BOARD SIMULATIONS FOR MANAGEMENT—A DESIGNER’S PERSPECTIVE

THREE REASONS BOARD SIMULATIONS BENEFIT BUSINESS

By Tim Reeves

In his HBR article, “WHAT BOARD GAMES CAN TEACH BUSINESS” (January–February 2015 issue), Andrew Innes concludes with a thought-provoking statement: “Monopoly may be the world’s favorite business-themed game, but it’s not necessarily the best one to hone your management skills or teach you what you need to win in business today.”

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I would go further. As a designer of custom business simulations for the past 20 years, I can categorically say that the most effective board game or simulation to teach or hone management skills is one that is built specifically for that purpose. Custom board simulations are a versatile and powerful learning tool for corporate training and development for a number of reasons:

  • Experiential Learning: Boards, due to their tactile nature and playability, speak to the adult learning preference for experiential learning. Reinforcing the experience of taking action and owning outcomes is the kinesthetic learning that stems from the handling of the board game materials such as cards, money, gauges representing key performance indicators, and the visual learning of looking at one’s business laid out on a poster-sized piece of paper.
  • Relevant Experience: One’s business—the business in which you, as a participant, work and for which you are responsible—is the second critical aspect for the adult learner. The experience must be relevant to the learner. As a board simulation architect, this is my greatest challenge and reward. The art is to distill a complex dynamic enterprise into key processes and learning points and render them on a two-foot by three-foot piece of real estate. When participants assume that I must have worked for their company to be able to create simplicity out of chaos, then I know I have served the learning.
  • Cascading Capability: A board simulation is a good return on investment for the buyer, especially when it is a customized solution. Senior leaders can use them as a communication tool to convey strategy, build alignment across the organization, or illustrate how individuals create and add value. Boards are transportable and easily facilitated, making them ideal tools for cascading information throughout the company in more memorable ways than a “road show” or PowerPoint presentation.

I have developed simulations for more than 20 different industries, covering all organization levels from sales teams looking to better understand their customers, to individual contributors wondering how their company makes money, to first-line supervisors striving to engage their employees, to mid- and senior-level managers who are polishing business acumen skills or practicing a new go-to-market strategy.

Those that integrate ideas and bring frameworks or models to life are among the most powerful board simulations. An example of bringing the realism of the world of work to a board simulation is combining employee engagement in a simple algorithm that links to key financial measures to illustrate how leading well also delivers results.

The “secret sauce” in today’s board design is recognizing the advancement in neuroscience and how people think. Good board design, in addition to realism and relevance, must prime the learner, engage their existing limited mental models, then challenge them to think in a way that creates improved mental models. The outcome is a participant who has learned more than what to think. They have learned how to think.

Whether it’s a board simulation or an online simulation, The Regis Company can help your organization prepare your leaders for alignment, transformation, and career development. We’ve been creating custom board simulations and games for more than a decade; our customer intimate, consultative approach will help you start on a learning journey toward a customized solution.

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Tim Reeves

TIM REEVES

Senior Strategist

Tim Reeves

Author Tim Reeves

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