5 Steps to Creating Business Acumen Training for Today's Learner


With the aging boomers and the lack of experience of the current middle managers, companies are scrambling to build the corporate talent bench. A large part of building this bench is effective business acumen. I'm not talking about the generic, theoretical business acumen traditionally taught in colleges. I'm talking about the real sticky stuff. The 'finance meets people meets marketing meets operations, meets IT, meets leadership, meets corporate strategy meets the impact on the bottom line performance' type of business acumen. The real stuff leaders used to learn over the course of many years. The real-deal business acumen.

Today's learners want to learn-by-doing. They want to get messy, make mistakes, take no prisoners, and really go deep into lthe earning type of learning. Theoretical slides are simply not acceptable. Today's learners also thrive in competition and expect learning solutions to be digital. When creating a business acumen course, or a course that contains business acumen, it is important to include a 'hand-on' module. The tricky part comes in when you think about the 'how' of implementing a hands-on business acumen course (or module).

Of course, having a business simulation is ideal, but maybe this is a little much for you. No problem: Its time to get creative with good old paper and pen. Let's have a look:

5 Steps to Create An Engaging Business Acumen Training Program:

1. Create a basic case study- This might sound like a big deal, but it really doesn't need to be. Just sit down, think, and start typing. You'll be surprised what you can create. Not a writer? No problem. Go to Upwork and find someone. The case study needs to introduce the basic back story. This doesn't need to be long.
2. Create the case data- This can get a little more tricky. Don't worry, it's doable. In this step, you need to create some basic market data. This data will be somewhat dependent on your case but should include: A product/service, the size (units) of the marketplace, and any sort of trend data. Think about a Harvard Business Case- It has a story and some basic data (never complete).
3. Create a 'decision sheet'- This sheet is where participants will decide what to do- Keep it simple and doable by giving the participants choices. In other words, give them choices such as raise price, lower price, increase marketing, lower marketing, invest more in R&D, spent more on training and development, etc. Give the participants at least 10 choices (20 is probably better).
4. Create a master scoring sheet for yourself- Create a sheet that will enable you to score the participant's answers. For example, if they lower price, revenue might go down a little, but market share goes up. The answers/scores need to align with your case study and what might happen in the real world.
5. Break the class into teams- Break your class into teams, give them the case study, have them make decisions, score them, and then present what happened and why.

The trick to this method is that the case study (and class in general) need to be aligned behind what you want the participants to learn from the business acumen training program. If the top three goals are: 1) Financial Statements, 2) Valuation, and 3) Customer Value then all your decisions needs to effect all or some of the scores.

I completely understand that this is complicated. Business Acumen is very important, but is not easy to teach. Throwing slides at the participants doesn't work. Creating a few basic hands on modules can go a long way. Trust me: If you take some quiet time, think about the program, you can create something that is far more engaging than just slides.