Why Do We Call It ShadowBox?

This blog answers one of our clients' most frequently asked questions -- the origin of the name "ShadowBox."

One of the most common questions we receive is “What is ShadowBox?” In most cases, people simply want to know more about the “ShadowBox” training approach. How does it work? What makes it unique? But the answers to these questions do not fully describe what the name, ShadowBox, actually means and why we use it. In this blog, we will unpack this term and describe why we use this term. 

The term “shadowbox” has a variety of definitions ranging from a display case containing significant artifacts to the act of sparring with an imaginary opponent. We use the name for two reasons, each relating to a unique feature of the training approach. First, ShadowBox training lets trainees compare their thoughts and actions to a panel of experts. They get to see how these experts make sense of and respond to difficult situations, which can serve as points of reflection. We have demonstrated that this process of deliberative “shadowing” through tough cases resulting in trainees thinking more like experts over time (Klein & Borders, 2016). 

Secondly, ShadowBox training places a trainee into a realistic situation and requires them to make sense of complex events and make decisions about what actions they would take. Through this process, they are required to gather and revise information, consider their priorities, and anticipate future events. Like the act of shadowboxing, the trainee engages in a simulated experience to prepare for the real thing. Through these exercises, the trainee strengthens their perceptual and cognitive skills that allow them to recognize and react more quickly and efficiently when face-to-face with the real thing.  

In summary, the term “ShadowBox” refers to the concept of trainees shadowing experts. Our approach is not simply about observing the behavior of experts but focuses on learning how experts make sense of complex situations. Learners practice challenging tasks in a lower-risk environment.