Why Corporate Cartooning

I see business simulation as the mathematical equivalent of a comic or cartoon strip. If you are an academic designer of business simulations you may find this equivalence distressing and upsetting!






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Eisner (1985) uses the term sequential art in the context of the comic (strip cartoon) but McCloud (1993) refines the definition for comics to “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer”. With business simulations we are looking at how sequences of interactions with mathematical algorithms (models) are used to derive didactic responses from the participating learners and to provide an engaging experience – an experience that delivers learning.

Both cartoon/comic strips and business simulations have the same characteristics as they both

• are simplified and stylised replicas of the real-world
lead to an ultimate denouement (the ha ha or the aha)
are engaging and insightful
• are memorable (fifteen to nineteen times more memorable than lectures)
require prior knowledge (eg. office life for Dilbert and some business knowledge for simulations)
are constrained (by page space for comic strips and duration for simulations)

Replicating reality the reel problem or the real problem

When I keynoted the 2008 ISAGA conference I illustrated the use of simulations to provide experiential learning with two cartoons both illustrating how kittens learn to hunt and hone their skills. First the usual way kittens learn and then they way my adult cat decided to facilitate learning to hunt (the cat, the kitten, they hysterical bird and the naked man).

The usual way a kitten learns to hunt

The dog (Dean of Games) takes the academic, pedantic view where as the Cat (Computer Aided Trainer) takes the practical view. Also, note the subtle play on reel vs. real!

How my adult cat facilitated learning to hunt

The comic strip above requires some explanation. It was a hot summer's day and after working in my garden I was relaxing in the bath when I heard a bird squawking loudly. I did nothing until I realised the noise was from within my house rather than in the garden. Dripping and naked I got out of the bath and went to investigate. At the corner of the corridor I saw my adult cat lying down with a broad grin on his face. From around the corner there was the sound of a squawking bird. On reaching the corner and looking round it, I saw a large, hysterical black bird with a very large, sharp, yellow beak. Nearby was my new kitten who was non-plussed and totally overwhelmed. Gathering the cat and the kitten in each arm I shut them away. I was faced with the problem of how to get the bird out of my house. As the bird was by my front door I felt that if I opened this the bird would escape through it. But I saw two risks. First I was naked and to open the door I had to lean over the bird (that had a very sharp beak). Second,I have a small open front garden and someone might be passing in the street. Happily, I survived both risks.

After this, my adult cat learnt from the experience. Instead of bringing in birds for the kitten he sat on the back of a chair and twitched his tail in front of the kitten to simulate a bird or mouse.

The moral: If cats find simulation better than learning from real-world experience and can use a simplified and stylised replica of the real-world - the reel world - surely business people can too!

More importantly I use the compositional rules of comic strips to develop my meta-compositional rules for business simulations.

Learn more about meta-composition

Eisner, Will (1985) Comics and Sequential Art, Poorhouse Press, Tamarac, Florida
McCloud, Scott (1993) Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, HarperPerennial, New York

© 2015 Jeremy J. S. B. Hall

Most recent update: 19/07/15
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