What is a business game and why is it suitable for employee development?

Find out what a simulation game actually is and why it is particularly suitable as a learning method.

Author: Daniele Kilian

Published on: Last updated:

Categorie: HR Info

5 Min. Reading time:
Three persons playing the MARGA board game

What is a business game and why is it suitable for employee development?

Business games serve to illustrate different complex contents in a reduced but realistic way. Within the business game, fictional problems are presented, which the players must actively work on and find a solution for. In this way, a particularly sustainable learning effect is achieved. For this reason, business games are used today in a wide variety of areas and for complex issues as a further training measure.

The principle behind business games is nothing new. The actual origin of simulation games can be found in the game of chess around 800 B.C. In the Prussian military, simulation games were used to play through strategies and tactics and to train military leaders. Over the course of time, the application fields of simulation games have expanded significantly. For example, flight simulators are used in pilot training and business games are used to train management skills in the training of specialists and executives.

What exactly is a business game?

In business games, economic contexts, management methods and team work are trained using the principle of “learning by doing“. In a realistic setting, complex management problems are presented. The players manage their own virtual company as a team and are in direct competition with other teams. As the management board, they influence various decision-making factors. In the MARGA business game, this concerns the areas of marketing, production, personnel and finance. During the various simulation periods, the participants learn which internal and external factors have an influence on the corporate success of a company. They complete tasks and make decisions within a given time frame. The effects are simulated and from the achieved results the players can in turn draw conclusions for the subsequent game period with the aim of positioning themselves more successfully than their competitors.

This kind of the training helps to convey the content in a practical, effective and at the same time fun way, which is why they are increasingly being used as part of management trainings.

Business games are suitable for employee development for the following reasons:

Learning in business games is based on the principle of “learning by doing” and is therefore primarily self-directed. The independent development, application and repetition of content ensure that participants actively engage with the learning content and internalize what they have learned.

Practice and repetition are important in order to be able to apply the acquired knowledge in future situations. It therefore makes sense to divide the simulation into game periods in which participants can test, reflect, and repeat. In this way, content is linked in the long term and transfer to reality is supported.

In addition, simulation games represent an environment in which making mistakes does not have far-reaching consequences. Thus, participants learn from their mistakes and failures without having taken a real risk.

Through the system of “game-based learning,” players in the business simulation learn interactively and are motivated by the competitive environment. This promotes ambition and enthusiasm. The game-based approach ensures that content is conveyed in a practical, effective and at the same time fun way. Fun and enjoyment motivate intensive engagement with the learning content.

The mixture of education and entertainment – also called edutainment – has a positive effect on the learning process. Learning should and must be fun, because this positive emotion results in higher motivation, more sustainable learning results and is also much easier to stick to for most people.

The idea of teamwork and competition plays an important role in business games. This is because the existing competitive situation as well as the exchange and acceptance of responsibility in the group promote the motivation to learn. Intensive discussions and joint decision-making train the participants’ ability to work in a team. Successes and fun strengthen the team spirit and motivation.

However, conflicts, disagreements and failures in the competition are also part of the process and not only strengthen social skills such as the ability to take criticism and deal with conflict, but they also lead to more intensive discussion. Emotions have a positive effect on memory performance and ensure that learning content is remembered in the long term.

In business games, the players deal with learning contents independently. They are challenged to develop their own methods for solving problems and to make decisions. This promotes an independent and self-organized way of working. Self-confidence and personal responsibility, as well as a high level of frustration tolerance and resilience through challenges or even failures during the game are strengthened. Hence, in addition to social skills, personal skills are also improved.

By managing a fictional company, participants take an overall entrepreneurial perspective. In business games, a realistic and dynamic market environment is simulated in which decisions can be made without risk. Participants are trained to think and act in an entrepreneurial, holistic, and cross-functional manner and thus gain an understanding of economic interrelationships. Business contexts and the consequences of decisions within the company become tangible. The entrepreneurial spirit of the participants is awakened.

In business management games, learning is mainly self-directed. Therefore, additional support is needed during the learning process in terms of qualified tutoring. Participants must have the opportunity to discuss questions relating to their specific decision-making situation in a prompt and individual manner. Additional support during the learning process by qualified feedback from trainers and comprehensible support materials is therefore crucial.

Mistakes are part of business games. However, long-term failures during the game have a demotivating effect and prevent a successful learning process. Trainers must always make clear that mistakes are part of learning. To ensure that failures do not have a negative impact, constant feedback is needed so that the learner can recognize progress and reflect on his or her actions.

Our program recommendation:

MARGA Management Training

Our intensive and sustainable MARGA Management Training is an open business game program in which individuals or groups can participate regardless of company or industry.

We offer the program as online, in-class or Blended Learning solution. The program is suitable for career starters, specialists and executives with and without a buiness background who want to deepen their management knowledge.

More about the program

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