Playing to Learn – Engineers Experience the Impact of Systems Thinking by Making Paper Planes

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What can you learn from making paper planes? A lot, according to a team of engineers from S&ME in Raleigh, N.C. who went through an interactive learning experience led by strategic leadership consultancy AvoLead and featuring the innovative business simulation, Paper Planes, Inc.®. In the simulation, the engineers experienced the increase in quality, innovation and productivity resulting from process analysis and systems thinking – all by making paper planes together.

Co-Creating the Next Evolution in Your Future.™

This experience put everyone into that receptive, energized, and innovative mindset that a long and productive brainstorming session can create – only much, much faster!

What if you could get paid to make paper airplanes for a day – and learn something in the process? That’s what a team of engineers from S&ME achieved, thanks to a learning experience led by strategic leadership consultancy AvoLead and featuring the innovative business simulation, Paper Planes, Inc.®.

Facing projects that demand more creative use of resources than ever before, S&ME VP/Branch Manager Keith Brown welcomed the one-day learning experience that promised to help his group develop more creative solutions while enhancing teamwork and communication. On the day of the simulation, however, Brown realized that his team had low expectations based on previous classroom training experiences.

“I expected boring presentations and maybe some role play,” said S&ME Environmental Scientist Michelle Logut. “I quickly realized how off-base my expectations were and I ended up having the most intense yet enjoyable workday I’ve had in months. Plus, I learned so much!”

Brown admitted he too was completely blown out of the water by the experience and how much everyone learned in such a short time.

“The intensity of the experience became clear within the first 30 minutes,” said Brown. “AvoLead facilitators Sarah Albritton and Judy Pliner, Ph.D., opened with this intriguing introduction:

An international consortium is collaborating in the design of a rapid flight aircraft. Because absolute precision in the wing design specifications is critical to aircraft stability, the consortium wants to test assumptions and perform design modifications using small-scale models before full-scale models are built. Today, you are a production team for Paper Planes, Inc. (PPI), which has been awarded a contract to make these models. The consortium will purchase as many of the models produced to specifications as you can make. Please open the sealed packet in front of you to find out your role and job description. Production starts now.”

Sound exciting but vague? It’s all part of the design, according to Avolead VP Albritton, giving credit to the simulation’s creator, Chris Musselwhite, MA, MSIE, Ed.D.

“Used globally by organizations like Merck, NASA, BB&T, AT&T, Sanofi-Pasteur, U.S. Intelligence Agencies, and Motorola, Paper Planes, Inc. creates a realistic workplace that quickly reveals barriers to success caused by compartmentalized work processes. Presented with tight deadlines, specific job descriptions, and clients who change their mind in mid-production, participants are quickly compelled to look for a better way of doing things.”

S&ME Project Manager Michael Pfeifer, who also started the day feeling like he had more productive ways to spend his time, said he finished the experience with useful information he could apply right away.

“It’s hard to believe, but the simple exercise of making paper planes to exacting specifications really improved our teamwork, communication, and analysis of system processes – all of which have direct correlation to most any workplace,” said Pfeifer. “I have already identified a process at work that needs to be improved and am currently working with the people involved to make it better.”

Brown agreed that the experience left everyone with valuable learning that could immediately be used.

“Everyone saw firsthand the increase in quality and productivity resulting from systems thinking and process analysis, not to mention additional innovative redesign contributions and increased ownership of work and commitment that followed. This experience put everyone into that receptive, energized, and innovative mindset that a long and productive brainstorming session can create – only much, much faster! Like a lot of companies, we need the cooperation, the ideas and the problem solving that are borne out of this mindset now more than ever.”

Want to learn more? Visit http://www.AvoLead.com.

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Sarah Albritton, VP/Co-Founder
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