Strategic Management Simulation Archives

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Teaching Strategic Management Online at Arizona State University

With many courses transitioning to online this year we thought it timely to interview Scott Livengood from Arizona State University. Scott has a great deal of experience using our MikesBikes Advanced Business Simulation in his capstone Strategic Management course which he teaches in both face-to-face and online formats.

How do you use MikesBikes in your course?

I use MikesBikes Advanced primarily for my capstone Strategic Management undergraduate course.

I have three “rounds” of play:

  • The first is the Practice Round, where students compete directly against a computer rival in two possible customer segments (Adventurer and Leisure). This round is not graded but gives the students some exposure to the simulation so they can learn about its mechanics and also so they can experiment with and fine tune their strategies.
  • Next comes the Solo Round, where the environment is exactly the same as the Practice Round (i.e. only one computer rival and two segments), except the rollovers occur on my schedule rather than giving the students the ability to roll forward, roll backward, or to reset the simulation. This occurs for five to six rollovers, depending on the length of the course.
  • Last comes the Competitive Round, where students are assigned to “worlds” of approximately eight firms and they compete head to head with other students in the course, also over five or six rollovers. The Competitive Round also introduces three other customer segments (Racer, Commuter, Kids) and a new distribution outlet.
How do you introduce MikesBikes to students?

I have created a Beginner’s Guide where I essentially walk students through the first two years of decisions, using screen shots and references from the simulation itself. I have also created a video with my voiceover using the simulation while following the Beginner’s Guide. I also give some background regarding the purpose and learning objectives of the simulation.

Do students use MikesBikes in teams or individually? If in teams, how do you facilitate teamwork in an online environment?

I’ve experimented with using groups of students, but have found that to be ineffective, mainly due to two reasons: coordination and effort (often students don’t respond to communication and one or two students end up doing all the work and making all the decisions) and learning (students usually use the “divide and conquer” method where one student is in charge of marketing, a different one in charge of new product development, etc. whereas the way I do it, every student has to learn about all the various parts of the organization and how they fit together, which I think enhances the benefit gained). Thankfully, MikesBikes Advanced is complex enough that students have to dive in and learn new things, but not so complex that an individual student can’t make all the decisions.

What simulation related assessments and/or activities do you use?

Students are required to write a paper on External Analysis (Porter’s Five Forces), another paper on Internal Analysis (Resource-based View of the Firm), and another paper on SWOT Analysis and Business-level Strategies during the Practice Round to create a Strategic Plan for their Solo Round.

After the Competitive Round, they write a longer Simulation Reflection Paper on lessons learned from the Solo Round, a Competitive Analysis based on their biggest rivals, challenges with Diversification, exploration of a Merger or Acquisition (why or why not to pursue), and their biggest takeaway from the simulation.

These assessments align with the course material on Business-level Strategies and Corporate-level strategies and count for approximately 35% of their overall grade for the course.

In addition, a small percentage of their grade (5% for Solo and 5% for Competitive, which is mandated by our course coordinator – I would prefer 10% for the Competitive Round) is based on their actual performance on the simulation itself, using final SHV as the measure.

I break the students into “quartiles” based on their final SHV and assign a grade accordingly (top 25% receive 50 points, next 25% receive 40 points, next 25% receive 30 points, and the bottom 25% receive 20 points). This helps to reward students who perform well but isn’t overly strict for those who struggle with the simulation.

I impose a 20% SHV penalty for students who are insolvent during the simulation after providing a cash infusion to help them continue to be able to participate.

What other applications do you use?

We use Canvas as our Learning Management System and I use that as an interface with students. I do use VoiceThread for students to give presentation, but that’s not directly related to the simulation itself.

Do you have any tips for using a business simulation in an online course?

I love using a business simulation, particularly over the typical case study method. Cases are usually obsolete, have students analyzing other people’s decisions, and don’t provide an opportunity for students to practice implementation, assessment, and adjustment of their strategic decisions. However, with a simulation, students are able to make decisions for their own firms, see the results of those decisions, and adjust accordingly, all within a dynamic (and fun) environment. It’s taken me a few years to tinker with different ways to use the simulation, but I like what I’m currently doing and feel the students gain a great experience.

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Teaching Strategic Management Online at USM

The MikesBikes simulation has been extremely well received by students. Many enjoy the opportunity to work in groups and learn from others, while nearly all love the ability to apply what they are learning in a safe environment.

Lisa Parrott from the University of Saint Mary uses the MikesBikes Advanced Business Simulation in her online Strategic Management and Ethics course.

Lisa has kindly shared how MikesBikes is used at USM and provided tips to others implementing a business simulation in an online course.

Introducing the Simulation & Single-Player Phase

Week 1

Students are introduced to the Single-Player (practice phase) in the first week. They are also required to read the player’s manual and watch the tutorial videos.

To ensure they have completed these tasks they take a 20-question introductory quiz where they must achieve at least 80% to pass. They are given three opportunities to obtain a passing grade, otherwise they must work with the instructor to determine if they can continue in the course. It is critical students understand how to participate in the simulation before they are put into a team environment.

Students are also asked a brief strategy questionnaire to help the instructor formulate groups.

Finally, students are asked to translate their learning into an individual analysis that looks at the lessons learned, elements of the simulation that are still unclear, and reports used to evaluate performance.

Multi-Player Phase and Assessments

Week 2

The second week moves students from the individual experience into teams. Teams are free to use any means to work virtually; Google Hangouts, Zoom, Facetime, etc.

Students first complete a team contract to establish methods of communication, meeting frequency, workload, steps for resolving conflict, and deadlines.

Before starting Multi-Player phase they create a strategic plan. This includes building a mission statement, vision, values, performance objectives, and a plan for weekly evaluation of results and decisions.

Week 3 to Week 6

Rollovers (decision deadlines) begin in week three, with two rollovers per week until week six.

Each week students conduct an individual analysis examining the decisions made by their team, explaining their performance using data from reports within the simulation and to apply the weekly learning objectives to their team performance. This presents a knowledge check at an individual level each week.

After Rollover 4 a consultation meeting is held between each team and their instructor. This provides teams the opportunity to discuss their strategic implementation and evaluate progress to determine if change is needed. Teams can also use this time to ask questions.

Week 7

Teams prepare a video presentation covering elements from their strategic plan, a SWOT analysis, best practices, analysis of overall performance, and recommendations for future directions of the company.

Week 8

The video presentation from week 7 provide the opportunity for students to see “behind the curtain” of the other companies. In response, they are required to evaluate the strategy of their competitors.

Students also complete an individual evaluation of the performance of each of their team members and how they will use skills learned in their next group experience.

The final assignment for the course asks students to write an individual analysis of the entire experience. They are asked to evaluate team performance, consider whether they would expand globally (and where) and reflect on the entire experience. The paper also addresses the ethical performance of their team, effectiveness of their strategy, and highlights three lessons learned. Students are asked to incorporate scholarly articles into this assignment to support their assessment.

Tips for using a business simulation in an online course:

  • The first few weeks are often more time consuming than normal, and it may require multiple reminders to read the manual and watch the videos!
  • When introducing the simulation, it is best to focus on one area of development at a time, and build on concepts each week. Students get overwhelmed in the first few weeks using a simulation, especially if this is their first experience. As they become more familiar with how their decisions impact multiple elements of the business they will begin developing more complicated analysis of their performance.
  • Team design is extremely valuable for a successful Multi-Player experience. Too many risk adverse students will create problems with overall performance and this should be avoided.
  • The ideal team size is three. Two will often result in group-think and passive agreement, four often yields social loafing by at least one member who may not feel they have a voice. With three there is a tie breaker for any decisions when the team is split on how to move forward.
  • The more students know how to read the reports available to evaluate the effectiveness of their decisions, the better their team will perform and often understand how different areas are connected.
  • Each team will develop at a different pace, be sure to push them forward based on their unique needs. Some may reach a higher level of understanding faster than others.

View the course syllabus: Strategic Management and Ethics Syllabus

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COVID-19: Update from Smartsims Business Simulations

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that everyone in the Smartsims team is healthy and safe. We have been and will continue to follow all recommended government and professional guidelines to keep things that way. Our simulations, servers and networks remain unaffected.

The impact of COVD-19 will require many of you currently running a simulation to make changes to your schedules. Just let us know so we can postpone or re-schedule any upcoming events for your course.

I understand most university and college faculty around the world are now facing the challenge of transitioning their business courses to online delivery. As we already have a large number of online and hybrid courses, we are well placed to support you in any way we can. There are a range of options available to make this transition as easy as possible. Contact our team to discuss this further.

Wishing you and your loved ones all the best.

Thank you for your continued support!

Kind regards,

Ian McPherson
Vice President & Chief Operating Officer

student review on MikesBikes Advanced

A Student’s Perspective on the MikesBikes Advanced Strategic Management Simulation

Sharon Capps, a student from the University of Saint Mary, is using the MikesBikes Advanced Business Simulation in her Strategic Management course. Sharon shares her insight and lessons learned from the simulation.


There are some real benefits from this short-term and intense competition between our teams. We do not have time to get complacent, we are doing two rollovers a week now and constantly have to be reevaluating and making new decisions. We are also establishing the brand for our company through our strategic focus.

This game makes us become self-aware of what we do not understand and need to review so we can be more successful in the next round. What changes we make in one area and how they may impact another area positively or negatively.

Each of us are also discovering our strengths within our teams and what we can focus on that sets our company apart. We are also learning how to better evaluate our competitors and analyze what data we can see from the other teams. This helps us make calculated decisions based on what we think their next move may be and plan accordingly.

We are also learning to plan far ahead to anticipate growth and expansion, not just focus on the rollover within the next few days. Another business mainstay we are strengthening is to always focus on what our customers need and want (Kittaneh, 2015).

We are lucky within this game because we get a lot of helpful data in this area, but our teams have to constantly look at where our bikes fall on the perceptual maps.

Sharon Capps on MikesBikes Advanced

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