Just Say No To Huge Sims!

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I have had the displeasure of being hired to cleanup yet another oversized sim mess. It frustrates me to no end when I have to go into a customer's offices in order to cleanup the mess left behind as the result of hiring a huge firm that tried to create a monster sim. I feel bad for the customers and it makes me dislike my own industry (even though I love what I do for a living and couldn't imagine doing anything else). I want to be clear here:

Just Say No To Huge Sims (unless you have tons of money to waste).

Let's have a quick look why using smaller focused business simulation is more effective than monster sims.

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Business Simulations and Behavioral Economics

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You might be saying, "Behavioral economics? I'm outa here!" But hang tight because it's actually pretty interesting. I'm going to pull everything from online sources and I won't get into the math or anything overly deep. It is worth reading because behavioral economics goes right to the core of the reason why relativity based business simulations are superior to static model based simulations. Let's dive it.

Behavioral Economics studies the effects of psychological, social, cognitive, and emotional factors on the economic decisions of individuals and institutions and the consequences for market prices, returns, and resource allocation, although not always that narrowly, but also more generally, of the impact of different kinds of behavior, in different environments of varying experimental values. (source: Wikipedia). I have to say that this is actually a pretty easy to understand and overall nicely laid out description of such a complicated topic.

Business Simulations are tools utilized to reinforce corporate training and development program material. In most cases, these tools are in the form of a game based method where teams are making decisions in order to see an outcome.

There is a substantial criteria that you need to think about when you think about business simulations: Relativity Modeling. This basically means the business simulation should be setup in order for participants to compete with each other. You are probably able to see why behavioral econ and relativity based simulation modeling go hand in hand.

By utilizing a relativity model, you are more in line with the advantages of behavioral economics. The nice thing about behavioral econ is that it takes into account the human emotion part of the economics equation(s). Thus, this is why business simulations is such a great fit for leadership development programs. Leadership, at its core, is a behavior. By implementing a business simulation that takes into account the behavior of the program, you are by default adding a real-real world scenario that can be found in no other place.

So yes, behavioral economics and relativity based business simulations are cut from the same cloth. This might seem somewhat esoteric, but the general gist is that when you're looking for a business simulation for leadership development, it is important to look for a solution where teams are competing against each other and not against the computer. Also, make sure they aren't competing against the computer and then comparing their scores. This is basically the same thing. Relativity based solutions are more real, more engaging, and proven to be more effective.

How To Succeed Using Business Simulations: Focus!

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How do you ensure success when using business simulations? The single greatest way to ensure success if to focus. Like almost anything today, there is opportunity for more, and more, and more. Business simulations are no exception to this trend. As a training and development manager, business manager, or head or HR, you'll find a strong urge to add more and more to your training simulation. Just remember: Focus!

Using a business simulation for leadership development, business acumen, or any other specific training program is great. Like other tools for learning, you need to make certain the solution is grounded in a solid foundation. Here are some tips to attain the correct focus when using sims and games for learning:

Three Simple Tips That Create Focus:


1. Write down the three reasons you want to use a business simulation- Make certain these reasons are very clear and detailed. A reason such as, "Because it will be engaging" is probably a little weak. Instead, how about, "Challenge learning participants to apply the training content in a level slightly above their current capability." Think hard about the details.
2. Write down and get buy in on the three measurable goals of your training program- This is important! Having very clearly and agreed upon goals of your training program will help create grounded focus for your business training simulation. Having these written down will decrease your chance of scope creep.
3. Keep the program goals and reasons in sight at all times- Keeping the goals and reasons for using a business simulation will ensure focus. If you create these and then put them away in a folder, scope creep is almost guaranteed.

Using a simulation for corporate development is a great way to reinforce your training content. Sims can also act a little like candy: Once you get a taste of it, you're going to want more. The single biggest reason programs fail is size. Once a simulation becomes too large, it falls under it's own weight. The trick to keeping a 'skinny' sim is focus. Just make sure the sim does not do anything beyond your focus and you'll be fine.