Choosing a Business Simulation
to ensure that it delivers relevant and defined learning effectively, efficiently and consistently.
Having developed some seventy different business simulations and, over the last forty plus years, run them, personally, more than two thousand times with business people around the world I feel that the fit between the business simulation and client & learner needs is crucial and the process shown below ensures this. Following an overview of the process, elements are summarised and links to further detail provided.
Decide to use simulation or not
The first step is to define the what learning is needed and the constraints associated with the need. Based on this you can decide whether a business simulation is appropriate before moving on the specify the business simulation.
Define Learning Objectives
My Churchill Fellowship study explored why clients used business simulations and lead to a five dimensional model consisting of:
When choosing a business simulations there are three groups that your need to consider:
The Learners who differ in terms of adult learning needs (actual and perceived), prior knowledge and experience (that provide a foundation and a resource).
The Tutor who runs the simulation and manages learning is I believe a key part of the learning. Associated with this are several aspects - Tutor Managed Learning. the knowledge, skills and experience of the trainer has and how the simulation helps the trainer (Tutor Support System).
The Sponsors who authorise and pay for the business simulation:
Duration is a major constraint and as the chart to the right shows for learning a simulation has an optimal duration. A duration that is closely linked to the complexity of the simulation 
Too little time and role overload occurs, learners do not reflect or form concepts. Consequentially learning does not occur and learners are disaffected.:
Too much time and learners are wasting time. They recognise this and become disaffected as the see the activity as a waste of time.
Learn more about the problem and how to shorten duration without affecting learning..
The way a business simulation is used affects it choice and the issues associated with its use. My Churchill Fellowship study identified eleven different ways a business simulation could be used - six where the prime purpose was delivering business learning in the classroom and the remaining five a variety of uses (business conference, graduate recruiting. spare-time learning, on assessment/development centres and to promote a business).
Learn more about different ways of using business simulations, why they are used this way and the issues associated with their use.
Once the Learning Needs are defined that can be addressed by a business simulation there is a need to specify what is needed.
When specifying a business simulation you need to decide whether it replicates a generic business, an industry or an actual business exactly. A choice that has implications in terms of relevance, complexity, duration, cost and learning. In my experience the best compromise is for the business simulation to reflect an industry rather than be generic or attempt to replicate your business exactly.
Learn more about deciding the right business scenario.:
This involves translating the learning objectives into business-oriented issues that are appropriate to the target audience. For example, the exploration of planning an entrepreneurial start up (the SEED simulation) the issues included market selection, pricing, promotion, working capital and venture funding. The issues define the discussion areas for the team and hence the areas where deep cognitive processing occurs. When defining issues these must be looked at these in the context of the industry and the client company. Finally, when detailing the choice, the issues need to be linked to decisions and results.
Over the years I have developed a wide range different forms of business simulations to best match learning needs. These range from the ubiquitous Total Enterprise simulation, through Functional Simulations to Process Simulations.
Learn more about of types of business simulation.
Here we are deciding whether the simulation will be used by individuals or small teams of learners; whether it will be used in the classroom with the process managed by a trainer and whether the learners or trainer will use the simulation software.
Learn more about working in teams
Learn more about the role of the Tutor
Learn more about Direct Use simulations
Learn more about Tutor Mediated simulations
The version of the business simulation that you use impacts the quality of learning.. For instance, a version for use as a Course Finale is different from one that is use a Course Theme and both are different from a business simulation used on an Assessment Centre. Also, because of language differences, a business simulation for use in the UK (English) must be different for use in the USA (not English!). (So a simulation for use on an Assessment Centre is different from one used on an Assessment Center).
The diagram to the right shows how versions of the same business simulation spread across Needs and Scope. The dark blue circle represents the learning provided by the simulation and the red circle the learning desired. For efficient learning the overlap between the two needs to be substantial.
 Hall, Jeremy J. S. B. and Benita M Cox (1994) Complexity is it really that simple, Developments in Business Simulations and Experiential Exercises Volume 21 eds. Precha Thavikulwat & John D. Overby, College of Business Administration, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma click to download the paper.
Most recent update: 02/04/12
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