+1 888-802-6808
An engaging learning experience used to develop essential organizational thinking skills and improve team performance.
A Game-like Tabletop Simulation
For group sizes 12 to 200+
Teams of four
The hospital scenario
Silo thinking to systems thinking
Applied systems thinking

The Friday Night at the ER team-learning simulation causes us to see the roles we play in organizations as interrelated parts of a system – an essential perspective for high-performing teams and organizational learning.

Yet, understanding and thinking about systems is not enough! It must be paired with actions and behaviors. We aim to teach key actions and behaviors that enable people to apply systems thinking in everyday work.

Think of Friday Night at the ER as a practice field. It gives people an experiential understanding and a hands-on opportunity to put systems thinking into practice.

Collaboration across boundaries

Do people in your organization collaborate? What does real collaboration look and feel like?

Friday Night at the ER shines a bright light on the imperative for collaborating across boundaries. Whether boundaries are functional or professional or geographical or ideational, neither the part nor the system can perform well if we operate within silos.

The simulation reveals varying levels of collaboration that people naturally exhibit. It tees up the conversation about what gets in the way of reaching across boundaries for collaborative action, smooth hand-offs and shared responsibility for organization performance.

Smart innovation

There are opportunities for players to innovate during the simulation, yet many do not. Explored during the debrief discussion, it’s typically one of the “aha!” moments during a Friday Night at the ER program when participants realize how powerfully the boundaries of their own mental models may have limited the possibilities they considered.

Friday Night at the ER demonstrates the way people in an organization respond to new ideas and practices. The program enables leaders to explore the risks and rewards of innovating within the organization, and to become clear about how, where and when innovation will be accepted.

Data-driven decision making

The simulation ends with participants gathering data and scoring. This process is illuminating as participants learn how well they met performance goals for quality and cost.

Did they use data during the simulation to make decisions? Would it have been helpful to do so? The same questions can be asked about the use of data in the organization. Successful organizations are capable of learning and adapting to meet goals. This requires visible data for key performance indicators.

Participants learn that data should replace instinct in the face of uncertainty about the best course of action to achieve desired results.

Designing structure for desired behavior

Best practices for desired behaviors (like Collaboration) can and should be taught. But behavior is powerfully influenced by elements of “structure” in organizations, such as performance measures, policies, physical environment, information visibility, and much more.

The mantra, “structure drives behavior,” is well illustrated during the simulation and can be underscored during the debrief discussion. This often leads to a productive team exercise in which participants recognize where, in their own organization, its structural design may (inadvertently) inhibit the very behaviors we desire to cultivate. It can be a striking realization and a high call to action for organization leaders following this learning experience.

Leadership retreats
(A case example)

An international human service organization operates agencies in 11 countries, each serving a regional population with targeted support services. Each region needs to operate with much autonomy, yet they share and rely on (and compete for) limited funding and other development resources.

How it was used

Early in a four-day retreat of 40 regional and corporate executives, the group played Friday Night at the ER. The game debrief focused on insights that were directly applied to their challenges.

  • Cohesion as a team.
  • Insight that each part must work well, but any one part must not be optimized at the expense of the whole organization.
  • Practical solutions were developed for communications, shared and delegated responsibilities, and a planning method for allocating resources.
Team kickoff
(A case example)

A community hospital kicked off an initiative to reduce Emergency Department crowding and ambulance diversions.

How it was used

The 12-member team charged with steering this initiative spent its first meeting playing Friday Night at the ER and focused the debrief on lessons relevant to the work ahead.

  • Adopted as guiding principles for the team’s work going forward the core lessons of the game (to collaborate, to innovative and to be data-driven).
  • Inspired by the game’s process flow layout, developed a computer-based simulation using actual data to measure patient flows/backlogs to discover key leverage points for managing emergency-origin demand.
  • Reduced excessive ED wait times to community norms; virtually eliminated ambulance diversions.
Management Education
(A case example)

A large manufacturing company operates a learning institute with a catalogue of courses that address core competencies for all managers.

How it was used

“Learn Systems Thinking with Friday Night at the ER” is one of the courses that has been offered quarterly for the past four years. Six trained course instructors also lead customized Friday Night at the ER programs with work groups upon request by managers or referral from OD staff.

  • The Friday Night at the ER course is consistently rated by managers as one of the top three best-liked and high-value course offerings.
  • The game is also repeatedly used as an intervention tool for work groups with specific performance problems.
Team building
(A case example)

Following a recent merger, a tech company needed its people to get to know their new coworkers and to build capacity to collaborate in teams.

How it was used

Friday Night at the ER was used with 250 managers - in a single program that included the CEO - as a fun, shared experience that would send a “we are one” message.

  • It was a lively gameplay in a casino-like atmosphere.
  • Participants rated the program as enjoyable and “learningful.”
Graduate Education
(A case example)

A university operates an MBA program with a core curriculum that includes the course, Management and Leadership Skills.

How it was used

The course uses Friday Night at the ER to teach successful management practices. The game and initial debrief are scheduled in a 3-hour block of time, and subsequent classes follow up with more discussion and related work.

  • Professors report high levels of engagement with the game and high value as a teaching tool for student self assessment and skills development.
  • Months and years later, students have recalled Friday Night at the ER and key learnings they associate with the game.
Aha! I get it.

'Aha' moments are common with Friday Night at the ER.

Why? Because Friday Night at the ER is experiential learning, people get a visceral understanding that is immediate and impressive. They demonstrate ideas and behaviors hands-on within the simulation, and they see the consequences. During the guided debrief, the ‘aha’ is examined and placed in a useful context so it becomes a memorable lesson.