Thursday, May 23, 2013

Business Simulations Positively Impact MBA Training

Using business simulations has proven to be an extremely effective way to give MBAs practical, hands-on skills in a non-threatening environment.

Trying out solutions without risk
Typically in these simulations, participants are organized into teams that compete to solve a hypothetical business problem, and it is an excellent way to introduce MBA students to the types of challenges they’ll face when they start running companies. Unlike the more traditional training experience, a business simulation models natural systems and human interactions. It can be an especially powerful intervention tool when learning objectives include a change in behavior. Participants are able to see and discuss how they behave, make decisions, and collaborate with others in a realistic scenario. Simulations can pack a remarkable amount of learning into a short time-frame, yet the lessons are sustainable and transferrable to the workplace. MBA students can be much more prepared for situations they were previously not ready for.

Practice makes perfect
Simulations address the classic issue of MBA graduates who are highly knowledgeable about management theories but then forget how to apply them under stress. This stems from the ideas of organizational and experiential learning theorist Chris Argyris. He suggests that our espoused theories (what we know) do not always translate into our theories in use (what we do). This seems to be especially true when there is ambiguity, stress, or a charged emotional environment, all of which are common elements in today’s high-stakes and fast-paced business world.

Bridging the knowledge application gap
Simulations help bridge the knowledge-application gap by compressing the “learning horizon.” This is a term coined by organizational learning thought leader Peter Senge, and it refers to the time required to experience and then understand the consequences of our actions and behaviors. When we are dealing with complex problems in an environment with a lot of noise, the learning horizon may be extended so far that the connection between action and consequence can be lost. This can be remedied with simulated learning. By compressing the learning horizon in a simulated learning experience, we accelerate the time from action to consequence to learning. Simulations provide opportunities for reflection on behaviors and the chance to experiment with new ones, in a compressed, safe, and non-judgmental environment. In a simulation, individuals can step outside comfort zones, try out new ideas and behaviors, and make mistakes– all without risk to careers or the organization.

Changing the heart as well as the head
In a simulation, attitudes, knowledge, and skills learned in business school are called into action as adults actively participate in situations involving the whole person. The best simulations challenge the heart, as well as the head. This is not often the case in traditional classroom training experience.

For more information on effective business simulations, please visit our website at, or email us at

Adapted from an interview with Chris Musselwhite for the following article:
Weinstein, Margery. “B-School vs. C-School: Does an MBA necessarily translate into success behind the desk in the corporate world?” Training magazine, The Lakewood Media Group. March 27, 2012. 

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