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Training for business success: Learn management through games

There is no substitute for experience. Being able to know first hand what to do in a certain situation and to do it fast saves lives, time and money. Since time IS money when it comes to business, the benefit of having experienced employees and management becomes all too clear. And although they are an invaluable asset to any firm, experienced employees are hard to come by and their services often expensive to obtain. If you’re a small business or a struggling one, that might not always be an option. Maybe the only thing left for you is to try and learn all the things you need the hard way – through your own mistakes. Your employees and management will have to as well. Because experience means knowledge, expertise, know-how… And that’s what’s making the world go round. And it keeps you in business. It is a fact that’s been proven over and over again and so far nothing was able to compensate for the ability to learn from one’s own mistakes. Well, things change.

Introducing business simulations

Games have been used as an educational tool for centuries. It is widely believed that the Chinese used them as war simulations several thousand years ago. According to American economist Thomas Naylor, the first business simulation game was developed in 1956. by the American Management Association and it was called the Top Management Decision Game. It started a small revolution in the way businessmen were educated and from that time, more and more business simulation games were created and used, culminating in the creation of the business simulation computer games.
Business and economic simulation computer games try to incorporate realistic elements of doing business and economic processes into a safe, virtual environment, where the users can do whatever they want and experiment with different methods without real world repercussions (and without destroying lives and property in the process). They were first introduced as such in the 1980’s. The first among them is regarded to be the game called M.U.L.E (Multiple Use Labor Element), introduced in 1983. by Ozark Softscape and Electronic Arts. It was a very basic multiplayer game that relied on the player’s efficiency in resource allocation and redistribution and served as a basic supply and demand exercise. Modern games have come a long way since then, introducing new variables, parameters and increasingly complex relations between them. Even though, the basic concepts remained the same – beat your opponents by being more efficient at what you do, knowing more than they do and making your business thrive.

What can games teach us?

The answer is – a lot, really. The educational potential of the virtual environment is growing as technology advances and is soon to be limited only by the creativity, knowledge and the imagination of its creators. For now, some limitations exist and not all skills and skill sets can be taught this way. But quite a few can be. And they can be taught very successfully. For example:

Supply chain management

– One of the crucial skills required to run a successful business. Knowing how to organize an efficient supply chain can often mean the difference between profit and loss and, in more extreme cases, between succeeding and going bankrupt.  This skill set also includes dealing with late deliveries, unreliable clients, breaches of contract, problems  caused by “vis maior”, law suits and other similar expected or unexpected difficulties.

Project management

– It encompasses a lot of vital managerial skills, such as time management, delegating tasks, coaching, managing the project’s financial affairs and, depending on the type and complexity of the project in question, a whole lot more. Most skills necessary for successful project management can be taught via business simulation games.

Finance

– Finance is a very broad area of expertise that includes a vast array of skills and skill sets.  Anything from accounting, financial report analysis, asset management, risk management and many other topics can be covered and taught by simulation games.

These are just some of the subjects that can be taught successfully and safely in a virtual environment.

To be continued…

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