WFH! – The new normal for business simulations

Work From Home

The education industry has been slow to evolve, failing to incorporate techniques and technologies that better suit a new generation of students. While older generations were excellent at sitting through lectures and reading hundreds of book pages each and every night, those instructional methods only result in a disengaged and disinterested new generation of students. How can you adapt to better fit the instructional needs of your current students? The answer is Experiential Learning. Experiential learning refers to the process of learning through experience, or learning by doing. This can be easily achieved through a simulation. Just like pilot go through hundreds of simulations before actually stepping foot in a cockpit, a future CXO needs to experience business through a business simulation.

A business simulation places individuals in the role of executive management at a multi-million-dollar company, competing directly against other real or simulated teams to grab market share and grow their business. Participants begin by analysing the industry, the markets and their competition by reading reports. They use the information gathered to formulate a business strategy to grow their business. Later, they execute key decisions across major business functions.

With technological advancements and the current COVID situation across the globe, Work From Home (WFH) has become the new normal everywhere. The business simulations are not untouched from this global phenomenon in today’s time. In a WFH scenario a business simulation can be operated in two modes –

  • Sprint:

Instructors first teach the participants on an online platform such as Zoom which enables users to use breakout rooms. Then each team breaks-out in rooms for their respective teams, discuss potential strategies, input decisions before pre-agreed timelines and comeback to the main room to discuss the results of their inputs with the instructor along with all the teams. This process is repeated till the end of the simulation within a day or two.

Everything that occurs in this method is similar to the in-person simulation scenario of one team member logging into the Simulation on behalf of each team and sharing the screen with the other members of the team (in the private virtual room). This member of the team is also responsible for presenting the decisions of the teams in the simulation.

The instructor should certainly have familiarized himself with the use of private virtual breakout rooms in advance in order to do this function seamlessly. We have also found it beneficial to have 2 teaching assistants, one running the simulation and the other taking care of the video conferencing session, at least in the initial stages of use.

Another essential factor is that we ensure in the simulated proceedings is that there are ample relaxation breaks: at least a decent 30-minute break, after every 90 minutes. This is done to preserve participants levels of energy and commitment.

  • Marathon:

In this mode, the instructor explains the simulation, organizes the teams, distributes team logins/links, recommends schedules and distributes any preparatory reading/homework. He gives them a hands-on experience by may be playing a round or two in front of them. Next, the participants are given deadlines for every round. The duration between two rounds could range anything between two days to as much as a week. The participants decide their strategy amongst their team-mates via any method best suited to them and upload their decisions online. The rounds are processed at pre-decided times and the results of each round is disclosed online to every participant. The instructors then share a rundown of the outcomes of the round with all the teams, usually by only emailing some screenshots or though detailed debriefs. Any news alerts and deadline information for the next round is also distributed by the facilitator.

The students can get back to the instructor at any point during the simulation process in case of any queries regarding the simulation. The entire duration of such a mode can range from a fortnight to a couple of months. Towards the end of the simulation, the instructor reconnects with the participants again via video conferencing and discloses the final outcomes, provides team input on their learning, makes final observations.

Conclusion

The Sprint and Marathon modes are two key forms one can digitally operate Business Simulations. Both the modes have their own pros and cons and participants along with their institutions should select the mode that best suites their aspirations. Both modes are easy and only need a little practice by the instructor to produce as good an outcome as in-person sessions, like all well-run group activities. As a popular Chinese proverb puts it “The color of the cat does not matter as long as it can catch the mice”, similarly the mode in which we run the business simulation does not matter as long as we can effective deliver an experiential learning  course apt for today’s millennials.