to act fast in order to adapt their strategy to the new situation (i.e. the standing of Israel’s leadership towards the new US leadership or towards Hamas). While it is tempting to suggest that such a hybrid scenario provides an inter- esting learning environment, it requires well-orchestrated supervision during the game. This is even more so when it comes to large simulations with up to 50 students. The following section lays out how controlling such complex interac- tions can be done. In addition, it also shows how trainers can coach students during the simulation, keeping in mind the HDV learning objective. 8) In November 2008 (one week before the US presidential elections), Pax Ludens organized a training course on the Greater Middle East in which Barack Obama was part of the US team. Similarly, in April 2007, Pax Ludens facilitated a training in which the election of French Presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy was part of the kick-off scenario.
  13. 13. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 259 Using Communication Software to Keep it Real In order to offer students a scenario, which features both a thorough (controlled) teaching structure and a creative (unrestricted) learning environment, one needs to keep maximum control of students’ action without restraining their freedom to explore alternative scenarios.9 Combining these two elements might seem a little contradictory at first, but the authors argue that with some minor innova- tions (technical as well as managerial), simulations can do just that. Simulating complex conflict dynamics includes various elements, and manag- ing such an environment is a complex task. Trainers must have constant over- view of all events unfolding at any given moment, and be ready to intervene or coach where necessary. Technology is generally considered a welcome tool for facilitating these types of training exercises, but although costs are coming down, it is still an expensive affair. Many forms of technology have become a means to facilitate training programs: Internet can speed up logistical arrangements, and online networks often serve as data exchange platforms. At the same, time fully computer-aided animations are used to simulate complex technical environments, e.g. flight simulators. In most cases, however, particularly when it comes to social sciences, there is little or no interest in incorporating substantial levels of IT infrastructure into today’s simulation exercises. The case of the InterACT soft- ware illustrates that there is a great, yet untapped potential for IT applications to support such training courses. One prominent example in the world of simulations in social sciences is the ‘ICONS’ methodology, which provides an interesting starting point. ICONS is an initiative that originates from the University of Maryland and has been designed to offer a fully online learning experience and create a virtual setting for a par- ticular negotiation process (including online preparations and online debriefing). As a consequence, its focus rests on the generation of procedural knowledge, through the exclusive use of online communication: it aims to enhance writing skills and, by excluding any kind of face-to-face interaction, can claim to empower less vocal students.10 In addition, ICONS features an interesting detail: it does not allow students to submit negotiation proposals without a trainer’s scrutiny. There is a built-in control element for any attempt by players to con- clude an agreement, and experts check whether submissions are realistic enough 9) The key of this control process is to constantly assess whether things that happen are realistic and weigh unrealistic actions in light of the learning opportunities posed by students trying unrealistic actions. This is a constant dilemma for control, which leads to healthy discussion about the way the stu- dents learn during the game and gives the flexibility to change things as the game progresses. One important additional note is that control is never able to maintain objective realism in a fully open sce- nario, e.g. we probably would not have allowed the Egyptian President to travel to Israel and address the parliament if we had played the game in 1977, but this did happen in real life. 10) Retrieved in May 2007 at:
  14. 14. 260 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 to be validated for the simulation. This process extends over days, sometimes weeks, depending on the design of the simulation. It is this kind of control element that software can facilitate even more rigor- ously. Control over the simulation process enables the trainer to keep a close watch on the students and their agendas, which is of particular importance to open scenario simulations. As argued earlier, simulations that provide a maxi- mum negotiation space through an open scenario but do not maintain a strict level of reality-check risk losing students who may veer off into unrealistic coali- tions or initiatives. For example, a simulated peace process between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government might see students set- tling for an agreement that excludes the issue of the ICC indictment of the rebel leader Joseph Kony. The choice by ICONS to allow a submission of negotiation proposals only after having survived expert scrutiny therefore seems plausible. However, ICONS uses the online platform to run all communication, and lim- its its ‘control’ function to the final proposals. The InterACT software goes one step beyond. It significantly enhances the level of hands-on review during the simulation process and monitors the whole process of the evolution of decisions, policies and relationships in real time. The application is based on the basic principles of an email exchange program. It sets up a local area network between computer terminals, provides separate accounts for all players, and channels any given message via a control team. This way, messages are allowed to reach their recipient only when validated by a trainer. The software is used in a setting where students have no visual contact when communicating by e-mail messaging (generally the players are located in sepa- rate rooms in the same building), but are able – and expected – to set up face- to-face meetings with each other in order to implement their prepared agenda. Through the software, it is possible to safeguard realism at this stage of the simu- lation. For example, some players might attempt to set up a meeting between two parties that would normally not meet in person (i.e. US senior officials and Hamas). Reading the incoming messages from party A to party B with the sug- gestion to meet, the teaching staff can then decide to either validate or reject. If validated, the expectation would be that party B would not accept the invita- tion. In other words, students would be given the option to ‘rectify’ their own mistakes. If meeting proposals and agreements become too unrealistic, the con- trol function allows for additional intervention, at any given time. This can be done by messaging through the software, or by face-to-face coaching. This ‘hybrid’ format enables the trainers to minimize restrictions for the players while keeping the option to re-direct when needed. The level of control described in the preceding section needs substantial exper- tise and adequate staffing. This becomes clear when looking at the numbers: when some 50 players are allowed to freely communicate through the software messaging system, counts can go up to 1.3 messages per minute on average dur-
  15. 15. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 261 ing a simulation period of 15 hours (spread over 3 days).11 While the software allows for full control, it generates a fast-moving environment with a substantial amount of messages crisscrossing the network. This might include meeting coor- dination messages, pre-negotiations before the start of a face-to-face meeting, press releases or intelligence exchanges. The task for the control team is to monitor the process and to make sense of it all. In order to offer a genuine learning experience, there is not only a need for permanent supervision, but for continuous reflection on the unfolding of events. As a consequence, the software requires a sizable control team that at first glance might seem large enough to run the operation center of a military exer- cise. However, there are good reasons not to limit training staff to the absolute minimum. The control team consists of a number of experts with interdisciplin- ary backgrounds. During the simulation, the team is responsible for the overall management of the simulation and performs a number of functions. It is also available for assistance and coaching throughout the simulation. In other words, without an adequate control mechanism, the software itself is meaningless; the value of the IT application rather lies in its facilitating potential. One of the control team’s core responsibilities is to monitor and to validate all incoming messages, the so-called ‘validation desk’. Up to two trainers would be in charge of this task at all times.12 In addition, the control team runs a number of specific desks; one would be responsible for meetings and another for intelli- gence (see Fig. 4). Also, some simulations benefit from one desk in charge of world press and one for the rest of the world. Despite full control over all communication, the highest priority for the con- trol team is to remain in the background. It leaves maximum freedom to the players and lets players explore new, creative paths in diplomacy. Experience has shown that intervention in the game is only required if the realistic character of the simulation is in danger. However, if learning objectives so require, it is possi- ble to manipulate the state of affairs from behind the scenes, introducing new developments plausible in the ‘real’ world into the ‘game’ world. Possible ways of manipulation by the control team include: information leakages to third par- ties, civil society developments, radical movements’ activities or economic shifts (such as a failed government bailout during a credit crisis). The method provides for a learning environment that generates a plethora of messages, events and meetings. One of the distinct advantages is that, unlike other simulations, there is no restriction to one or two main issues. Rather, the 11) Statistics on interaction for the HDV exercise in 2008 are illustrative: 982 total messages, more than 100,000 words written, an average of 8 press releases per team, an average of 54 messages per team, an average of 1.3 messages per minute. 12) With no restrictions on the amount of messages per player, the following is indicative: for a group of 25 participants, 1–2 validation staff is appropriate; for 50 participants, 2–3 ‘validators’ would be needed.
  16. 16. 262 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 complexity and the fast pace of this simulation requires students to multi-task, make decisions quickly, delegate and give priority in order to achieve the goals stated in their individual strategy. While doing so, they are repeatedly curbed in their actions by the counter-initiatives of their peers representing divergent group interests, and they often have to re-negotiate their prepared strategies, an important aspect in view of the learning objective. At the end of the exercise, the data generated by the software proves a valuable tool for the debriefing. The trainers can use visual graphs, based on the students’ own actions, to illustrate communication streams and trends. For example, it is possible to highlight the difference between the active brokering role of Egypt’s Security Advisor (contacts with Hamas) compared to a more symbolic role played by the Egyptian President (contacts with the Arab League). The software’s data-mining tool can create any type of graph needed to debrief the exercise. The Method in Practice: HDV 2005–2008 As discussed in the first part of this article, the HDV simulation exercise splits into seven subsequent elements, each of which links to the learning objective, and each of which requires action from trainers, participants or both. In order to present the experience of the 2007 and 2008 HDV exercises, the following sections combine these individual elements into three chronological clusters: the preparations (including the selection of teams, the creating of the team profiles, role profiles and strategy papers, and the scenario development), the simulation itself (the control team functions and the players’ gaming activities), and the Figure 4. The functional divisions within the InterACT control team. Validation Desk: …validates (or rejects) all incoming messages before they reach the receiving party(s). The validation desk monitors progress of the simulation exercise and controls messages for their level of realism. Meetings Desk: …helps participants to set up their individual meetings, and monitors the meetings. Any meeting requires stringent agreement of agenda items and a summary report by the chair. Intelligence Desk: …provides any information players would like to receive regarding their financial or military capacity, number of troops in certain areas, poll results or developments elsewhere in the game. World Press Desk: …monitors world events and received input from trainers and players. The world press desk is responsible for providing ‘neutral’ news on events that unfold during the simulation and coordinates media team Rest of the World Desk: …represents countries / stakeholders that are not part of the simulation. This desk assumes the role of any personality that is not among the formal roles in the game with whom a player would like to discuss issues. Mainstream Mapping: …keeps an overview of all events and collects relevant data for the final debriefing by comparing actual developments during the simulation with each team/players’ submitted agenda. …into the control team:
  17. 17. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 263 debriefing (including the players’ individual justifications and the official feed- back session at the end of the exercise). The two most recent HDV simulation exercises took place from November 19–23, 2007 and November 3–7, 2008. Both scenario settings placed the ‘world’ two months into the future (January – April 2008/2009 respectively). The game converted real time into game time, so that 15 minutes in real life represented one day in the simulation (see Fig. 5). Both simulations lasted for five working days. The actual simulation started on Monday morning and ended Wednesday afternoon, with an analysis session on Thursday and the final debriefing on Friday. A quick, informal debriefing was held straight after the final message had been sent. Thursday would serve as a ‘free’ day, where all participants only submitted a written ‘justification’ of their actions during the simulation. On Friday, the control team presented an official debriefing as a final event. The control team consisted of ten and twelve staff respectively, including experts in international relations, country specialists and some support staff from various related disciplines. In addition, a professional media team assisted the world press desk in gathering information during the exercise and editing compilations of news flashes for the morning plenaries on the second and third day. Preparations: Teams, Roles and the Scenario At the beginning of the preparations (seven weeks before the start of the actual simulation), trainers assigned participants to pre-defined teams to represent a country, institution or political organization. Each participant would play an existing public, authoritative figure or authority from that particular team. In total, there were 17 teams in 2006, 14 teams in 2007 and 13 teams in 2008, with a minimum of two and a maximum of five players per team (see Fig. 6 for the 2007 mark-up). In order to prepare for the simulation, participants were expected to research their character, their team and the relationship with other players in the context of the Greater Middle East. In order to deliver on the learning objective, the trainers selected the teams with a view to instigate possible tensions during the game between antagonistic players. For example, both Blair and Sarkozy featured Figure 5. Selected moments in game and real time from the 2008 simulation exercise.
  18. 18. 264 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 in the 2008 exercise in order to play out inner-European differences regarding their national policies in the region. Before the start of the simulation, each player was then asked to write an indi- vidual ‘role-profile’ (5–6 pages) about the person they embodied during the exercise. In many instances, this made participants identify with their roles, as evaluation responses illustrate: in the end we reunited Fatah and Hamas. Personally I’m still living in exile and my goal was to return safely to the new Palestinian state and play a prominent role in the new government. That part was [not] successful. In addition, participants worked together with their team members in order to prepare a joint team profile. The latter could be distinctively different from the role profile, for example considering the difference in interests between President Bush and Condoleezza Rice. Finally, participants were required to submit a strat- egy paper, in which they outlined their personal strategy for the simulation (summing up the main goals in bullet points). These three documents would later provide a key input for the debriefings at the end of the simulation exercise (Fig. 7). Figure 6. The teams and roles used for ‘The Greater Middle East’ simulation exercise 2007. Team # Functions Team # Functions Egypt 3 President, Minister of Intelligence, Prime Minister Jordan 3 King, Prime Minister and Minister of Defence European Union 4 EU Commissioner of Foreign Affairs, President of France, British Prime Minister, Quartet Envoy Lebanon 3 President, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fatah 3 President, Chairman, Prime Minister Russia 3 President, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hamas 3 Head of government, Leader Gaza strip, Hamas Leader in exile Syria 3 President, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hezbollah 3 General Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Chief of Operations Saudi Arabia 3 King, Crown Prince, Foreign Minister Iran 3 President, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of the Supreme National S.C United Nations 3 Secretary general, Spec. Coordinator Middle East, Head IAEA Israel 4 Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defense, Deputy Prime Minister United States 4 President, Secretary of State, Vice President, Defense Secretary Team # Functions Team # Functions Egypt 3 President, Minister of Intelligence, Prime Minister Jordan 3 King, Prime Minister and Minister of Defence European Union 4 EU Commissioner of Foreign Affairs, President of France, British Prime Minister, Quartet Envoy Lebanon 3 President, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fatah 3 President, Chairman, Prime Minister Russia 3 President, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hamas 3 Head of government, Leader Gaza strip, Hamas Leader in exile Syria 3 President, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hezbollah 3 General Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Chief of Operations Saudi Arabia 3 King, Crown Prince, Foreign Minister Iran 3 President, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of the Supreme National S.C United Nations 3 Secretary general, Spec. Coordinator Middle East, Head IAEA Israel 4 Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defense, Deputy Prime Minister United States 4 President, Secretary of State, Vice President, Defense Secretary
  19. 19. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 265 Based on the participants’ strategy papers and their envisioned agenda’s (submit- ted after some five weeks into the course, one week before the start of the five- day exercise), the trainers filtered out some key themes to use as a guideline for the game and as reference points for the final debriefing at the end of the simu- lation. As a result, one of the key issues included in the kick-off scenario was based on the submitted strategy papers: the challenge of forging a National Unity Government between Fatah and Hamas, and the enormous difficulty to do so. With additional input from policy experts on conflict resolution and the Middle East, they then integrated the players’ preparatory work with the real-life trends that were shaping the political power play in the region at the time. For both the 2007 and 2008 exercise, the overarching themes could be summed up in six categories: 1) mediation 2) peace talks (Israel-Palestine, Israel-Hezbollah), 3) proliferation (nuclear and small arms), 4) radicalization (religious, political, military), 5) energy diplomacy, and 6) politics of exclusion (being part of certain geopolitical alliances). In addition to these main themes, the trainers identified a number of key top- ics that would be monitored during the game. One such issue referred to the emerging role of China, particularly regarding the Chinese quest for energy Figure 7. The role of the control team in each phase of the simulation.
  20. 20. 266 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 resources (this was considered an important element for the game even though there was no team to represent China). The control team therefore emphasized in the kick-off scenario the likelihood of Chinese negotiations over weapon deals with several antagonistic Middle East players, and the building of a possible oil pipeline. Trainers provided relevant background information and coached participants while working on the preparatory documents (Fig. 8). As part of the HDV cur- riculum, participants attended a series of lectures on the Middle East and were provided a selection of articles on the region. A first introduction to the general rules and features of the simulation was also part of the preparations. In addi- tion, a tailor-made news-feed provided the participants with up-to-date infor- mation from a range of selected authoritative online news sources. In order to ensure adequate preparation, the trainers took the time to coach participants per team (i.e. a Syria expert would coach the Syrian and Jordanian team, etc.). This was done largely by distance, through online feedback, by email or telephone. The coaches spent up to six hours per participant for these contacts. A face-to- face feedback session at the end of the coaching period served as a last chance to discuss ‘role research’ in person. As part of these feedback efforts, coaches would keep in mind the importance of ‘antagonistic players’ in the game design. In order to do so, they advised participants to take account of the personal back- grounds of their characters, such as track records, personal disliking towards other personalities in the game, or non-political issues such as their family situa- tion or health problems. Figure 8. The required elements of a role profile.
  21. 21. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 267 The Unfolding Game: Communication, Interaction and Control On the first day, the teams were assigned to different rooms, and each partici- pant had his/her own terminal and login. Before trainers started the software, all players assembled in one of the meeting rooms for a plenary inaugural session. Each team had a prepared speech that laid out each team’s official view on the situation in the region (the speech could be delivered by the highest ranking official or, if in line with a team’s strategy, a lower ranking representative). Only then were the teams allowed to start communicating – through the software and scheduled meetings – with their counterparts. With 48 players online, the con- trol team included two trainers to attend full-time to the validation task, moni- toring the content of all incoming messages. Each player had a range of options in order to engage with others during the game. First, participants could send standard messages as basic means of com- munication, such as information exchange, lobbying or preparing the grounds for face-to-face meetings. Second, meeting requests from individual players alerted the meeting desk that a number of actors had decided to meet in person to discuss a clearly negotiated agenda. The control team would then decide on a case-by-case basis whether to send trainers to observe specific meetings. Third, intelligence messages could be sent to the intelligence desk in order to receive specific information about a team’s own (or their adversaries’) capabilities. Fourth, participants could opt to send out press releases (only per team, not per individual player). The world press desk would monitor these messages and Figure 9. The InterACT participant interface.
  22. 22. 268 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 gather additional information by holding interviews with certain players at cer- tain moments. For example, the TV crew went to interview Syrian President Bashir after he came out of a meeting with President Ahmadinejad in order to record his take on the diplomatic encounter with his Iranian counterpart. The last, ultimate ‘tool’ available to participants could have drastic conse- quences. The so-called ‘action request’ gives individual players or teams the oppor- tunity to change the current status quo of the simulation. The example below shows that in order for the control team to approve such a move, participants have to make an analysis of the situation and consider various options. They also have to argue how their action will impact the game (see Fig. 10). The control team – and in particular the validation desk – is tasked with keep- ing a watchful eye on the level of realism of the simulation. In order to do this, trainers could reject every seemingly unrealistic message. As argued earlier, how- ever, the Pax Ludens methodology gives preference to the peer review effect, assuming that participants tend to correct and remind each other of their mis- takes.13 Still, there are moments when control can re-direct the simulation to safeguard reality and, more importantly, the learning objectives. For example, the control team sends targeted messages in order to confront an intransigent Israeli cabinet with evidence that President Obama is considering to withdraw 13) In effect, the majority of messages sent during the 2006, 2007 and 2008 simulations were validated; only 5% of all messages were rejected by the control team on average. Figure 10. Example of a submitted action request.
  23. 23. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 269 the United States blanket veto protection in the UN Security Council if they refuse to stop any building or expansion of existing settlements. A less subtle way to influence the events of the game could include the intelligence desk inserting a successful Hamas attack to send a Kassam rocket deeper into the Ash- kelon area of Israel where it happens to cause a direct hit on a military convoy. The resulting gaming environment is complex, fast-paced and extremely dynamic. The open-ended scenario encourages players to become actively involved, to find new ways to achieve their personal and team agendas. Because partici- pants have invested some serious thinking into their preparations and benefited from professional coaching, the game quickly leads to high quality ‘diplomatic’ interaction that often features very detailed, technocratic debates on the various issues at stake in the region. The selected main themes serve as a rough guideline and enable the trainers to facilitate the process with a view to prepare a pointed debriefing at the end of the game. Meanwhile, the participants work under pressure, forced to deal with the vol- ume of messages, parallel meetings and the necessary diplomatic balancing acts. They have to think fast, act quickly, persuade judiciously, and always prioritize given the limited time at their disposal. Invariably mistakes are made, and impasse and frustration quickly become a reality. However it is these very missteps and miscalculations that enable the participants to appreciate how important it is to prioritize and decide what issues are central to their strategic goals, and which to let go of as peripheral. They also come to appreciate how difficult it is to focus their team’s attention on achieving a carefully thought out proposal, as they sort through the deluge of messages from other teams trying to do the same. Debriefing: Justification and Feedback The personal experiences from the simulation are intense and useful; however the learning effect depends on a thorough analysis thereafter. There were two debriefing elements as part of each simulation. The first informal style debriefing session took place at the end of the last gaming day, Wednesday. During this first ‘hot wash up,’ everybody was free to give a quick contribution from his/her per- spective to unravel what had happened in the game, to lay bare secret agendas, present clever strategies, unravel betrayals – all critical fodder for the learning experience. On Thursday, participants were free, except for the submission of a one-page justification document including their reading into what had hap- pened to their original strategies and why. They also filled in a short a multiple- choice questionnaire on their experiences during the game. The final debriefing took place on Friday morning and was based on the care- ful analysis of the players’ original agendas, actual events during the gaming hours, the justifications and the vast amounts of collected data on players’ gam- ing interactions. As part of the debriefing (and the plenary presentation thereof), InterACT proves a valuable asset: the software is able to generate graphical
  24. 24. 270 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 overviews and research all interaction patterns, and can help to identify and explain the underlying dynamics of the game (see Figure 11). Learning from the Evaluations Since the beginning of this project, a significant amount of data has been collected. This data consists of participants’ perceptions based on filled-in digital question- naires, as well as communication patterns stored by the InterACT software. This, in combination with the experiences gathered during the four years of the HDV training program, provides some interesting insights on how this type method- ology contributes to simulation gaming – both in general terms and, more importantly, when it comes to reaching specific learning objectives. General Observations Before discussing the participants’ judgment regarding the overall learning objec- tive of the HDV simulation exercises, it seems useful to reflect on the more gen- eral experiences gathered during the various HDV debriefing sessions between 2005 and 2008. They allow for four key observations. First, from a trainer’s perspective, the strategy papers prove particularly useful for the training staff to prepare the debriefing session. Comparing the different Figure 11. Illustrative graph from the HDV debriefing 2008: assessing commu- nication patterns.
  25. 25. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 271 documents submitted before and after the game indicates whether participants are aware of their actions in retrospect. On the one hand this refers to the real- ization that, in order to succeed diplomatically, one needs to spend a lot of pre- decision-making time building and nurturing coalitions. On the other hand, this before-after assessment allows trainers to judge whether participants under- stand that there is a payoff between a short-term success, such as single-mindedly hammering home an element of your individual team’s strategy, and the likely alienating of important allies and adversaries. Second, there are clear indications that participants enhanced their personal knowledge about conflict dynamics and the Greater Middle East. Individual evaluations make clear that the majority feels the simulation contributed signifi- cantly to their understanding of the region: this game has been a unique opportunity to give you insight information about the complexity of the Middle East problems. We have had some fantastic lectures but you will never reach the same level of understanding as with this simulation game. Evaluations from 2006, 2007 and 2008 are consistent in this regard. Selected statements provide some additional insights in how participants judge their new level of understanding of the region and its conflicts: Conventional means don’t get you to prepare as well as the game did. You really have to think about the role you have and therefore also the role of others. This significantly increases the under- standing of the situation. The preparation in this way is probably more important than the game itself. The game is needed to create the necessary preparations. Another interesting illustration for the increased level of understanding is the decreasing number of rejected messages over time. This indicates that in the course of the game, players become more acquainted with the intricate details of the political issues at hand and know how to engage with others in a diplomatic simulation: the combination of all the individuals with own ideas creates a different set in which I as one of the individuals had to learn very quickly all the different issues and strategies of the other individuals and countries (2008). Middle East policy experts involved in the game as control team members con- firm this effect: While participants specialize in preparing for one specific team and role, in the interaction with others, they become familiar with the domestic or regional constraints on their opponents making compromises with them... they become familiar with the making of complex compromises that each side can sell to their home base citizen or elites.
  26. 26. 272 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 Third, the simulation helped participants increase their ability to ‘understand the other.’ Participants identified with the roles and countries they played and gained useful insights in the way leaders, countries and organizations look at and deal with the world: “I learned to look at the conflict through different (Arab) glasses.” A participant who had played the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated: I found it difficult to get things done, to get deals closed. A couple of times I had a deal with a country or organization, however having returned to [the capital] the deal was off due to fact that the highest representative of a country (who did not attend the meeting) did not agree with the deal I had made with his subordinates.” Another participant explains: “[most revealing was... ] the impact that the personality of the players has. They are only human beings with their attitude, characteristics and personal relations. It is not just a game with facts and figures but with emotions and personal strives. Fourth, the game contributed to the more procedural aspects of learning: nego- tiation skills improved, as well as meeting management skills. [The simulation helped me...] to play chess on the different boards. Give and take in one situation can help to gain results on another topic. A different quote illustrates: [...] as [a] mediator I found that if your are moderate, the negotiations never get stuck (com- pletely). If you are a hardliner, you get (probably) away with one success once (2006). A Lebanese delegate from the 2008 simulation stated: “[At] a certain moment in the process I got stuck because of the differences in opinions and a lack of trust (on my side I think).” Linking Game Design with Learning Objective When discussing the envisioned link between game design and the defined learn- ing objective to enhance understanding of and improve personal skills to deal with political impasse,’ it is useful to consider some more insights from debrief- ing sessions, data sets and evaluation findings. Clustered in themes, participants’ responses to the evaluation questionnaire’s open-ended section include: 1) enhanced negotiation skills – greater awareness of the (lack of) personal proficiency; 2) frustrations when dealing with political impasse; 3) increased understanding of regional issues in the Greater Middle East, especially the complex nature of the conflicts and how this creates deadlock in negotiation processes. The latter two indicate that indeed the frustrations about political deadlock kept players very busy in the course of the game – and thereafter. A similar effect comes to the fore regarding the limited prospects for substan- tial progress in real life negotiations. When players were asked to list three
  27. 27. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 273 aspects or events of the simulation they perceived to be realistic in the context of the actual situation in the region, the level of political impasse featured high on the list: 25% of the responses to the question mention tensions, political impasse, hardliners and the inability to come to clear results. A participant explains: “the frustration that arises when you deal with so many hidden agenda’s as a negotia- tor (2008).” – “The very slow process of getting together for talks. This is partly caused by geographic constraints but also different agendas and priorities.” – “The very difficult peace negotiations with the Palestinians and the Israelis. Prog- ress was just as slow and frustrating as in the real world (2008). Adding to these perceptions, it is interesting to note that more than one third of participants stated that secret agendas and poor country relations reflect real life diplomacy; while others emphasized slow progress as a key problem in realpolitik: it is impossible to make a giant step in the progress towards peace. Small steps are even difficult to make during multi-lateral negotiations (2007), and maybe Barack Obama can break open the impasse in the peace process if he gets involved personally. Another interesting outcome of the evaluation refers to the participants’ personal experiences during the simulation. When asked to score the seven challenges (as presented in Fig. 1) in terms of how they impacted on achieving their personal agendas, participants present a revealing set of key problems (see Fig. 12). 14) A number of options that were added in 2007 were not present in 2006 and vice versa. We have cho- sen to omit the responses to this questionnaire to make it comparable. In 2008, the questionnaire was consistent with the 2007 questionnaire. Figure 12. The biggest challenges during the game – from a participants’ view.14
  28. 28. 274 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 Ranking highest on average for all simulation exercises feature the two aspects ‘unwillingness of others to cooperate’ and ‘unexpected events.’ Other challenges receive various, generally lower, score levels over the different years. Quotes from written evaluations emphasize the notion that participants reflected upon the way they had to deal with political impasse, and how this relates to their profes- sional background:15 “the awareness that you can also achieve your goals with a more reactive attitude... (not quite soldier-like!!).” – “Don’t press too much on results (typical military). Take time and invest in relations. Be proactive, although in a sensitive way (2006).” – “I have a tendency to go too fast from problem to solution. In some cases I was too enthusiastic in initial negotiations.” These findings support the argument that it is possible to directly influence learning objectives through game design. Unlike the lower scoring challenges such as ‘lack of information,’ ‘time limits’ or ‘unrealistic aims,’ the game is designed in a way to enhance the type of challenges that score highest in the evaluations. Each of the seven elements of the HDV game design enables trainers to increase the level of antagonism between the players, thereby steering towards more ten- sions in order to sustain the simulation of political impasse during the game. Conclusion Given the HDV simulation experience, the authors suggest that the simulation setting discussed in this article adds an interesting element to today’s simulation practice. When it comes to training the military in understanding, accepting and dealing with political impasse, a carefully conceived game design provides a use- ful framework in order to make the feeling of frustration a key part of the learn- ing experience. The methodology allows trainers to include participants in the development of the kick-off scenario. The fact that participants’ own agendas are then used results in more ownership over the simulation, and players become more involved. When trainers create additional challenges limiting players’ ability to achieve their stated goals, the training program offers a dynamic environment as part of which frustration kicks in at various levels. When it comes to the simulation itself, the InterACT software as developed for this particular exercise presents a useful tool for trainers in order to control the level of reality – every time when simulated events unfold during the game. By combining an open scenario (which leaves sufficient freedom to players in order to explore new diplomatic avenues) with a closed scenario (which gives control to trainers whenever deemed necessary), the game design allows for ade- quate supervision on learning objectives. Coupled with the ability to add ele- 15) Participants of the HDV course were asked to answer the following questions: How did you perform as a negotiator? What have you learned about yourself? What would you do differently next time? What skills would you like to improve?
  29. 29. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 275 ments of frustration during the game through the functionalities of the software, the control team has a range of tools at its disposal in order to create a learning environment that fits the needs of the target group. The debriefing also benefits from this particular game design, as trainers can draw from participants’ own insights and expectations collected ahead of the game. This way, trainers can compare the players’ justification documents with their original ambitions at the beginning of the exercise. During the debriefing, trainers are able to address specific events in the light of what happened, and why certain teams or players could not reach their set goals. Notwithstanding these benefits, the methodology is still a work in progress and has various shortfalls. The most important problems are of operational nature. First, the set up is comprehensive and requires participants to thoroughly pre- pare for their roles over an extended period of time. If, in contrast, trainers chose to distribute pre-fabricated profiles in order to save preparation time, ownership suffers – a critical ingredient for the HDV exercises. Second, the use of a local area network and the need for separate rooms for each team requires a substan- tive physical infrastructure, which also needs to be available for the period of the simulation exercise. Third, the size of the control team – while one of its strong characteristics – remains a significant bottleneck. In university settings, this can be redeemed by using student volunteers in order to fill some of the positions within the control team (such as the media desk). However, it would be useful to develop a light version of this game design, which integrates the learning effects of the HDV experience within a more compact, less comprehensive setting. An additional problem stems from the fact that the suggested link between game design and learning outcomes might not work in other learning environ- ments. Given the specific training requirements in a diplomatic training pro- gram for military officers, it is possible to pinpoint issues around political impasse as the overarching learning goal. This is not necessarily the case in, for example, a university course in international relations. However, it might be use- ful to consider similar ‘narrow’ learning objectives in order to further the discus- sion about game design and resulting learning outcomes. The Way Forward Reflecting on the experiences from the HDV exercises since 2005, the Pax Ludens Foundation has been refining the methodology over the years and continues to work on improvements. Particularly, it would be useful to find ways of applying this method in other educational settings. The authors encourage suggestions and critiques from simulation professionals in various fields and disciplines. At the time of writing, the main modification attempts for this methodology center on three of the methodology’s problematic aspects. First, Pax Ludens has developed a pilot simulation that is shorter and less com- prehensive in set up. This way, it is possible to keep preparation and downsize
  30. 30. 276 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 the control team. Also, this type simulation does not require the amount of space needed for the HDV simulation. Instead, it suffices to reserve two rooms in rela- tive vicinity. The pilot has been launched in 2008, and first evaluations have been positive. However, these training programs have not been designed to sup- port very specific learning objectives, and therefore would benefit from further adjustment in order to do so. Second, the software is still desktop based and will be changed into an online application. This way, there is no need for the client (be it a university or a teach- ing institution for professionals) to install the software up front, and it opens the door for additional features such as online control members. The question remains to what extent it would be valuable to develop new ways of using this software, moving away from a design that requires all players to be physically close to each other at all times. Third, it would be an attractive option to link the game design to the learning of personal competencies. In order to test this, future HDV simulations will give participants a greater say in selecting their roles. For this purpose, trainers would come up with a chart that lists all players, including personal competen- cies (for each character, trainers would mark the relevant competencies required from the individual player).16 Participants would then select the top three they would like to play during the game, knowing which competencies they could expect to improve during the exercise. 16) The list of competencies should be based on the standard teaching guidelines as used by the Nether- lands Defense Academy: Table 2: HDV Competencies HDV COMPETENCIES COMPETENCE KEY BEHAVIORAL RESPONSE Analyses • Sees the big picture and has an overview of complex problems. • Quickly identifies the core of a problem. • Identifies different ways of approaching a problem. • Identifies causal relations in complex situations. • Makes connections between different sorts of information. • Draws sound conclusions from a wide range of information. • Employs relevant previous experiences in order to solve a problem.
  31. 31. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 277 HDV COMPETENCIES COMPETENCE KEY BEHAVIORAL RESPONSE Vision • Able to take distance from daily affairs and take into account future developments. • Has insight into the direction of possible professional and organizational developments. • Able to formulate broad organizational goals. • At least able to formulate medium range goals. Organizational Awareness • Maps decision-making structures and political playing field. • Displays sensitivity towards internal and hierarchical power relations. • Takes into consideration formal and informal rules within an organization when taking action. • Addresses the relevant actors with the right amount of authority. • Anticipates the consequences that one’s actions have for other parties. • Makes effective use of the organizational language and culture. • Knows who is necessary to create buy in and participation. • Aware of developments in other parts of the organization. Flexibility • Adapts one’s manner of thinking to correspond to changes in situation. • Changes opinion, attitude and approach in case initial approach fails to work. • Navigates effectively between the different tasks and responsibilities. • Able to function in different terrains. • Engages effectively with people from different backgrounds and educational levels. Awareness of surroundings • Interested in societal developments relevant to one’s own field of work. • Uses knowledge and capability from other sources (external) to aid one’s own work. Table 2 (cont.)
  32. 32. 278 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 References Ahlers, Robert et al. (2002) “Games, Motivation, and Learning: A Research and Practice Model.” Simulation and Gaming: 441–467. Baker et al. (2005) “Classification of Learning Outcomes: Evidence from Computer Games Liter- ature.” The Curriculum Journal: 455–474. Bedwell, W.L. et al. (2009) “Relationship Between Game Attributes and Learning Outcomes: Review and Research Proposals.” Simulation and Gaming: 217–268. Christopher, E.M. & L.E. Smith (1990) “Shaping the Content of Simulation/Games,” in D. Crookall & R.L. Oxford, editors, Simulation, Gaming, and Language Learning. New York: Newbury House. Dempsey, J. et al. (2002) “Forty Simple Computer Games and What They Could Mean for Edu- cators.” Simulation and Gaming: 157–168. Dewey, J. (1966) Democracy and Education. New York: Free Press, available at: Classroom Com- pass, Building an Understanding of Constructivism 1, 3 at v01n03/2.html. HDV COMPETENCIES COMPETENCE KEY BEHAVIORAL RESPONSE • Acts on societal developments that are relevant for the organization • Establishes contacts with relevant third parties (people and organizations). • Takes into consideration the possible publicity value outside the organization of intra- organizational decisions when making these. • Takes into account the dynamics between the various third parties when dealing with them. • Can get along with people from different backgrounds. Ability to form sound judgement • Makes sound choices on the basis of available information and is able to justify them. • Distinguishes between facts, experiences, opinions and emotions when forming an opinion on a certain matter. • Anticipates consequences (pros and cons) of a certain course of action. • Takes into account the feasibility of a chosen course of action when confronted with a choice between various alternatives. Table 2 (cont.)
  33. 33. U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 279 Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Penguin Books. Kaufman, J.P. (1998) “Using Simulation as a Tool to Teach about International Negotiation.” International Negotiation 3: 59–75. Kolb, David A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Prensky, M. (2001) “Simulation – Are they Games?,” available at Suranksy, L. (1980) “International Relations Games and Simulations: An Evaluation,” in R. Horn and A. Cleaves, editors, The Guide to Simulations/Games for Education and Training. Beverly Hills: Sage. Thanasoulas, D. (2002) “Constructive Learning.” Language Learning Articles, available at: http:// learning.htm. Wenzler, I. (2008) “The Role of Simulation Games in Transformational Change,” in W.C. Kritz, editor, Planspiele fur die Organisationsentwicklung. Berlin: WVB. Wenzler, I. and D. Chartier (1999) “Why Do We Bother with Games and Simulations: An Orga- nizational Learning Perspective.” Simulation and Gaming 30, 3: 375–385. Appendix: Overview of the international security module Week 1 Monday Welcome and general introduction to the international security module Tuesday Introduction to political philosophy, international security studies and international relations Wednesday International peace and security studies and Dutch security policy Thursday International law Friday Panel: classic international organizations Week 2 Monday European security Tuesday In depth security dilemmas Wednesday Country studies Thursday Security dilemmas Friday Presentations on international organizations Week 3 Monday Ethnicity and conflict / Africa Tuesday Panel: resource security (scarcity) / international terrorism Wednesday Research day Thursday Research and develop policy papers Friday Research and develop policy papers
  34. 34. 280 U. Mans et al. / International Negotiation 15 (2010) 247–280 Week 4 Thesis week Week 5 Monday Country studies Tuesday Working session with Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wednesday Working session with Parliament Thursday Working session with NATO/EU Friday Working session with NATO/EU Week 6 Monday Security dilemmas Tuesday NGO Forum Wednesday Country Studies Thursday Diplomatic negotiations and bilateral negotiations training Friday Submit draft of role and team profiles simulation exercise Week 7 Working visits to Paris/London or Berlin/Warsaw Week 8 Monday Coaching simulation exercise preparations Tuesday Submission of final role and team profiles simulation exercise Wednesday Training day Thursday Training multilateral negotiations Friday Submission of memorandum Week 9 Monday Simulation exercise Tuesday Simulation exercise Wednesday Simulation exercise Thursday Simulation exercise Friday Debriefing simulation exercise and closing of the module (cont.)