Three Lessons from 10+ Years of Writing Sims
I've been creating business simulations for a pretty long time. Over 15 years, but over 13 years creating simulations for Fortune 500 companies. This has translated into over 100 custom sims and too many to count tailored of off the shelf solutions. Equally importantly, I've facilitated probably well over 500 programs for executives world wide. Some companies include Boeing, Caterpillar, Astrazenecca, Orbitz, McDonalds, and a ton more.
There are things I've learned that are probably worth sharing. Let's have a look at three lessons. Why three, because it feels balanced.
3 Lessons I've Learned from Over 10 Years of Creating and Facilitating Business Simulations
Lesson 1: Companies pay way too much by going with 'name brand providers' - If I was a good business man, I'd be a multimillionaire- easily. I can't tell you how many large companies come to me, look at solutions I can easily create for them, and are SHOCKED at the pricing. Shocked as in most say, "Whoa! Cheap!" Yes, it sort of bums me out a little, but I sleep really really well at night (actually, I don't. I'm a terrible sleeper, but I have absolutely NO guilt, remorse, or anything close). Another common thing that happens during corporate RPF processes is customers ask me to raise the price and re-submit. This one always amazes me. Creating business simulations is exceptionally hard. Most of the work comes in translating the needs of the program into a game format in addition to all the support additions that make the simulation program successful. Creating the actual simulation is usually a good solid two weeks of actual programming. Why so fast? Because I spent 2 years creating a simulation platform that is crazy easy to adjust, scale, and mold into a new simulation. The other reason leads me to Lesson 2:
Lesson 2: Your simulation is probably way too big and complicated- It was tough to make this number 2, but there it is. A business simulation should be exceptionally focused! If you've hired a firm to create a sim, I can almost guarantee its too large. Business simulations have 1 job: Reinforce and turn your training content/goals into action. They are NOT designed to teach the program. Worse yet, they should not 'steal the show' of your training program. Most sim providers make programs too large and these solutions are not sustainable. This almost always happens due to the required skills to manage and facilitate a program. The companies become completely dependent on the consultant. It's just not fair, but happens all the time.
Lesson 3: People should think outside the computer and/or game box- Some of my most successful simulation solutions don't require a computer or a board game. A simulation, but definition, is just that: a simulation, "the action of pretending; deception: clever simulation that's good enough to trick you." Thus, your 'simulation' might involve acting, scenario based training, branching story, etc. It really does not need to be computer based. In many cases a computer solution might get in the way.
I can't tell you how many companies I've had to go into to cleanup the simulation mess left behind by larger sim providers. It's incredibly frustrating and the customers feel like they've been taken advantage of, feel bad about themselves, etc. It's just too bad. One I went into to cleanup was actually being sued by the sim provider and the lawyers were just going to pay them to go away. Absolutely amazing. Suing your own customers, now that's a new revenue stream.
So, if you're thinking of hiring a publicly traded sim provider, be careful. They are exceptionally good at creating contracts you can't get out of easily. You might consider a smaller provider. There are a few of us out there that pride ourselves on doing the right thing and we're probably better than the big guys. Also, do a search for, "Shift: Using Business Simulations" in Amazon. Its a book I quickly wrote about getting started in sims and games. very easy to read and cheap. I also try to put it up for free when Amazon lets me. Amazingly enough, it has sold thousands of copies and people seem to like it. Yay!