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Branching Stories for Leadership Development

Branching stories for use within leadership development can be incredibly powerful. Oddly, these tools are often discounted as either too amateur or too much work. Branching stories are often classified as a business simulations when used within leadership development. As such, these tools are not amateur and are well worth the small effort.

Let’s first define what a branching story actually is. Officially, branching stories are referred to as Nonlinear Game Play. It’s actually pretty acurate because branching stories really are a sort of game but they are often delivered in story form.

How Branching Stories as a Leadership Development Business Simulation Works

Assumptions: Since the goal of this is to explain how they work, we’ll fast forward and assume the solutions has been created and is used within a leadership development program (how these are created comes later). In this example, there are three ’rounds’ of making decisions.

Step 1: Break your cohort into teams. Teams working on branching stories adds a collaboration aspect that is important. Additionally, when was the last time one person in your company made all decisions. Thus: Simulate the company by creating teams!

Step 2: Give the teams your branching story. Provide instructions and a time limit (15-30min is usually best). Each team reads a scenario and then chooses from 2 of 3 options. Depending on the decision they make, a new situation is created that requires a new decision. The team makes another decision and a new situation is created, and so on. The branching story should be challenging and based on a real-world case/scenario. How about a visual representation of a simple branching round (very generic example):

Sample Structure of a Branching Story Business Simulations for Leadership Development
Sample Structure of a Branching Story Business Simulations for Leadership Development

Step 3: Have each team come back as a whole cohort and present to the cohort the decisions they made, how the made them, why the made them, and then share the results. Now, repeat the process for a total of 3 to 5 rounds.

As you can see, this is exceptionally engaging. As the facilitator, it is your job to keep the topics applicable to the goals and objectives of your training. Additionally, you will need to lead the discussions and facilitation with the idea that teams will most likely have different methods, outcomes, and challenges (this is the good stuff!!). In reality, the outcome doesn’t matter. What matters is the process and leadership behavior.

How to Create a Branching Story Leadership Development Business Simulation

Start with your training goals and objectives and work backwards. With this in mind, take the following steps:

Step 1: Build the theme of your story. Don’t worry about perfection, you can change this later. No matter the case, you need a theme. For example: They are the CEO of their company and a crisis as happened.

Step 2: Pick a tool you want to create the tool in- Basic: PowerPoint (or similar). You will create a slide for each situation and have 3 linked choices that take the participant to a new situation for each choice. If you want to get fancy, you can use a tool such as iSpring, Twine, or Arcweave. These tools will put the solution on the web.

Step 3: Test and practice! I can’t emphasize this enough. You need to know this inside and out for effective facilitation.

Branching stories as a leadership development business simulation is something you can easily create and facilitate on your own. Considering the distance requirement of today, these are exceptional tools to increase corporate training engagement.

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