Why did I create the Business Simulation Hub?
An impending "digital revolution" in higher education has been a received wisdom for decades now. Yet, before COVID-19, the revolution had appeared forever postponed. After a year of online teaching in Summer 2021, I was excited by the innovation in business simulations and frustrated by the lack of a channel to find out about simulations and to publish them. I had made a small simulation myself (The Data Imperative Game) but the established channels for distributing teaching cases did not even answer my emails.
There are at least four forces that appear to give birth to a golden age for business simulations:
1. The rise of online and blended learning
Academics have been slow in moving to digital learning, lacking any incentives. At the same time, corporate talent development units did experiment with digital learning initiatives, but remained cautious in rolling them out. The pandemic has made both the educators and the participants appreciate digital learning as a viable and convenient alternative.
This has translated into increased business. Various simulation companies I have talked with claimed they have roughly doubled their revenues during the pandemic. The changes seem more pronounced for companies targeting corporate clients. With the number of online and blended MBA programs increasing, I foresee the academic use of simulations to be increasing as well.
2. Generational shift
During the past ten years, business professors have shifted away from 20-30 page long "Harvard style" case studies towards shorter articles and videos. The present generation of executives and business school students have shorter attention spans and less time to prepare for classes. The coming generation of students and managers are more attuned to interactive experiences. Simulations offer an even more engaging and memorable form to learn than news articles and videos.
3. Technological advances
The entry barriers for creating simulations are rapidly decreasing. Thanks to powerful platform technologies and free cloud hosting, it is now possible to create small simulations with far less resources than before. In every industry, decreasing entry barriers and implementation costs lead to more innovation. During the past three years, many new companies have entered the market for business simulations, often with new concepts that complement rather than compete with more established players.
The coming decade promises great advances in business simulations. Already products are migrating from laptops to interfaces designed for mobile phone use. Perhaps augmented reality and virtual reality simulations are not that far away?
4. Incorporating storytelling and new pedagogical goals into simulations
New entrants have broadened the range of simulations. The "first generation" of business simulations originated from MIT's Sloan School and drew inspiration from system dynamics. This is a powerful perspective for building simulations that enable participants to experience complex dynamics around topics such as competitive strategy, market positioning, and pricing.
In the past decade, however, business simulations have also incorporated storytelling and "roleplaying" elements, setting up memorable scenarios and choices that can be unpacked in the debriefing session with a professor or facilitator. Storytelling is particularly suited for topics such as leadership, teamwork, and sales, where the context is often too complex and messy to simulate "accurately".
Some simulations already incorporate personalized feedback and video lectures to facilitate learning, taking on some of the activities traditionally carried out by professors.