Best Practices – Building and Using Business Simulations: Part 1

In PriSim’s 20 years of experience running business simulation exercises targeted at leaders and managers, we’ve developed many best-practices that drive successful “experiential learning”. We list some of these best practices below and will add to this list in future posts as well!

  1. Set clear objectives, define the process and “realism” expectations – Some participants will not have previously experienced a business simulation. Make sure to clarify learning objectives, as well as, personal anxiety (see The Freakout Zone!), the simulation process, and level of realism that should be expected from the simulation. This helps participants get into the proper learning mindset.

  2. Manage class time to create “beneficial” pressure and a cadence – Timing is critical during a simulation exercise. Time spent in analysis and decision-making should be constrained. Providing too much time or too little time can lead to adverse effects (disengagement, unneeded stress, checking out). Spend more time in early rounds, less time in later rounds. Keep lectures fast-paced and interactive and encourage participation.

  3. Remember that the business simulation is great for many things, but not all things – By “business simulation” we are referring to total-business, computer-based simulations of a company. This type of tool is great for many learning objectives, but might fall short for some audiences that need a little more help with financial acumen. Consider augmenting your course agenda with a Board Game exercise when additional learning re: regarding Finance and Accounting is required.

  4. Schedule course-time to drive real-world ROI – During a simulation-based competition participants are learning and applying strategic thinking and planning. Once participants have “practiced” in the simulated market, have participants apply the same frameworks and approaches to real-world opportunities. Create “white-space” time-outs in the course schedule so that everyone walks away from the event with a straw-man business plan that can be implemented in the next 12-18 months to drive real ROI back in the real world.

  5. Embrace uncertainty and risk – Business is not certain, and your business simulation, within reason, should not be either. There is an art to how much uncertainty you design into the experience. Too much and participants will be overwhelmed. Too little and they may think they know what will happen at every turn and will lose interest. If you’re creating a zero-sum game (teams in a marketplace competing directly for a limited number of customers), the teams themselves will drive a lot of the uncertainty in the competition.