Accelerating the Learning Curve of Business Simulations

Computerized business simulations can be complex. Ours are. To match our experienced audience, our learning objectives need to be complex. But this creates a challenge. How do we quickly get participants past the learning curve of the simulation so they can transition to the learning curve of strategic, financial and business acumen?

For the past 22 years we have done the following to better prepare participants for their experience with our business simulations:

  • Pre-work.
    • Required: All participants must read a simulation Case Study Guide prior to attending the course. (see #9 in Best Practices – Building and Using Business Simulations: Part 2)
    • Recommended: Participants have the opportunity to watch an introductory demo video and view the simulation starting screens. We’ve found that the more “required” items we have, the lower the probability that the items are actually completed. Our required pre-work is focused on the most essential.
  • Pop-quiz. A quiz is given within the first 60 minutes of the course to introduce participants to the simulation in a hands-on approach
  • Pop-up help within the simulation at point of need.
  • Rapid-fire Q&A with the instructor during initial rounds of the simulation.

The above tactics have worked. In addition to this, the proliferation of “gaming” on the smart devices we all own has contributed to most participants now understanding the basic concept of computer gaming and our experiential process. Side-story: I recall one of the first classes I taught at Caterpillar Tractor in the mid-90’s. A participant picked up the computer mouse and asked “what is this?”. Talk about a steep learning curve!

But we can and should do better. The quicker you remove the “technicalities” of the business simulation, the faster participants can get to the primary objective of learning about business. In 2019 we implemented two simple, but powerful enhancements to our traditional approach:

  1. Narrative Pop Quiz. Instead of a traditionally formatted 10-question quiz, we now hand participants a “story” quiz with fill-in the blanks. The narrative of the quiz walks through how one might approach navigating through the simulation. The quiz questions pertain to key facts/dynamics that they would need to know to successfully run their business. With this approach they are not only demonstrating simulation knowledge but also simulation decision-making process.
  2. Secondary demo using the MOST planning format (Mission, Objectives, Strategies, Tactics)
    . Following the simulation introduction/orientation and team-time doing a SWOT analysis, the instructor will walk the class through a quick 2nd demo of the simulation. With this approach, participants get to see another MOST example, but more importantly they are able to witness the execution of the proposed plan directly in the simulation. The demonstration is also delivered in a narrative form and can be even more powerful if the narrative in the demo continues on a theme introduced in the Pop Quiz narrative.

Getting participants up the simulation learning curve as quickly as possible is critical. Once participants understand the business simulation, they are able to focus more critically on building business and financial acumen. PriSim’s traditional approach to a quick-start was effective, however, adding a narrative pop quiz and a quick secondary demo have helped accelerate this process… And make the business simulation experience even more powerful.