I vividly remember how profoundly my first business simulation experience impacted me as a student. My colleagues and I were in the last module of our MBA program and felt confident that we’d acquired the tools to make effective strategic business decisions, and the simulation was to be the proof of that.
We were all quickly humbled.
Any academic competence we had did NOT seamlessly translate into effective performance in the simulation! We struggled to integrate the different analytical approaches we’d picked up over the course of our program and apply them in competitive, dynamic and team-work based environment. Yet for all of it’s challenges, the simulation was without doubt the most demanding, but effective, learning experience of my MBA.
I had stumbled on the reality that the deliberate practice that a business simulation entails, should be the most important feature of any management training program.
The Importance of Deliberate Practice
Researchers of medical training pedagogy have shown that deliberate practice is a more powerful predictor of superior expert performance than either experience or academic aptitude. Although the dynamic, competitive and complex nature of business defies drawing such a clear cut conclusion for management training and practice, the principle surely holds that deliberately practicing strategic decision making can only benefit a current or aspiring corporate leader.
Deliberate practice is important for the same reasons that management training is important – the failure of current or aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders to successfully navigate corporate decision-making can mean lost clients, market share and reputations and can ultimately lead to redundancies, fines and even bankruptcy.
Deliberate Practice & Business Simulations
In a slight deviation from other segments in this blog series, I want to focus less on implementation practices and more so on the benefits of deliberate practice. Specifically, there are nine key components of deliberate practice, each of which is integral to an effective business simulation program, explained in the following table.
There isn’t enough deliberate practice happening in most business education programs
The key challenge for many business simulation programs is that even though learners are almost universally enthusiastic about the experience, they aren’t used often enough. They usually only occur once per cohort in an academic program, or as a one-off in the corporate environment. Both academic and corporate L&D trainers often opt for simpler teaching methodologies, like lectures or case studies, even when they might be less effective.
Typically this is because of the perception that repeating and adapting a simulation is resource intensive. But the idea that simulations are necessarily cumbersome or expensive is simply outdated: As simulations continue to generate sky-high learning outcomes, education software providers are jumping at the opportunity to make these tools more accessible through cloud-technology. Increases in accessibility, combined with the learning outcome benefits through deliberate practice, should encourage business educators to incorporate simulation-based learning as a core feature of their management training programs.
Indeed, both academic and corporate programs would be well served by not just using a strategic simulation as a program ‘capstone’ or one-off, but running them regularly, allowing learners to:
- As new management students:
- Confront the nature and scale of the challenge of making strategic business decisions
- Get accustomed to ‘pulling the trigger’, and making capital allocation decisions under uncertainty
- Get accustomed to making team-based decisions under uncertainty
- As more advanced trainees:
- Apply the technical and analytical tools they are acquiring in the course of their management training program
- As experienced practitioners and ‘end-of-course’ learners
- Get a tangible sense of the improvements they have made in developing a robust approach to team-based strategic decision making under uncertainty
Allowing learners to deliberately practice the theoretical knowledge they’ve learned is not just an important component of any educational initiative – it is the foundation for ‘learning by doing.’ Next up, we’ll continue our this Blog Series with a new post on Mastery Learning.
Be sure to check out our other posts in the series by following the links below. For more information on how HFX can help you with simulation-based business strategy training, please contact us.