Click Turning Back in Time

Flashback to MikesBikes Way Back When

There’s a social media trend that’s been going on for quite a while now, where you post old photos or memories from the past to share among your friends. Along with the photo is your caption, for which you will add either #FlashbackFriday, #TBT, #ThrowbackThursday or both if you wish. These hashtags denote that your photo is a “blast from the past.” This trend is the theme of our article and today’s piece is certainly a major #TBT.

Our article is inspired by a write-up by Vicki Jayne for the New Zealand Herald back in 2002, entitled “Wheeling, Dealing Clues to Success”. We thought it’s a good idea to go back in time to reminisce by comparing then and now.

Let’s go back in time, shall we?

First stop, Year 1990. The original concept was conceived in 1990 by Dr. Pete Mazany, while completing his PhD in Management Science at Yale University. Drawing together a research and consulting team at the University of Auckland, Dr. Mazany set out to develop a computerized simulation model.

Let’s go a few years forward to 1997, which is the year when MikesBikes was officially launched in the market. This original product is the predecessor to our current MikesBikes-Advanced and MikesBikes-Intro simulations.

Jump to 2002, when the article was written and today. In the next few sections, we will be going back and forth to what our simulations were like then and what they are now.


“Commercial pilots have long been able to practice their flying skills in a computer-simulated environment before being let loose on the real thing. Now aspiring managers can hone their business acumen in much the same way – but on bicycles.”


Aspiring managers can hone their business acumen not just in the bicycle manufacturing industry, but also in other businesses such as Music Players and Consumer Electronics through our Music2Go and AdSim simulations respectively.

Let’s get to know the rest of the simulations more.

MikesBikes then is now known as MikesBikes Advanced. There were a few changes and improvements that accompanied this, such as:

– Previously only available in CD form, MikesBikes is now fully available online
– There are larger and more complex scenarios now and;
– The concept of Takeovers is introduced in MikesBikes-Advanced

In addition to that, we have developed 3 more simulations.

First, we have MikesBikes Intro which replicates the scenario of MikesBikes Advanced. The difference between these two simulations is that in MikesBikes Intro, students progressively step through fundamental business decisions and strategy. MikesBikes Intro gradually allows students to gain control over their manufacturing bike company through ongoing release of new decision areas.

Next, we have Music2Go, which is our Marketing simulation. Music2Go gives participants an opportunity to formulate and implement a marketing strategy for an MP3 player manufacturer. Music2go uses a dynamic marketplace so that students must continually analyze the changing market and understand the needs of their customers, therefore will reinforce the importance of planning, implementation and evaluation of strategy.

Finally, we have AdSim, which is our Advertising simulation. Participants run the advertising campaign for the Digital Camera division of a large Consumer Electronics Corporation. They will be given the opportunity to implement their own Advertising and Promotion Campaign within their own company.


“It’s now being used in some 60 universities worldwide, has been picked up by some companies such as Nortel and Sun Microsystems, and is the central tool in what its designers, Auckland-based Smartsims, described as a mini-MBA. An MBA because that is the level of learning it is pitched at; mini because it just takes three weeks to get through.”


Over the last 10 years, we’ve had over 250,000 students use a Smartsims Simulation across 20 countries.

From 2001, we have partnered with McGraw-Hill, Cengage, Wiley and Nelson. We have also began developing additional business simulations which were released over the next few years as MikesBikes-Intro, Music2Go Marketing and AdSim Advertising (as you have read earlier).

In addition to that, all of our products now allow you to be completely flexible with your course and they all progress at different rates, depending on your course or program and your preference.


“The game can be played solo against your computer, in which case the player try out several what-if scenarios, roll the game forward to see how those pan out, and roll it back if they prove a disaster. Or it can be played on a team basis against other teams. In this case, there is no roll-back option – the decisions made by today’s management team determine the company’s destiny.”


Our simulations still feature a Single-Player, practice version and a Multi-Player, competitive version.

Our research shows this two-step method is effective at improving domain knowledge and the overall experience with the simulation and course.

Now that you got to know a little bit about the history of the simulations and what they are now, let’s move on to answering a million-dollar question.

We’ve always been asked this question since we first started and that is, “How does it [Smartsims Simulations] translate to the real world?”

Previous user, Sarah Preston of MikesBikes answers this,

“I am amazed at how efficient this type of learning is. It may be a game, but to play it successfully, you have to know the business theory that backs it. Discussion around what decisions are made is not confined to the virtual world, but links back into real-life applications… One thing you notice is that everyone is very alive to the learning.”

Our simulations allow participants to have a hands on opportunity of running their own business. This proves to be an effective and a memorable learning experience as opposed to just reading or looking at other’s experiences of running a company. Simulations also provide participants a chance to apply skills and knowledge to a real life scenario.

One of the participants in the simulation, Craig Percy (operations director of Eldercare) mentioned,

“It [the simulation] gave me confidence to enter other areas of the business and talk about marketing or financial aspects and take them into account in terms of operations.”

In the perspective of a participant, simulations allow them to discover, learn and understand other areas of business, and how they all interrelate with each other. Simulations also provide them with a unique opportunity of learning how to read Financial, Operations and Marketing reports to name a few. On top of that, simulations allow users to adopt skills that they can take on in the real world.

Looking back to what the simulation once was and what it is now is a perfect example to show that innovation is a continuous process. We have a few upcoming changes to the simulations, website and associated resources, and we’ll be sure to keep you up to date on these changes.

Previously, there were gaps and limitations in traditional teaching methods. Simulations prove to be an effective way of reducing these boundaries to learning. As you have seen throughout the years, constant innovation and improvements were done to bridge this gap. Simulations may be a new concept to some or familiar to others, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “all life is an experiment. The more experiments, the better.”

By Camille Canuto