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3 min read

25th April 2017

The Flight Simulator ImpactLab™ is the latest addition to Imperial Executive Education’s Experiential Learning Portfolio, which currently includes the Royal College of Music’s Performance Simulator, the Carbon Capture Lab, and the Global Data Observatory. Hosted as part of a cross-disciplinary partnership with the Aeronautics Department and developed in partnership with Air France fleet captains, the Flight Simulator was designed to study specifically the breakdown of coordination under stress and overall decision-making under pressure.

I was invited to help develop this non-traditional teaching tool based on both my experience teaching organizational behaviour including team dynamics and networks, negotiations, leadership, and strategy implementation; and my research expertise in interpersonal judgment, and power and social status. My research has a particular focus on this social evaluation under conditions of uncertainty and complexity – the same conditions that the Flight Simulator replicates in crucible.

From a pedagogical perspective, simulations are effective when they encourage individuals to suspend judgment in situ but also to make accurate assessments in retrospect. Like the Global Data Observatory (with which I am also linked through my computational social science research), the Flight Simulator accomplishes these aims because it is an immersive, interactive session that fits within the “Physicality & Awareness” strand of experiential learning (trousers and comfortable shoes required!). The approach combines a classroom session using case method with mixed materials (written scenarios and video) with a team exercise at the simulator’s controls. Executive Education use the Flight Simulator to develop strategies for defense against disrupted decision-making, including identifying the key distinctions between a “threat” and an “error” from their divergent downstream consequences.

The Flight Simulator will be used in the new academic year with the next cohort of senior executives. In addition to the intended enhancements to strategy and decision-making, cohorts led through the simulator will also gain deeper understanding of power and interpersonal politics; improved knowledge of the dynamics of praise and blame, especially through post hoc appraisals; and how to develop, to implement, and to defend an exit strategy when under uncertain and complex conditions.

Now boarding for the Imperial Executive Education Flight Simulator ImpactLab™


Dr. Sarah Otner is a Junior Research Fellow in the Strategy & Organisational Behaviour Group, Department of Management at Imperial College Business School. Dr. Otner’s broad research interest is interpersonal judgment, and her specific expertise is in social status. Sarah’s current work focuses on award competitions, including prize scarcity and the establishment of new prizes. Dr. Otner teaches courses on status and reputation, negotiations, networks, behavioural science, big data, leadership, and strategy implementation. She is accredited through the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).


You can read more about ImpactLab and our unique approach to learning here.

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