A Game About Standards

Erik Puskar

Lessons Learned While Playing a Game Applicable in Real Life

The National Institute of Standards and Technology's Standards Coordination Office offers training to government agencies on standards, conformity assessment and related topics. One such course, Setting Standards: A Simulation Exercise in Strategy and Cooperation in Standardization Processes, features a participatory simulation that provides hands-on experience in what it is like to sit at the standards development table. NIST engaged established game-developer United Knowledge to provide this training in response to the growing demand for interactive, realistic and exciting learning environments for standards education.

The Setting Standards simulation exercise, which is fictional but lifelike, exposes participants to the challenges and opportunities in standards setting and explores the analytical and practical skills needed to successfully engage in standards negotiations. Under the guidance of a facilitator, participants negotiate a standard for a fictional, next-generation technology and are immersed in the politics and mechanics of standards development and negotiation. The participants simulate a real standardization process through role-playing and completing strategic tasks. Afterward, a three-phase evaluation is used to reflect on the experiences, focusing on lessons for real-life standardization.

One participant characterized Setting Standards this way: "Participants were provided a wealth of insight regarding the standards setting process and what goes on in the break discussions that makes standards move forward. The exercises were very descriptive as to how standards are not just set by technical specifications but by the desires and corporate cultures of private sector entities. The participants in the exercises came from a broad network of federal agencies and expertise, the value of the randomness of the specialties represented mirrors very closely the field of participants often seen contributing to the development of a standard. Participants were able to engage from multiple perspectives (i.e., stakeholder, regulator, standards developer), which drove home the notion, all parties involved are likely to have a specific goal they want to reach, and all parties must remain sensitive to that."

Setting Standards is an excellent skill builder for anyone already participating on a standards development committee or who anticipates being on the front line of standards development at the national or international level. A special session of the simulation exercise will be provided by NIST and the American National Standards Institute on Oct. 12 in conjunction with World Standards Week at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Learn more about standards-related training for government agencies on the web or by contacting NIST standards training.

Erik Puskar is program manager for global standards and information, in Standards Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md.

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