ORBiT: Negative Simulation

People talk about bike riding when they want to remind us that some things, once learned, are not forgotten.  What they don't mention is how we learned. No one learns to ride a bike from a book, or even a video.

You learn by doing it.

Actually, by not doing it. You learn by doing it wrong, by falling off, by getting back on, by doing it again. It is this approach works for a lot of things, not just bikes. Most things, in fact.

The first step of ORBiT is “Establish Context.” Once the “student” understands the impetus for the training—the why, rather than the what—they’re far more open to it, and therefore more likely to actually absorb the information and integrate it into their lives.

The next step of ORBiT is perhaps the most important: “Negative Simulation.”

This is also often the most surprising. As trainers, we feel some inherent need to offer only positive experiences to our trainees. In reality, negative simulations are of immense value. Here’s why.

1.     In order to genuinely learn, adults need experience. Unlike kids, we’re not sponges who simply absorb knowledge. We have to experience something and develop our own observations.

2.     The first negative simulation also offers an opportunity for you as the trainer to extend that “establishing context” step a bit further. If you’re the first to invest in the negative simulation, you gain that next level of buy-in and respect from your trainees.

3.     Bad things happen—it’s a fact of life. By creating a negative simulation, rather than a positive one, you’re offering your trainee a unique brand of preparation. So when something bad does happen, they won’t panic.

4.     And because those bad things do happen, a negative simulation lends the training a bit more reality and, as such, a bit more engagement.

5.     You want your trainee to experience the negative simulation with all of their senses—not just a visual representation, but one with sounds and tangible elements that will stick with them. Most importantly, you want to connect with them on an emotional level. As adults, we don’t just learn with our minds—it’s much more complicated. Tap into that emotion and you’ve got a far more engaged student.

6.     By debriefing the student after the negative simulation, you’re cracking into that next layer of influence. Ask questions and let them provide the answers so that they become the experts.


Negative simulations may be intimidating, but they’re invaluable. Learn more about how to effectively integrate negative simulations into your trainings with ORBiT: The Art & Science of Influence.