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Competition in Business Simulations

Competition in Business Simulations

One of the most exciting and effective elements of a business simulation is the competition. Most players approach the game with a mindset to crush their adversaries with the smartest strategy, so that they can emerge as the most successful in the simulated marketplace. Competition is wired in our DNA, and it’s a great way to learn because it taps into our deepest motivations to win and creates an intense, emotional experience which makes participants eager to apply learning concepts.

There are 2 ways to play a business simulation. You can have individuals or teams play against each other, known as direct competition, or you can have them play against the computer, known as indirect competition.

Read on to discover these 2 different styles of competition and figure out which one might be right fit for your learning programs:

What is direct competition?

In business simulations, direct competition, also known as team vs. team, is when individuals compete directly against one another, either alone or in groups to win the simulation game.

The benefits of direct competition

While choosing to run a business simulation in direct or indirect competition mode will depend a lot on your course objectives and constraints, direct competition offers a few interesting advantages.

Excitement: Since players are directly competing against each other, decisions and results after each round can vary greatly. Teams get excited to see how they perform compared to their peers and competition can get quite fierce. After each round, it is common for participants to get a “wow” effect, when they see the results.

The time pressure element can also add to the momentum. If you are looking to create excitement, challenge your participants and have them work under pressure, direct competition is a great way to do it.

Realistic market environment: Since results vary based on the aptitude of teams’ decision-making skills and strategy, it reflects the cut-throat tendencies of the real world where some succeed, and others fail. If you want to prepare your participants for the real world, this mode of competing can help them get into that mindset.

Instructor/participant engagement: If you want to personally engage with your participants throughout the simulation experience, the direct competition mode allows for a more rigorous analysis from the instructor. Since decision results will be unpredictable after each round, instructors must analyze the results in order to give the right guidance for following rounds. This can create a more involved, engaging atmosphere with your participants since you will also be highly invested in the decisions.

Learning outcomes for the long-term:  We’ve noticed that when emotions are involved, concepts are more easily embedded, and participants are able to retain what they’ve learned for longer.  Direct competition triggers emotions like no other method.

What is indirect competition?

As mentioned above, indirect competition is when, instead of competing directly against each other, teams or individuals compete against the computer. Teams or individuals can be put against one or several computer competitors within an industry in a business simulation in indirect competition mode.

The benefits of indirect competition

This mode of competition can fit in a multitude of course formats, especially in today’s COVID-stricken era which has forced many courses online.

Flexibility: Indirect competition allows for lots of leeway and can be adapted to various program configurations with ease.

For example, if you’ve set up an asynchronous course where your learners follow lectures, read course materials etc. and take tests at their own pace within a period of time, a simulation set up in indirect competition mode can work effectively in this environment. Since individuals or teams are playing against the computer and don’t have the time constraints of waiting for other teams to make their own decisions, they are free to run through the decisions on their own schedule.

Other course formats where indirect competition simulations can work well:

  • Evening classes or part-time MBAs
  • Global team initiatives where individuals are spread across different time zones
  • Any online learning course

A fairer playing field: Fierce competition is effective, but can hinder learning in some circumstances. For example, in direct competition, you may encounter that certain teams excel and may even crush others right from the start. Perhaps this is not a bad approach as it can reflect the real world. But this can be demoralizing to lower performing teams and might cause them to give up and lose engagement in the game. The same goes for the teams who over excel and may quickly become bored when they find their competitors are not keeping them on their toes. How do you ensure that they keep learning?

When you set up an indirect competition, you are setting individuals or teams against a computer competitor. They don’t face their peers directly.  You can even choose the level of competitive difficulty that each team will face. Weaker teams can still perform and embed key learnings and stronger teams can be challenged in their own market. The level of engagement for all participants remains high, which is the best state of mind to be in to embed learning concepts.

Easier to manage: From the instructor’s perspective, running the simulation in indirect competition mode is easier since all teams are facing the same computer competitor, especially if you choose to run them all with the same level of difficulty. Thanks to this, instructors can provide the same tips and guidance for each team. This makes supporting teams easier.

How do I know which competition mode is right for me?

Ultimately, choosing to put teams against each other or against the computer will depend on your course format, learning initiatives and your goals.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Your program set-up. What constraints do you have?
  • Learning objectives. For example, do you want to prioritize acquiring resiliency skills such as working under pressure, or are you more focused on ensuring that all participants acquire the same concepts equally?
  • Instructor involvement. How much time and resources do you have to commit to the simulation experience? Do you want participants to be more autonomous, or would you prefer to intervene in the analysis?

Still not sure which type to use?

We are happy to advise you on which mode would work best for your needs based on your course format & your expectations. Simply contact one of our experts who will ask you the right questions and walk you through our simulations. They can show you how you can generate engagement and long-term learning outcomes with one (or both) modes of competition.