Learning and Simulation Purpose
As part of my Churchill Fellowship I investigated some two thousand uses of business simulations and spoke with trainers, training providers and HR Executives in the UK, Europe and the USA asking them why they used business simulations.
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I found that my Churchill Fellowship study showed that use and the client needs varied widely but theser needs fell into five groups:
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Although these are separate aspects, every adult learning course or activity that I have been involved with focused on one or two elements BUT (as illustrated in the diagram below) usually involve ALL elements.
The information on this page is extracted from the book SIMULATION: Virtual Business Experience. A chapter describing why companies use business simulations can be downloaded here
Although I feel business simulations are not good at introducing new material they provide an excellent way of exploring knowledge and testing understanding. The knowledge that is to be exercised can be viewed in several ways:
Course derived Knowledge
Prior Learning and Experience
Usually the prime reason for using the simulation is to exercise the new knowledge presented on the course. However, the brevity of most management courses means that there is often a need to use and exercise prior learning and experience.
Ideally, the simulation must map closely with the course knowledge. However, the scope of the simulation scenario and the complexity of the model may mean that a wider range of knowledge and experience is needed. If this is not covered by prior learning then coaching, additional readings or even course modification (as a last resort) may be needed.
When matching knowledge needs we must not just look at individual participants. Since they are working as part of a team, they can share knowledge and experience and learn from each other. (Learn more about the issues associated with participants.)
The areas of knowledge exploration include the following:
- Strategic Management
- Tactical Management
- Business Appreciation
- Marketing Management
- Financial Management
- Financial Appreciation
- Operations Management
- Application of Techniques
- Illustration of Concepts
The practical nature of simulations provides an opportunity for participants to practice, develop and hone management skills. Those commonly practiced by simulations are:
- Analysis & Diagnosis
- Decision Making
- Problem Solving
- Handling Ambiguity
- Handling Uncertainty
- Critical Thinking
- Managing Dynamics
- Team Working
- Business Presentation
Most forms of participant centred and experiential learning tend to engender involvement and stimulate hard work. So, they are for used to:
- Encourage Competition
- Break down Inhibitions
- Engender Excitement
- Change Pace
- Emphasise Profit
- Focus on Results
- Build the Team
- Build Relationships
- Fulfill Adult Learning Needs
But beyond this they are used to motivate business people to be profit and money oriented. For example, I remember suggesting to a group of sales directors that they should be responsible for debtors (accounts receivable) and not delegate this to the accountants. I suggested this because I feel that is necessary for sales to manage all the relationships with customers. Initially there was disagreement but after participating in a simple simulation, their views changed.
The traditional academic examination is unlikely to be appropriate for practicing managers. However, as managers take charge of their life-long learning needs, they need an activity that tests and challenges their knowledge and skills. Further, the tutor and course designer needs to assess the quality and appropriateness of the course. So the assessment/evaluation dimension is important.
This leads to several assessment options and needs - both for the participants and for the tutor.
||Assessing the Learner|
The first three (self assessment, informal assessment and formal assessment) are all from the viewpoint of the learners.
As learners take charge of their own managerial development and learning needs they need to be continuously assessing and defining future learning. And, this can be supported by the trainer informally assessing delegates - although this must be done with care as it can interfere with learning.
Simulations are used on Assessment and Development Centres to assess a wide range of competencies.
The last four (course changes, prior learning, future courses and remedial learning) are all from the viewpoint of the trainer, evaluating training and training needs.
Using a simulation at the end of a course to draw it together not only refreshes and challenges the learning but also allows the course director to assess how the various parts of the course have delivered learning (and this is particularly important if different parts of the course are delivered by different trainers.
The knowledge and experience sets vary considerably between course members and this coupled with learner expectations means that the trainer must attempt to position the course to best meet learner needs and draw on their prior learning. Consequentially, many trainers use a short simulation at the start of a course to assess prior learning, delegate needs and start the course with a bang!
A course should only be one in a series of learning initiatives. Thus both the company trainer and the training consultant are concerned with identifying future learning needs and training opportunities.
Finally, as the course proceeds, the trainer must identify the learners who need help. Here, a simulation used as a course theme linking the session can help the trainer identify these needs and provide remedial teaching.
The final reason simulations are used is that of enhancing the learning process (cognitive development). Typically simulations are used to:
- Integrate Course Sessions
- Integrate with Prior Knowledge
- Assimilation of Knowledge
- Test Understanding
- Revise, Review & Reinforce
- Active Learning
- Clinical Practice
This is the reason I see business simulations taking participants "from knowledge through simulated experienct to wisdom"
Most recent update:24/07/15
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