Developing Teamwork, Leadership Skills and Decision Makers with Case Study's "Washington's Crossing"

The decision-forcing cases taught at Quantico make greater use of role play than those used at many other institutions. Thus, while a case teacher in a business school might ask "what would you do if you were the president of this company?", his counterpart at Quantico would say something like, "Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French! What are your orders, Sire?"

The Case Method in Professional Military Education website has another post of great value, up on their Blog, this one, on, role immersion. Role immersion is where you take cases from history (actual events) to study and learn from, for example; from the police field, events like; The Newhall Incident, the April 11th 1986 FBI Metro-Dade, shooting, Waco, Ruby Ridge, World Trade Organization riots in Seattle, The Rodney King Case and Riots, the murder of Georgia Deputy Kyle Dinkheller, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, the Christopher Dorner incident, Boston Marathon Bombing, and Ferguson Missouri Protests and these only name a few examples of police history ideal for exploration, study and tailor-made for role immersion, decision making games.

The learning comes from the effort made to dig deep into the cases and drive a much deeper interest in the cases and our police history. The learning power that comes from working these role immersion cases and gaining better understanding of our history is rather obvious. Knowing and understanding our history and then applying the lessons learned is something we police need to do much more of. One way of doing this is to utilize these historic cases or others of your choosing and develop decision making exercises that can be explored and experimented with in tabletop exercised or free play exercises.

The role immersion games described in this article push students even further into the realm of role play. Rather than remaining with a single role for the duration of a case, participants in role immersion games take on the persona of a historical person for a longer period of time. They do a great deal of background reading on the life and times of that person, reducing the knowledge that they acquire to essays and reports. That done, they conduct re-enactments of historical events - the great debates, trials, and collaborations that did so much to shape the course of human events.

These games not only develop better strategic and tactical thinkers, they also help develop teamwork, better communication, and collaboration and dynamic problem solvers in any organization.

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This past August I worked with Dr. Terry Barnhart at a Sandoz Pharmaceutical where we designed a role immersion game based on Washington’s Crossing and the Battle of Trenton. We were actually immersed in the environment where Washington crossed the Delaware River! Washington's Crossing, PA.

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In this exercise we had General Washington lay out the scenario and set the challenge – design the logistics and tactics needed to win the battle of Trenton. Col John Glover and a townsman provide historic information and critical knowledge for the team to do its work. General Washington (John Godzieba) and, Col. Glover (Frank Lyons), and the townsman (Tom Maddock) are all historic re-enactors with the Friends of Washington Crossing Historic Park. They brought a wealth of knowledge and a sense of realism that facilitated in making this particular role immersion game so successful.



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The Sandoz Teams worked the Washington’s Crossing Scenario in groups and came up with plans for the Crossing, the March on, and Battle of Trenton. Once the plans were developed the teams briefed their plans for the crossing and 1st battle. Then the decisions and plans are critiqued. The interpreters give the history of the crossing as it happened.

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The learning that took place was invaluable. The role immersion games Helps us reveal and overcome group think and misalignment. Helps build effective team work, teaches leadership, skills and rational and intuitive decision making. Decision making exercises helps us practice in Identifying and structuring problems and develops our ability to move from, analysis to action. Helps us build better analytical reasoning. Role immersion games allows experimentation with little consequence/cost. No one dies or gets hurt. As we dig deep into the different roles these historic games bring to light and exposes faulty patterns and assumptions. This enables creativity to define better patterns and hence better outcomes.

In addition to being more elaborate than decision-forcing cases, role immersion games have a different purpose. Decision-forcing cases are exercises that use the solution of problems that took place in the past to hone professional judgment. If, in the course of doing this, practitioners learn a bit of history, the benefit is a secondary one. Role immersion games, however, are primarily concerned with fostering interest in past events. ~ Bruce I. Gudmundsson

For more information on role immersion games, see the website of Reacting to the Past.