Business Simulation design must not just concentrate on building a realistic simulation model but incorporate appropriate interactions (decisions and results), how the simulation progresses and the relationships between the decisions, results and the business model.
With a degree in engineering you will not be surprised that I feel that the core structure of a business simulation is crucial to design. Beyond this, as a member of a family of trained artists, I see structural aspects of business simulations and how these impact learning, engagement and efficient use of time.
As illustrated by the Simulation Trapezoid, the business model is only one aspect of a simulation. Of equal and some times greater importance are the interactions - decisions and results. Beyond this is how the business simulation progresses over time and the relationships between the model, decisions and results. To design a simulation that delivers learning effectively and efficiently in an engaging way, one has to make informed decisions about these.
The Simulation Trapezoid consists of two parts.
For the Model Domain simulations are positioned in terms of their simplicity (horizontal axis) and stylisation (vertical axis). This positioning directly effects focus on issues, engagement, duration and development cost.
For the Interactions Domain decisions and results are positioned in terms of ambiguity (vertical axis) and granularity (detail) on the horizontal axis. This positioning focuses thought based on the importance of the decision and the result. As well it ensures that the time spent thinking about a decision or analysing a result relates to their importance.
But besides interactions and the simulation model, one must design how the simulation progresses period-to-period or stage-to-stage. These positionings allow different issues and challenges to be introduced at the appropriate points during the simulation. This ensures that learners are kept engaged and worked appropriately high.
Finally, one must determine how interactions (decisions and results) relate to each other and the simulation model. When determining these relationships one must decide the extent to which learners can see cause and result and the amount of discussion and thought that goes into making the decisions and identifying causality.
Overall, understanding where a simulation model needs to be positioned on the model domain, where decisions and results are positioned on the interaction domain, how the simulation progresses and the relationships, defines the extent to which a simulation delivers learning and is engaging.
This page and the other pages summarise information from my book "Corporate Cartooning: the art, science and craft of business simulation design" (available as a free download here) and my keynote Presentation at the 2008 ISAGA Conference.
Most recent update: 15/08/11
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