Business Simulations: Why Are They Effective

Published on: December 2015

You’re buckling in for an overseas flight in a brand-new Boeing 777. The pilot comes on the PA: “Ah, ladies and gentlemen, our flight time today will be six and a half hours at a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet. And I should mention that this is the first time I have ever flown a 777. Wish me luck.”

Before setting foot in the real world, pilots, military personnel and disaster response teams use intense simulations to learn how to respond to high-intensity challenges.Why should we place corporate leaders and their teams in situations without first giving them a chance to try things out? The risks are huge — new strategy investments can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. BTS offers a better way to turn strategy into action: customized business simulations.


‘Now I Know What it’s Like to be CEO’

A customized business simulation of your enterprise, business unit or process, using real-world competitive dynamics, places leaders in a context where they step out of their normal day-to-day roles and gain exposure to the big picture. Participants make decisions in a risk-free environment, allowing them to experience critical interdependencies, execution best practices and the levers they can use to optimize their company’s key performance indicators. It takes the concept of a strategy and makes it personal, giving each individual the chance to see the direct impacts of their actions and the role they play in strategy execution.

Leading corporations are increasingly turning to business simulations to help build strategic alignment and execution capability when faced with the following business challenges:

  • Key performance objective and new strategy implementation.
  • Accelerating strategy execution and innovation.
  • Improving business acumen and financial decision making.
  • Transforming sales programs into business results accelerators.
  • Leadership development focused on front-line execution.
  • Implementing culture change as tied to strategy alignment.
  • Modeling complex value chains for collaborative cost elimination.
  • Merger integration.

Within minutes of being placed in a business simulation, users are grappling with issues and decisions that they must make — now. A year gets compressed into a day or less. Competition among teams spurs engagement, invention and discovery.

The Business Simulation Continuum: Customize to Fit Your Needs

Simulations have a broad range of applications, from building deep strategic alignment to developing execution capability. The more customized the simulation, the more experience participants can bring back to the job in execution and results. Think about it: why design a learning experience around generic competency models or broad definitions of success when the point is to improve within your business context?  When you instead simulate what “great” looks like for your organization, you exponentially increase the efficacy of your program. 

RELATED CONTENT: What do we mean by “great”? Read more on the BTS Great Framework here.

10 Elements of Highly Effective Business Simulations

With 30 years of experience building and implementing highly customized simulations for Fortune 500 companies, BTS has developed the 10 critical elements of an effective business simulation:

  1. Highly realistic with points of realism targeted to drive experiential learning.
  2. Dynamically competitive with decisions and results impacted by peers’ decisions in an intense, yet fun, environment.
  3. Illustrative, not prescriptive or deterministic, with a focus on new ways of thinking.
  4. Catalyzes discussion of critical issues with learning coming from discussion within teams and among individuals.
  5. Business-relevant feedback, a mechanism to relate the simulation experience directly back to the company’s business and key strategic priorities.
  6. Delivered with excellence : High levels of quality and inclusion of such design elements as group discussion, humor, coaching and competition that make the experience highly interactive, intriguing, emotional, fun, and satisfying.
  7. User driven: Progress through the business simulation experience is controlled by participants and accommodates a variety of learning and work styles.
  8. Designed for a specific target audience, level and business need.
  9. Outcome focused , so that changes in mindset lead to concrete actions.
  10. Enables and builds community: Interpersonal networks are created and extended through chat rooms, threaded discussions and issue-focused e-mail groups; participants support and share with peers.
Better Results, Faster

Well-designed business simulations are proven to significantly accelerate the time to value of corporate initiatives. A new strategy can be delivered to a global workforce and execution capability can be developed quickly, consistently and cost-effectively. It’s made personal, so that back on the job, participants own the new strategy and share their enthusiasm and commitment. This in turn yields tangible results; according to a research report conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by BTS, titled “Mindsets: Gaining Buy-In to Strategy,” the majority of firms struggle to achieve buy-in to strategy, but those that personalize strategy throughout their organization significantly outperform their peers in terms of profitability, revenue growth and market share.

Business Simulations: Even More Powerful in Combination

Comprehensive deployment of business simulation and experiential learning programs combines live and online experiences. The deepest alignment, mindset shift and capability building takes place over time through a series of well-designed activities. Maximize impact by linking engagement and skill building to organizational objectives and by involving leadership throughout the process.

Putting Business Simulations to Work

Simulations drive strategic alignment, sales force transformation, and business acumen, financial acumen and leadership development, among other areas. A successful experiential learning program cements strategic alignment and builds execution capability across the entire organization, turning strategy into action. Results can be measured in team effectiveness, company alignment, revenue growth and share price.

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Business Simulations: Why Are They Effective

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