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Training for Crisis Response? Watch Movies, Video Games
When it comes to crisis management training, Anita Lynn Furtner says it is time to do away with lectures and PowerPoint and consider films and video games.
Agencies, companies and organizations rely on discussions, group exercises, mock disasters, drills, online training modules and other strategies to train employees for emergencies.
Then there's the dreaded, poorly executed PowerPoint presentation.
"You have a lecture, you have a PowerPoint and a knowledge check and, there, you are considered trained and certified. And, most likely, you only do this once a year," said Anita Lynn Furtner, who, for her dissertation at the University of Arizona, investigated the potential use of films and video games for crisis management training.
"That's not what I call motivating or engaging, and it doesn't lead to any long-term recall," said Furtner, who earned her doctoral degree in rhetoric, composition and the teaching of English in May.
Having experienced poor disaster response training in the past, Furtner wondered: Is it possible that popular apocalyptic or war-driven films and computer games can be used for employee training purposes?
These questions shaped her dissertation, "Entertaining Crisis: What 21st Century Corporations Can Learn from the Rhetoric of Crisis in Film and Computer Games."
Furtner has been concerned with establishing a stronger training model to provide a more effective way to help people retain information so when a crisis occurred, they would be better able to quickly respond with acute accuracy.
In her dissertation, she wrote: "One of the biggest pushes for organizational training reformation is that some of the current instructional approaches have not kept up with technology and do not always focus on the learner‘s experience."
For her study, Furtner investigated three films, the 1980s-era "Virus," "Apollo 13" and last year's blockbuster film, "2012." She also studied three popular video games: "Splinter Cell: Conviction," "Gears of War 2" and "Call of Duty 6: Modern Warfare 2."
To help trainees have stronger instant recall, Furtner's findings suggest that the most effective training is both motivating and also enables a person to feel a range of emotions – not just the shock value.
"With popular film, you are mentally engaged in understanding the story and keeping in mind different scenes to understand the big picture," she said. "Even more so with video games, because you have an active role in designing the story, to a certain extent."
But in studying plot, narrative and metaphor, Furtner found that not all films and video games are held equal with regard to effectiveness. Those with a strong narrative and cohesive storytelling might be better than traditional training methods, she noted.
Also helpful, Furtner's research also suggests, is to have people view a film or video game that presents good and bad examples of reactions, then allow them to "practice the good example."
The use of film and games for emergency response training purposes is not a new concept. In fact, more agencies and organizations are relying on them and companies have been developed for the purpose of helping develop games for training.
But utilizing entertainment-based media for crisis response training is a new idea that has not been thoroughly investigated – which is what Furtner set out to do.
Also, few researchers have critically analyzed in-house organizational crisis communication and the strategies different companies and organizations use, she added.
Another key finding to improve instant recall: People need consistent practice – not just training once or twice annually.
Furtner has plans to initiate a new study, one in which she modifies the experience players have in order to influence behaviors. The study has stronger implications for ethics training and for information technology security awareness.
She hopes her work will help lead to more integrated ways for agencies, companies and organizations, regardless of budget and size, to implement more useful crisis management training."I want to help people to be able to say, 'I'm not going to react, I'm going to respond,'" Furtner said. "I think it's important to make a shift in the way we are teaching our employees so that they are able to remember this a week, a month, a year from now."