Sunday, December 28, 2008

Training Games: Anne Laurent interviews Ralph Chatham

On December 8th, thirty-nine Senior Fellows and Friends gathered to learn about the design and use of virtual-world training games to augment the tactical and cultural training of young soldiers who are deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Anne Laurent, who has been reporting technological innovations that are ushering in permanent changes to the way government operates, contributed her considerable talent and business acumen by interviewing Ralph Chatham. A former Naval Officer and private industry consultant, Ralph created the DARWARS initiative in training technology.

Ken Sosne (Department of Education) and Pam Piper (OMB, retired) provided the following notes to convey the flavor of the discussion:

“Training can require a large investment with a small increase in proficiency. Ralph was looking for way to leverage training resources by developing an electronic platform that can provide training with enormous cost savings and run scenarios over and over to increase learning. Ralph decided that ‘I wanted to make sure no one rides blind into a culture again.’”

“Anne complemented Ralph's story telling with her experiences on virtual issues. The overall interplay between the two was interesting to watch. The audience was quite interactive and someone asked if there was a way one could build a game for executive leadership and meetings so that managers could have simulation similar to the soldiers.”

“A lightweight and agile training approach compared to pilot training models/simulation, features an underlying gaming ‘engine’ with ‘story’ content that can be adopted to the immediate need.”

Later, Ralph generously provided several attachments so that participants could think about the potential transferability of this approach: a report on “Training Superiority and Training Surprise,” that resulted from a Defense Science Board task force he co-chaired, and two chapters that will appear in an upcoming book, Development of Professional Expertise, edited by K. Anders Ericsson, 2009, Cambridge University Press.

Ordinarily, members of this multisector network convene in a small-ish banquet room near L'Enfant Plaza. That provides a comfortable container for dinner and dialogue among highly motivated individuals who RSVP early and make a point of showing up. However, there was so much interest in this topic, and its potential transferability to civilian government challenges, that we moved up Seventh Street to a larger space at the National Academy of Public Administration. Academy staff members Frank DiGiammarino, Dan Munz, Bryna Helfer, Susan Jacobs, and Jeanne Smith were instrumental to the evening's success.

Steve Ressler, co-founder of Young Government Leaders and creator of the new social network, GovLoop (, dropped in from Tampa to join us, as did the founders of Conversations About Leading, 13L, NAPA’s Collaboration Project, and several other heavy-duty innovators for good government. Participant affiliations included:

American University
ARPA Consultant
Atlantic Media Company
Center for Radical Improvement
Department of Commerce
Department of Education
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of Navy
Department of State
Department of Transportation
Department of Treasury
Environmental Protection Agency
General Services Administration
Government Accountability Office
Kahler Communications
Library of Congress
National Academy of Public Administration
Office of Management and Budget, Retired
Partnership for Public Service
PMI Education and Training SIG
Senior Executives Association

As usual, work experience levels ranged from intern to senior executive. If you are interested in participating, please send a note to, introduce yourself, and ask to be added to the mailing list so that you begin receiving evites as they are issued. Basic courtesy and a constructive approach are hallmarks of each gathering and make this discretionary effort fun. If that appeals to you, then please join us in 2009.

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