Radio Program: Mid Market Companies Adapt Enterprise Level "War Room" Simulations

It looks as though the popularity of using business simulations within small and medium sized companies has grown a lot of attention. So much so that a very popular business radio program did a special program on the topic. The Price of Business, one of the most listened to business radio talk shows recently did a segment about business simulations within smaller companies.

It’s a quick piece, but it might provide an easy to digest overview.

Business Simulations No Longer Just For the Fortune 500


Business Simulations have traditionally been reserved for the largest companies. This has all changed! It’s time for the little guy to gain access to these valuable tools. This levels the playing field when it comes to advanced corporate development or strategic development. The time has come for the little player to compete on a level playing field. Let’s start with defining these tools. What is a business simulation and what is it traditionally used for?

Business Simulations: Most Common Uses

- Leadership Development, Corporate Development, or Executive Development- This is the most common place to utilize a business simulation or serious game. These tools are traditionally used within training and development in order to teach managers effective leadership, business acumen, corporate strategy, or all of the above. Business simulations are highly engaging and today’s learners love them!

- Business War Gaming - This is where leaders within a company utilize a business simulation to test the corporate strategy before it’s implemented. Utilizing a business simulation for business war games gives executives the opportunity to test their strategy in a real time war game setting in order to test the corporate strategy. This enables the human element that traditional strategy development usually lacks.

These are just two examples of ways companies most commonly utilize business simulations and/or business war games. There are many more. If you are just getting started, we recommend picking up a copy of “Shift: Utilizing Business Simulations and Serious Games Within Corporate Learning’ at Amazon. It’s a very easy read and inexpensive. It will not give you step by step instructions on how to build a simulation, but it does give you great guidance on how to use them within corporate learning.

How To: Low Budget Scenario Based Learning That Excites Sticks!

Business Simulation Example
It’s hard to teach behavioral topics such as conflict management, negotiation, or leadership. It is also expensive to create (or re-create) a setup to enable people to practice these important managerial skills. Most companies let the natural course of time and experience hone these skills. A little intro theory mixed with some time hopefully creates the right outcomes. In today’s business environment, this is expensive! But how do you create scenarios without the time or expense (or all the resources)?

How to Create Scenario Based Learning That Sticks!

Lets assume you have a scenario based training topic that needs to be practiced by a lot of people. Go with a branching story! Branching stories are easy to create and are more engaging than people give them credit for. Here’s how a branching story works:

User logs into the computer and starts the ‘game’. As a result, the user reads something like: You walk into the company break room and two of your employees are having an argument. Do you a) turn around and walk out? b) Ask them politely to find a conference room and work it out? or c) Ask them to join you in a conference room in order to settle the issue?

Once someone selects an option, the computer adapts and changes the story depending on the option chosen. Let’s say you chose C. The computer then responds and says, Ok, you are in a conference room and the two employees refuse to talk. What do you do? a) Tell them to work it out or they will both be suspended without pay. b) Ask that one of them explains what happened. c) Tell them to go back to work and work it out after hours.

As you can see, there are “right” answers and “not so great answers”. They are all viable choices, but some are just better than others. Once the participants go through a series of choices, they will come to an ending. From this, they will learn what works and doesn’t work. They then have the option to try again in order to be better.

Voila! You just created an action learning module. These can easily be done in powerpoint or MS word. Very very easy!

Branching stories are a type of business simulation and are sometimes used as a leadership development simulation. Very easy to get started and you can find many resources on the web.

Excite People About Business Acumen?!? Here's How.

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Is it really possible to get a group of training participants excited about business acumen? Are people really willing to join a waiting list to get into a business acumen class? Yes, you can get people excited and you can create a wait list for business acumen! How you ask? You need to create a course that gives people a chance to apply the business acumen. There are many ways to do this. You can create board games, computer games, or paper based exercises. Getting started is easier than you might think.

3 Tips to Excite People About Business Acumen

3. Provide 30 minutes of theory and then let the participants loose practicing- Don’t lecture all day and then give them a piece of accounting paper and say “go!” Break it into pieces and give them some action learning modules. How about something like, “You have 10 minutes to put the correct expense into the correct income statement category.” Very simple exercises go a long.
2. Break the participants into teams- Business acumen training is lonely enough. How about putting the group into teams of 3 people. When you apply the learn-and-apply method above, the teams will work together. As a result, the participants will begin to teach each other.
1. Make it a game- Of course, you could use a business simulation, but this might be a little challenging to create yourself (even though people love it!). No matter the exercise, create a method of measurement (scoring), a sense of friendly competition, and a way to push people beyond their comfort zone and you have yourself a game!

As a result, if you turn your business acumen training into a game, create teams, and give action learning a real opportunity, your participants will be more engaged than ever.

3 Tips To Challenge and Engage Millennials

Training in the 2010s is nothing like it was in the 1990s, and if you want to stay ahead of the game it’s important to understand why. The Baby Boomer generation is on its way out (10,000 are retiring each day, according to Business Insider) and the Millennials are taking their places.

The Millennials are the first generation to grow up in a connected world, and this means their attitudes and expectations have been fashioned by the Internet. They despise stale, non-interactive training methods; they want training that is hands-on and keeps them engaged. Furthermore, they expect training to be ongoing: according to Pew Research, 89% of Millennials agree with the statement “It’s important to be constantly learning at my job.”

Here are 3 Tips to Engage Millennials in Corporate Training

1. Stop Telling People What to Think—Leave off on the preaching. Instead, focus on creating action learning modules in which participants can discover lessons on their own. And remember to leave time for participants to share with others what they learned.

2. Show People Why—Learning for the sake of learning is passé. People need to understand why a subject is important. If training participants recognize the importance of the training topic, they will be more willing to take the time to learn it.

3. Challenge Them—If your participants are bored, your training is a failure. Use Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow concept” to get optimal performance from your participants. According to Csikszentmihalyi, people do best when the challenge and the ability to achieve the goal are in balance.

Digital connectivity and rapid advances in technology have ushered us into a new age, transforming the workplace and business models. Training must adapt to the shifting landscape. By using the six tips above, you can make the transition a positive experience.

Why Should I Use a Business Simulation?

By now, most training and development managers know about business simulations. Most have at the very least heard of a business simulation. Many times, people ask, “Why should I use a business simulation?” This is a good question, and a tricky one to answer. But let’s give it a try:

Let’s be very clear here, a business simulation should only come after you have solid training content. If you have a specific budget for your leadership development program, make sure you spend enough on your training content. No matter how great a business simulation is, if it is built to reinforce poor training content, it won’t be very good.

Business simulation consultants will do their best to tell you that a business simulation is the best thing since sliced bread. The real fact is that great training content is still the best place to spend your budget. A business simulation should be tight, focused, and easy to implement. With that out of the way, let’s look at why you should use a business simulation.

Why Should I Use a Business Simulation?

- A business simulation enables trainees to practice and “play” with your training content. This naturalizes the learning
- Your training content will become more strategic. By combining the corporate strategy and your training content, your training content automatically becomes a strategic requirement.
- Today’s learners expect something highly relevant. Today’s learners want to understand why the training content is important and be able to see its immediate applicability.

An important thing to remember is that a business simulation does not necessarily have to be expensive or computer based. It is always a good idea to start small and focused. This will help ensure success within your leadership development program.

Book About Business Simulations For Corp. T&D

Do you know about business simulations? Have you taken a look at them lately? Or are you one of those that says, “Ya, I looked at these a few years ago and they’re not for me.” If you fall into that category, you should take another look. Here’s why:

What You Should Know About Modern Business Simulations

- The cost of simulations for leadership development or business acumen has come down substantially
- The time to develop these tools is far less than it was before
- Today’s workforce requires and demands applicable, challenging, and engaging training
- Business Simulations are not as broad as they used to be
- Getting started utilizing business simulations is a lot easier than it used to be

Like all technology, business simulations have come a long way in the past few years. The tools to develop these solutions are more robust, more mature, and easier to utilize. As a result, creating leadership development simulations is far easier and quicker than it used to be. Many people took a look a few years ago and discounted them due to a) their cost, b) their applicability, or c) both.

It might be time to take another look. In William Hall’s book titled, “Shift: Using Business Simulations and Serious Games”, he outlines easy ways to get started that might take little or no money. Mr. Hall outlines the idea of starting small, simple, and even outlines using paper based solutions as an effective tool to engage today’s learners. It’s worth taking a look (at $3.99), it’s a no brainer. (side note: we’re told its free to download from Amazon on Sept 13 and 20, 2015.

Sometimes, you just got to do some research and now might be the time. The book is available on Amazon here.

What The Heck is a Business Simulation Anyway?

Have you ever wondered to yourself, “What the heck is a business simulation?” Believe me, there are times when I still ask that question. In reality, the terms business simulation, business game, and gamification, all have similar definitions, but with slight differences. The greatest outlier is business gamification. This was a term marketing people loved and even TedTalks got involved in the hype. It has since died down significantly, and in a lot of ways, is disliked by many. So, as a result, I’ll focus on Business Simulation to keep things focused and simple.

What the heck is a business simulation?

To pull directly from Wikipedia (if its on Wikipedia, it must be true, right?): Business simulation is simulation used for business training, education or analysis. It can be scenario-based or numeric-based.

I’m not really sure this helps a whole lot. In general, we like to tell people: A business simulation is a game based action learning module that take parts of your business, mimics them, and combines this with your training goals and objectives. Still not helpful, ya, we understand. The super easy definition is: Business Simulations are scenarios that are created in order to let training participants practice your training content without the risk of doing it in real life.

The reason these definitions are so grey is that this means many different things to many different people. Let’s look at an example:

Training goals: Leadership Development- A business simulation will be used here to let people live a few positions above their current level. For example, a VP might live as the CEO. This forces them to think like a leader and practice being a leader before they are actually ready to do so. This will require them to be good at business, management, strategy, execution, and change management (to name just a few things). As a result, participants can practice your leadership development training content and really get to know it.

Hopefully, this helps just a little.

Are you Kidding?!? Business Simulation For Soft Skills?

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When you think of a business simulation, you probably think something along the lines of E=MC^2, right? Of course, most people do.

But how are companies successfully using a business simulation for the soft skills and are they using them at all for this? The short answer is, “Yes, companies are certainly using business simulations for the soft skills.” In reality, the long answer is that it depends (of course). Let’s take a closer look at the topic:

Business Simulations For The Soft Skills

Let’s start by all agreeing that effective behavior and leadership skills has a positive effect on business outcomes. We’re not going to go into the research, but this is a fair and proven assumption. The one problem is that people understand this, but they don’t really know how or how much. At the same time, today’s learners want to see impact, results, proof, and application. This is where effective use of a business simulation comes in.

A business simulation done right strikes an effective balance between soft skills and tangible business decisions. In reality, it doesn’t just balance them, it integrates them. Making a decision here has an effect there. This is what a simulation is all about... the experience without the risk.

Giving training and development participants the opportunity to experience the impact of effective management of the soft skills (communication, leadership, etc) is a fantastic use of a business simulation. When implementing this, it is critical to keep an eye on demonstrating the impact of the soft skills on hard outcomes. Otherwise, today’s learners will discount the content and focus more on tangible decisions.

So, in summary, companies are definitely using business simulations for the soft skills. But the simulations are not devoted strictly to the soft skills or the hard business skills. They are nicely balanced and integrated with one another.

Hope this helps!

What's The Difference?!? Simulations, Gamification, Serious Games?

Business Simulations and Games
Business Simulations? Business Gamification, Serious Games? What the heck is the difference?

This is a great question. In general terms, these are all forms of games. Marketing people love to change names of things. Let’s start by looking at Business Gamficiation:

Business Gamification. It's [was] all the rage, very catchy, and marketing managers just LOVE it. But what is it exactly? First of all, don't be overwhelmed.
Let's look at an example: Online forums... Ya know, those places you go to ask questions and get answers. You've probably noticed that certain people get points, prizes, or 'badges'. That's it! That's something that has been game-it-ized. What they've done is turned the use of a forum into a game via points and/or rewards. The goal is to get people to come back more and increase engagement. We're back in a technology boom so it's all about eye balls once again. Thus, if a company can keep people on their web site, the idea is this means they are an 'engaged' customer. This is gamification.

But, how does this relate to simulations or serious games? Great question. As has been repeated many times here, for simplicity purposes, don't get too caught up on the fancy terms. In many cases (not all) a business simulation is a form of game theory. Gamification is based on game theory. Serious Games are based on game theory. They aren't necessarily 100% all the same, but they share 98% of the same DNA.

A Business Simulation is going to be used to simulate a business or a function of a business. Serious games or gamification may not (but certainly could). This is why you shouldn't get too caught up on the terminology. If you are looking to simulate something in your business, call it a business simulation. If you're looking to engage people around a specific topic for marketing purposes, maybe call it gamification. It's up to you, but don't get too caught up in it. You probably have much better things to worry about.

Hope this helps!

Do I really Need a Business Simulation? The Basics Explained.

Business Simulations can seem like a daunting topic to learn about. But getting starting using business simulations can seem completely overwhelming. Are the too quantitative? Are they too technological? Do they have any personality at all? Do they really help?

But, the big question is, “Do I really need to use a business simulation?” Like any question this broad, the answer is: It depends. To help you get started, let’s look at the top questions to answer first:

1. Do you need to teach leadership’s effect on business results?
2. Do you have to teach some business acumen?
3. Are you looking for ways to connect your training content to the business?

In general (and this is a large in general), if you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you should begin to research ways to incorporate a business simulation into your training and development programs. The big question is: “How do I get started?” A very good place to get started is to do a little reading. There is a very easy to read and easy to understand book on Amazon that is a sort of entry level guide to business simulations for corporate training.

You can find a getting started book on Amazon here

But, in case you want the high level notes, here you go:

- Talk to peers in other companies about what they’re doing, how they did it, and what they learned
- Smaller simulations are usually better than large business simulations
- Some of the best business simulations are paper based... they’re not always computer based
- You might have to use a consulting company to start, but don’t let them take complete control away from you
- Focus on the goals of the training program and don’t let the simulation distract from those goals

The book goes into far more detail, but these are the high level takeaways. The book actually reviews game theory and game construction which is pretty interesting. No matter the case, this is an easy read and an easy place to get educated.

Hope this helps!

Business Simulations to Change Employee Behavior?!?


A Business Simulation to Change Organizational Behavior?

When most people think of a business simulation, they think Net Income, Profits, Net Margins, EBITDA, and other quantitative topics. But in reality, Business Simulations are sensational tools to encourage open behavioral change within a simulation. How does a Business Simulation do this? Let's take a look:

1. People learn why- The first thing people ask when change is required is, "Why?" It's a very natural question. A business simulation helps demonstrate to people the answer to why.
2. People can experience the whole picture- When people see the whole picture, they have a better understanding how they fit in to the change. Once they understand where they fit in, they're more willing to change.
3. Fun, challenging, and applicable- Put people into training that is fun, challenging, and applicable to their jobs, they quickly experience experience why the training is so important to the organization. Once they understand the applicability and importance of the corporate training, they are far more willing to change in order to do their jobs better.

These are just a few examples of how a business simulation can create rapid and positive behavioral change within your organization. This is why some of the top fortune 500 companies globally use business simulations for leadership development.

Another question is, “Why type of behavior can be changed?” The answer here is, “Almost any.” But, let’s look at some examples:

- Reduce organizational Silos and increase collaboration- Rats! Those dreaded silos. Organizational silos slow down productivity, create competition, and are rarely in the best interest of the company. Using a business simulation to reduce siloed thinking has a huge benefit to the company as a whole.
- Organizational wide decision making- A business simulation helps individuals better understand the machine they work in. More often than not, people know their job, their division, and their responsibilities. Having employees run your business gives them a “whole picture’ view of how they fit into the entire company.
- Better understanding for the ‘why’ behind decisions- When employees live a day as your CEO, they better understand the ‘why’ behind business decisions. This creates a more nimble organization.
- Better Leadership- Giving the employees a day as a leader helps them better understand leadership’s importance, methods, and effects on an organization. This creates an employee base of leaders.

This is just an overview. The summary is that just because the word ‘business’ is next to ‘simulation’ does not automatically mean its all finance. A good business simulation has just as much, if not more, behavioral components to it.

More Than The Business Simulation


When people think of a Sim training program, they often think of just the software itself. In reality, this is only a part of a leadership development simulation or business training simulation. A very important part of the solution is the case study. The case study often is thought of as secondary when it should be thought of equally important.

Importance of the Case Study for a Leadership Development Simulation or Business Training Simulation

The case study is where the corporate strategy, structure, uniqueness and details are revealed. This is important stuff! Because people often get over excited about the software part of the simulation, the case study is usually sent to the back burner. It is very important to keep the case study in focus or the foundation of your corporate development program will be diluted. Here are some key things to think about:

- Does your case study take into consideration your corporate development needs?
- Does your case study take into consideration the corporate strategy?
- Does your case study have enough information for participants?
- Does your case study have too much information (yes, this can happen)?
- Does your case study share a story and foundation?

These are some important parts of a case study when using a training simulation for corporate development. In many cases, its not a bad idea to hire a copywriter. Adding a sense of reality without duplicating your company verbatim is the balance you're trying to find.

So, in summary, don't put the case study in the background. You'll find its equally as important and needs ample attention.

Hope this helps!

Tailored or Custom Business Simulation?


Should I Go with Tailored or Custom Business Simulation?

This is a great question! But like always, it depends. As a general rule, the more budget you have to spend on a simulation, the better it's going to align with your training content and corporate development goals. But, there is a point where you only have so much to spend.

3 Reasons To Use a Tailored Business Simulation:

1. Limited Budget- If you're on a limited budget, tailored simulations are a great way to get into the world of very aligned, engaging, and applicable training programs.
2. Off the Shelf or Canned Business Simulation Just Don't Fit - In many cases, a canned solution just doesn't do the trick. Its hard to extract what is going on with your corporate development from a generic business that sells widgets. A tailored simulation removes this problem from the world of business simulations and corporate development.
3. Limited Time- You can bring a tailored simulation from concept to training in much less time than a custom business simulation

3 Reasons To Use a reasons to use a Custom Business Simulation:

1. Complex Integration of Corporate Strategy and Corporate Development Goals - When you are looking to combine corporate strategy with business acumen with leadership development, a custom business simulation is pretty much required.
2. Large Organization With A Deep Need For Effective Leadership - When you have a large roll out of a very complex initiative around leadership development, a leadership development simulation is pretty essential.
3. Highly Complex Business or Organization - If you are in a large complex multi-product global organization, a custom business simulation is probably going to be required to simulate your company’s solution and process.

So, in summary, it comes down to price and complexity. If you have a limited budget, it's a no brainer, go tailored. If you have complex needs within a complex organization, again, no brainer... go custom.

Hope this helps!

Top 3 Trends We See in Business Simulations Today


Are you asking, "What are the latest trends in the strange world of business simulations?" Of course you are :^). Well, since you probably aren't really asking that, we'll ask for you:

Top 3 Trends in Business Simulations

3. More Focus - We're seeing a trend towards people using a business simulation for a specific outcome or use. For example: Diversity training. This is an example of an application where a business simulation is deployed for 1/2 day. Gone are the monster multi-day business simulation training program. If you're considering getting a huge multi-day simulation, you either must have endless budget to spend or a consultant has taken over the steering wheel of your training program or leadership program.

2. Special Focus on Immediate Knowledge Application
- We've been seeing this for some time, but its happening more. There is an increased need to be able to have participants immediately use the skills they learned from practice within the business simulation.

1. More Accessible Business Simulations
- We're seeing greater and greater accessibility to business simulations. This is great news and primarily due to lower cost of development and platformization of the technology.

Hope this helps!