2019 marks the 20th Anniversary of using MikesBikes Advanced at the University of Auckland. The “MikesBikes Reunion” took place on the 25th of March to enable alumni to reconnect with their fellow team members and simulation users.
MikesBikes Advanced is used at an undergraduate level in Management in Dynamic Contexts taught by Peter Smith and Andrew Patterson. As well as at a masters level in Managing People in Organisations taught by Darl Kolb.
The evening started with a few words from Peter Smith, Darl Kolb and Smartsims CEO, Dennis Gain.
“It was great to catch up with so many former students and hear about their achievements since leaving University. We were also lucky enough to have representatives from Smartsims (the makers of MikesBikes), come along and support the event (many of whom are also alumni too).”
The rest of the evening was spent reminiscing about the fun times, mishaps (where best lessons come from!) and experiences from MikesBikes.
“Students come back to us and talked about how they’ve gone into an interview in the big four accounting firms. They haven’t had any other experience in other organizations, but they can say with pride and confidence that they’ve actually worked in a team that had real work to do. It’s always heartening because it does actually simulate a professional work team. I’ve also had people at a personal level realize that the simulation gives them a chance to think about their own personal direction, who they are and who they want to be. It’s quite rewarding and fulfilling as professor.”
We are only now really appreciating how powerful the use of MikesBikes has been. Darl and I were struck by the warm feelings the alumni had for MikesBikes and the value they saw in its use. For example, I had a really nice email from one student (who now works overseas and couldn’t attend) explaining how useful he had found the lesson learnt through MikesBikes when he worked in Software Development, and how much its shapes what he does now that he is a university lecturer.
The article below is written by one of our previous students, Michael Stewart from Boston University. Michael took the Managing a Growing Enterprise course with Professor Greg Stoller and used MikesBikes Advanced as part of this.
Upon completion, he had the idea to incorporate MikesBikes Advanced into their program for this semester’s pledge class in their business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. The purpose of their fraternity is to foster the study of business in universities and to promote the association of students studying business for their mutual advancement through research and practice.
Michael is in charge of instructing the pledge (underclassmen students at Boston University) as they seek brotherhood within the fraternity. He felt that the simulation would be academically enriching and will create some level of competitiveness and enjoyment.
MikesBikes Advanced Experience in the Managing a Growing Enterprise course
This past fall, I was introduced to MikesBikes Advanced in my Managing a Growing Enterprise course at Boston University. This class was for students interested in pursuing Entrepreneurship and much of the lesson plan was focused on how to strategically position a new company in a competitive market.
Our Professor, Gregory Stoller, used the simulation to further our understanding of class material, as well as a tool to keep students engaged outside of the classroom.
MikesBikes Advanced is an online business simulation that offers students the opportunity to run their own company, while managing all the key functional areas of a business. It is an interactive tool that applies the basic concepts of business in a real-life context. Through the simulation, we received hands on experience making marketing, operations, product development and financial decisions.
After introducing the simulation to us and dividing us into teams, Professor Stoller assigned us our first deliverable; the Strategic Plan.
Our Strategic Plan set the guidelines of our businesses and assisted teams as they set variables for the first few weeks of the simulation.
The plan outlined our company’s mission, corporate and functional strategy and the key metrics that would be utilized to measure our company’s performance. The plan allowed for teams to show how they were going to position their companies relative to others in the virtual industry and how they were going to structure their spending in each functional area to achieve this position.
My classmates and I understand how much work would be involved in this assignment and found ourselves working on plans late into the night and often overnight into the morning they were due. This shows the complexity of the simulation and all the variables that you must stay apprised of over the course of the weekly rollovers. Once the first rollover hit, we still found that we failed to account for many of the variables that play into the shareholder value, which happened to be the most important metric in MikesBikes.
As the weeks passed, we saw the virtual market begins to take shape as teams began to adapt their strategies. Some teams chose to launch products into all possible market segments, whereas others held tight within only a few segments. By the end of the simulation, the teams that diversified their product found the most success. With only a few weeks left, teams who were behind did not have the time needed to launch new products and replicated the success of others. The lagging teams resorted to paying dividends and manipulating other financial variables in order to inflate their shareholder values in the final hour.
At the very end of the semester, each of the teams presented their performance and the lessons they learned from their experience in the simulation. Each team spent time discussing some of the mistakes they made early in the simulation and how they could have operated differently. The improper use of cash was a factor that impacted all the teams. Almost all the teams sat on heavy cash balances and did not use resources to reinvest back in their operations. It was not until the end of the simulation that we all began to pay dividends, buy back equity and pay off debt.
The simulation gave the class a more competitive feel than other business classes. Every Wednesday night my classmates and I would stay up to see who was on top after the weekly rollover. We spent hours trying to find the best ways to position our respective companies, may it be targeting a different segment or possibly improving product quality. We knew that if we found ourselves at the bottom of the rankings on Thursday morning, we would be subjected to some friendly banter among others in the class. As a rather small class, a shared bond developed within the group. It also helped that most of us had pre-existing relationships from our shared brotherhood in the business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi.
Delta Sigma Pi (DSP)
Our fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi, or more fondly known as “DSP”, was organized in 1907 to bring students of commerce together, develop their skills and prepare them for the world of business.
Since its origin, DSP has attracted thousands of students to join its organization by emphasizing its four pillars: Brotherhood, Service, Professionalism and Scholarship. Along with a sense of identity, these pillars help guide DSP chapters across the country as they help mold young men and women into business leaders of tomorrow.
The shared brotherhood is also why we all found ourselves together in Professor Stoller’s class. The five of us all have interest in entrepreneurship, a few having some prior experience running their own companies. We were all driven by our shared desire to practice our business skills in an academic environment. Once a few of us signed up for Managing a Growing Enterprise, we quickly influenced others in the fraternity to join as well. I believe that this factor was what led to the simulation feeling so competitive – the fact that we wanted to have higher shareholder value than our brothers on the opposing teams.
Taking the class also opened our eyes to something that could be done to better our fraternity. Our chapter does not offer many outlets for our brothers to practice their business skills, work together in teams and compete against one another. We have been actively searching for different ways to accomplish this in the Spring 2019 semester. It is for this reason that we have decided to partner with Smartsims in order to share the MikesBikes simulation with our pledge class this spring.
After being introduced to MikesBikes this past semester, it became obvious to us that this could be a great tool to be added to our semester-long pledge program. Each semester, our new pledge class could take part in the simulation and practice their skills as they compete against one another. The simulation will provide the pledge class with an opportunity to better understand the functional elements that go into running a company.
MikesBikes Advanced at Delta Sigma Pi
Our plan is to run the simulation very similar to how it was conducted in Professor Stoller’s class. Of course, there will need to be many resources available to the pledge class as they will be less familiar with the functional areas of running a business as they are only underclassmen who have not taken some of the pre-requisite classes yet. We will address this concern by assigning advisers to each team and providing a two-week “ramp up” period before the first rollover.
Each team will work with the advisers to create Strategic Plans that will outline both their corporate and functional strategies. These plans will guide their decision making once the first rollover takes place. Advisers will continue working with teams throughout the semester and help guide them as they set variables that fit related to the simulation. The advisers will also help to further their understanding of topics such as trade-offs, competitive positioning, and other business-related activities. Since these topics are relative to almost every sector of the business world, these students will gain much value from taking part in this experience even if they have no aspiration towards running their own company.
The final deliverable will be a team presentation during which the pledges will talk about the lessons they learned and critical decisions that had the most impact on their performance. We hope this will be a reflective exercise that will also allow the pledges to practice speaking in business settings.
The winning team will be decided by both this presentation and simulation performance. The presentation will also be a tool for Administrators to review how to better implement the simulation in the future with pledges who have no prior entrepreneurial experiences.
As a fraternity, we are looking forward to seeing how we can further experiment with the MikesBikes Advanced simulation. We are certain that it will provide academic value to the pledge class. However, we are realistic in that we expect there to be some kinks given that this is our fist attempt implementing the simulation. We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to share this experience with the pledge class and hope it ignites an interest in Entrepreneurship.
Michael is currently running the MikesBikes Advanced simulation until April, so stay tuned for the next article featuring their pledges experience with the simulation!
Previously, clicking the “Apply” button just reloads the screen, but with the new update it is now more evident that the decisions are being saved.
On-Screen Warning on Unsaved Decisions
Some students miss out on saving their decisions when they move onto a different screen or click away. So we have now added a new on-screen warning to notify students if a decision they have entered has been left unsaved.
On-Screen Warnings on Decision Screens (MikesBikes Introduction)
Forecast Sales and Planned Production Warning
Students will now receive a warning when they have entered a high Sales Forecast, but their Production Quantity is lower.
They will also receive a warning when their Planned Production Units is higher than their Sales Forecast.
Launching a Second Product in the Same Market Segment
This warning message should not discourage students from launching a second product if they wish, but it just informs them of what this decision entails.
Missed our previous Product Update articles? You can check these out here:
While all industries have best practices, they are especially prevalent in IT given that so much of the business revolves around data and business processes. Best practices formally represent tested and proven techniques in the form of procedural documentation. In contrast, undocumented procedures are often misleading because stated parameters are not necessarily true or accurate.
Definition – What does Best Practice mean?
A best practice is an industry-wide agreement that standardizes the most efficient way to accomplish a desired outcome. A best practice generally consists of a technique, method or process. The concept implies that if an organization follows best practices, a delivered outcome with minimal problems or complications will be ensured. Best practices are often used for benchmarking and represent an outcome of repeated and contextual user actions.
Experiential learning is the basic process of learning through experience and is more specifically defined as learning through reflection on doing. It is akin to forms of Hands-on Learning but does not necessarily involve participants reflecting on the outcomes or products of the process. Experiential learning is distinct from traditional forms of rote or didactic learning, in which the learner plays a comparatively passive role. It is related to, but not synonymous with, other forms of action learning and free-choice learning, along with cooperative learning.
Assessing the effectiveness of the training program in terms of the benefits to the trainees and the company is a crucial element of any experiential learning program. Most assessments are data driven, and traditional tools use tests to measure effectiveness. When it comes to experiential learning programs, it is extremely difficult to gather data that can be used for assessments. This is where analytics come in. When combined with simulations and gamification, experiential training products become a powerhouse of data that can be used to deliver assessments results accurately across cognitive learning, skills affect and objective results.
The analytics engines in these simulations (such as MikesBikes) record, analyze and provide a detailed report on the participants’ interaction throughout the simulation. For writing purposes, I have chosen to use the classic Journalism tool called the 5Ws and One H method, starting with What, followed by Why, When, Where, Who — and lastly — How.
What is Experiential Learning
In the words of Lewis and Williams: “In its simplest form, experiential learning means learning from experience or learning by doing. Experiential education first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection about the experience to develop new skills, new attitudes, or new ways of thinking.” The first theories of experiential learning arose in the mid-nineteenth century as attempts to move away from traditional formal education, where teachers simply presented students with abstract concepts, and toward an immersive method of instruction. Students would “learn by doing,” applying knowledge to experience to develop skills or new ways of thinking.
Experiential learning is also built upon a foundation of interdisciplinary and constructivist learning. Experiential methodology doesn’t treat each subject as being walled off in its own room, unconnected to any other subjects. Compartmentalized learning doesn’t reflect the real world, while as the experiential classroom works to create an interdisciplinary learning experience that mimics real world learning.
Similarly, experiential learning is aligned with the constructivist theory of learning in that the outcomes of the learning process are varied and often unpredictable and learners play a critical role in assessing their own learning. How one participant chooses to solve a problem will be different from another, and what one takes away from an experience will be different from the others.
The context for learning is different—learning may not take place in the classroom, and there may be no textbooks or academic texts to study. Finally, the curriculum itself may not be clearly identified—the student may have to identify the knowledge required and then acquire it themselves, reflecting on their learning as they go along.
Experiential learning can also be defined by the qualities it imparts on its learners. Successful experiential learners have a willingness to reorder or alter their conception of a topic. They can reason for themselves and are able to successfully explain their position. They have clarity of purpose with tasks they undertake and the self-management skills necessary to work successfully both alone and in a group.
Experiential learners are aware of the “rules” governing their discipline or mode of operation, but are also open-minded, and able to work with people with different views. Finally, experiential learners are in control of their voice—they can identify the role of emotion in their learning, as well as reflect on how they have come to their new knowledge (Moon, 2004, p. 163).
Why Use Experiential Learning
The open nature of experiential learning means that it can often be difficult to define what is, and is not, an experiential activity. There are many activities that have the potential to be experiential but may not be depending on the execution.
As outlined by Chapman, McPhee, and Proudman:
“Simple participation in a prescribed set of learning experiences does not make something experiential. The experiential methodology is not linear, cyclical, or even patterned. It is a series of working principles, all of which are equally important or must be present to varying degrees at some time during experiential learning. These principles are required no matter what activity the student is engaged in or where the learning takes place” (1995, p. 243).
To define ‘why,’ the following list of characteristics can be used to define the purpose of an activity or method as experiential, including :
Mixture of content and process: There must be a balance between the experiential activities and the underlying content or theory.
Absence of excessive judgment: The instructor must create a safe space for students to work through their own process of self-discovery.
Engagement in purposeful endeavors: In experiential learning, the learner is the self-teacher, therefore there must be “meaning for the student in the learning.”
Relevance: The learning activities must be personally relevant to the student. Prepared by Michelle Schwartz, Research Associate, for the Vice Provost, Academic, Ryerson University, 2012
Encouraging the big picture perspective: Experiential activities must allow the students to make connections between the learning they are doing and the world. Activities should build in students the ability to perceive and understand the relationships in complex systems, and then find a way to work within them.
The role of reflection: Students should be able to reflect on their own learning, bringing “the theory to life” and gaining insight into themselves and their interactions with the world.
Creating an emotional investment: Learners must be fully immersed in the experience, not merely doing what they feel is required of them. The process needs to engage the learner to a point where what is being learned and experienced strikes a critical, central sweet-spot within the learner.
The re-examination of values: By working within a space that has been made safe for self exploration, students can begin to analyze and even alter their own values.
The presence of meaningful relationships: One part of getting students to see their learning in the context of the whole world is to start by showing the relationships between “learner to self, learner to teacher, and learner to learning environment.”
Learning outside one’s perceived comfort zones: “Learning is enhanced when students are given the opportunity to operate outside of their own perceived comfort zones.” This doesn’t refer just to physical environment, but also to the social environment. This could include, for instance, “being accountable for one’s actions and owning the consequences.”
When and Where: Methods for Assessing Experiential Activities
One of the keys to experiential learning is personalized learning. To enable personalized learning, every program needs to enable a journey through the following phases: Assessment, teaching and learning strategy, and curriculum choice. Experiential learning methodology is highly effective in meeting these requirements to enable personalized learning. It is a radical departure from traditional learning methods and takes the learning beyond the classroom, as the participants set their own learning pace. By combining technology and simulations with experiential learning, companies are making this concept available anytime and anywhere, across multiple devices. This has introduced the concepts of the ‘flipped classroom,’ where the learning goes to the students and not the other way.
Although there are potentially a wide variety of ways to assess when to use experiential activities, the most productive include both external and internal factors. Although all these methods are tied to reflection, the key is helping learners by focusing their learning while also producing an outcome/ product for assessment purposes.
Moon lists 20 or more examples in the Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning, of which items # 1, 3, 10, 13 and 15 have traditionally been selected as the most effective and popular:
Maintenance of a learning journal or a portfolio
Reflection on critical incidents
Presentation on what has been learnt
Analysis of strengths and weaknesses and related action planning
Essay or report on what has been learnt (preferably with references to excerpts from reflective writing)
Self-awareness tools and exercises (e.g. questionnaires about learning patterns)
A review of a book that relates the work experience to own discipline
Short answer questions of a ‘why’ or ‘explain’ nature
A project that develops ideas further (group or individual)
Self-evaluation of a task performed
An article (e.g. for a newspaper) explaining something in the workplace
Recommendation for improvement of some practice (a sensitive matter)
An interview of the learner as a potential worker in the workplace
A story that involves thinking about experiencing learning
A request that students take a given theory and observe its application in the workplace
An oral exam
Management of an informed discussion
A report on an event in the work situation (ethical issues)
Account of how discipline issues apply to the workplace 
An identification of and rationale for projects that could be done in the workplace.
Who Uses Experiential Learning
Instructors and participants like to use experiential learning for simulations. Simulations use real life scenarios that depict several challenges that a participant will eventually face after the course completion. It is only natural that mistakes happen during learning; using simulations is like taking kids to a playground, and getting them to have fun, try new things and learn in a safe controlled environment. By moving beyond theory to the realm of “learning by doing,’ the learner gets a first-hand experience of practicing what has been taught. This plays a crucial role in retaining concepts and ideas.
How to Use the Learning Portfolio
There are very few learning methods that can have a dramatic impact on the participant’s mindset. Experiential Learning is one of them. Management guru Henry Mintzberg pointed out long ago that leadership, like swimming, cannot be learned by reading about it. The high focus on collaboration and learning from each other benefits the participant as it increases engagement. On the other hand, since the participant is immediately involved in the problem-solving activity or event, the level of ownership of the outcome is high.
Of these methods, Qualters focuses on using the learning portfolio as one of the most comprehensive methods of assessing experiential learning, with its purpose being to “strongly determine the themes of the reflective narrative, as well as the types of documentation or evidence selected in the appendices.” A planning rubric representing this can be a table with three columns—purpose, theme, and evidence—and the content of these columns can be quite broad. John Zubizarreta proposes a simple model for a learning portfolio with three fundamental and interrelated components:
1. Reflection 2. Documentation 3. Collaboration.
Learning portfolios are distinguished from standard professional portfolios through their inclusion of a reflection component. It therefore becomes more than just “a showcase of student materials,” and instead becomes a “purposefully designed collection connected by carefully thought out structured student reflections.”
To plan a learning portfolio project, Zubizarreta provides a short rubric that asks instructors to first identify the purpose of the portfolio, and then answer the following questions:
What kind of reflective questions should students address?
What kinds of evidence or learning outcomes would be most useful?
How will students engage in collaboration and mentoring during the process?
Beyond assessing student learning, well-constructed portfolios can be used for accreditation, university-wide outcome assessment, and to document and understand the learning process at both the level of course and program.
How to Measure and Assess Experiential Learning
Measurement and assessment are very often the most integral parts of the experiential learning process. It provides a basis for participants and instructors alike to confirm and reflect on the learning and growth that has and is occurring. Further, proper assessment methods engender a “reflective process that ensures continued growth long after specific learning opportunities have been completed.
Without the appropriate assessment tool, such as a self-assessment, the educator might not ever realize that significant learning occurred. Therefore, classroom educators should search for assessment techniques that measure more than just the ability to remember information. . The assessment of experiential activities presents a unique problem to instructors. Because in experiential activities the means are as important as the ends, “it is important to look at assessment as more than outcome measurement.
While outcomes are important to measure, they reflect the product of assessment, not a complete assessment cycle” (Qualters, 2010, p. 56). It is therefore necessary to devise unique assessment methods to measure success in both the process and the product—each area requires separate learning outcomes and criteria (Moon, 2004, p. 155).
I believe there are eight reasons why experiential learning is very likely to become the future of learning: 
Accelerates the learning process
Provides a relatively safe and secure learning environment
Bridges the gap between learning theory and practice
Produces demonstrable mindset changes
Increases participant engagement levels
Delivers exceptional Return on Investment or payback
Provides measurable and accurate assessment results
Enables personalized learning.
Everybody has one’s own model of learning, some of them more effective than others. In this article, I tried to convince interested readers to become enablers of a powerful learning experience which will help build a learning context by experiencing things. The need is urgent; the time is now.
This article is written by Frank Voehl. Frank is an Innovation Coach and expert in the application of the business improvement tools and innovation methods to public and private organizations, including city, county, community government, and non-profit operations. He is also a Grand Master Black Belt Instructor in Lean Six Sigma and Performance Management. He’s a noted author and series editor of over 30 books and hundreds of business management and improvement articles and technical papers. He also provided input on the original design of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, and facilitated its crossover to other nations and regions, including the Bahamas, South America, Europe and the Czech Republic.
Here are some reasons why Shareholder Value is the main metric in MikesBikes:
There are arguments for and against any metric you might choose. However, if there is a single metric on which students are measured, Shareholder Value is better for grading in most courses. This metric is simple to understand, capture and reward both financial and operational performance, and provide reasonable consistency of grading across courses.
What about alternative metrics?
The Share Price valuation model incorporates a number of factors such as:
Earnings per Share (smoothed over time to reduce the effect of one-off good/bad performances)
Adjustments for certain types of spending which potentially add future value to your company, such as investment in product development, etc.
This is important so that firms who only make small profit or loss due to heavy investment in R&D or building product awareness are not punished.
Risk – In general, the higher the Debt/Equity ratio of the company, the higher the risk and the lower the Share Price.
Since it is based on Earnings per Share, in general, if you issue many shares, your Share Price will suffer. On the other hand, if you repurchase shares, your Share Price will improve.
Share Price hits most of our goals for a grading metric. However, Shareholder Value is a logical choice over Share Price because Shareholder Value is the current Share Price plus the present value of all past dividends paid. It is the value to an investor over time of having owned a single share of the company since the beginning of the simulation.
Market Share by itself isn’t a particularly useful metric – your competitors could have a lower market share and be significantly more profitable.
Growth in profitability does not take into account how you financed your growth. Did you have to issue a large number of shares to fund your growth, which dilutes the value to an investor? Did the company heavily leverage itself increasing risk? What is Profitability? Do you look at total periods made in a given time period? Do you weigh more recent profits more heavily? What about the time value of those profits? How would you provide an understandable metric for that?
Total Market Capitalization
If you use total market capitalization, then you are inviting students to issue large amounts of additional equity to grow that figure. This is unlikely to benefit the performance of a successful company in any significant way as they do not require the extra funding.
Therefore, it is difficult to choose another single metric that captures the financial and operational performance of the company as well as Shareholder Value does.
On a side note, you could construct a Balanced Scorecard type metric where you look at various factors from different parts of the organization. In general, you still need to combine those somehow into a score which can be ranked and graded (and Shareholder Value would probably still form part of such a system). You will end up with a similar effect to ranking by Shareholder Value, but your metric no longer corresponds directly to a business concept, and you have to decide how your score should work. Is it an arbitrary number of ‘points’? Is it a percentage? An arbitrary metric may be harder to understand and explain than Shareholder Value. However, this is probably how we would look at grading. If at some time in the future we ever decide that Shareholder Value does not sufficiently capture performance across the entire business.
Business simulations are helping students all across America succeed in the real world, and this is just as true in “The Lone Star State” of Texas.
Farming is a major industry in Texas, and with technological advancements it has become increasingly important that ranchers and agricultural managers have degrees in business, with concentrations in agriculture, crop science, farm management, agronomy or animal science. Those working in the farming industry need to have a sound understanding of the market, and they need to be able to identify trends, analyze data and maintain their business’ brand.
The booming farming industries in Texas include cattle, cotton, milk and broilers. These are all businesses that produce perishable goods that need to adhere to regulations and laws. They are products that will fluctuate in price depending on the season, consumer demand and competitors, so being business-savvy reduces the risks and helps businesses produce products that are relevant and fit for the current market.
One way to obtain a business education is the traditional way, i.e. through rote learning in a lecture hall. A better way to go about studying business is through business simulations, a more modern approach to education that has been proven to help students retain more knowledge and enter jobs with useful real-life experiences. For this reason, many university professors have chosen to incorporate Smartsims business simulations into their courses, such as at the University of Texas – Austin.
Business simulations are designed to make it easier for students to be confidently ready for the workforce as soon as they graduate. There exists a huge opportunity to better equip students with the necessary skills and experience, and business simulations have been tailored to do just that. Active learning through simulated business scenarios allows students to understand business strategy and management concepts at a deeper level.
Why Business Simulations?
The benefits of business simulations are endless. They provide an immersive experience, incorporating a wide variety of teaching methods such as experiential learning, reflective learning, action-oriented learning and the flipped classroom. Students are more likely to be engaged and alert, resulting in better outcomes. Business simulations provide a safe setting for students to bridge theories and concepts with real-life experiences, learning from their mistakes and its consequences as well as celebrating their successes.
Business simulations replicate the informal, reflective and interactive nature of workplace learning. Authors agree that workplace relevant learning is typically created in action as employees form solutions to problems (Gibbons et al., 1994; Marsick & Watkins, 1996; Sternberg & Horvath, 1999). To succeed in a large-scale, highly competitive industry such as farming, workers need to display independent problem-solving abilities. Business simulations help students become more capable.
Smartsims Helps the Farming Industry
We have two business courses designed to help students develop business knowledge and skills, and covert theory into real-world skills. Smartsims’ MikesBikes Introduction is a foundation-level course that allows students to build up their confidence, and MikesBikes Advanced is a highly instructive strategic management simulation that takes it to the next level. The skills learned in these simulations translate well to the farming industry or to any other type of business.
If you are considering entering the farming industry, or you are already in the workforce but want to further your knowledge and skills, contact us to find out more about simulation training. Our business simulation games are changing the shape of the education system, and the success of businesses in Texas and all over the world. Experiential education is the evolution of education.
Adapted from an article written by Karie Willyerd, Alwin Grünwald, Kerry Brown, Bernd Welz, and Polly Traylor and originally published in the Digitalist Magazine by SAP.
“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage” – Jack Welch
For companies, traditional training methods, such as classrooms, are still relevant, but they are no longer the prime delivery method for learning. Now digital experiential learning methods offer businesses a versatile platform that connects the dots between learning outcomes and business outcomes, such as attrition, employee engagement, and sales growth.
Brown and colleagues of business software solutions company SAP introduce a convincing argument for the effectiveness and efficiency of modern methods of experiential education. Businesses that leverage custom-made, carefully-integrated digital learning models generate effective employees and dynamic business strategies. The authors outline their findings in six exciting concepts.
1. Continuous mobile learning is the future
The future of learning rests with learning methods that are rapid, mobile and on-going. Brown et al. believe the greatest challenge for traditional learning methods is their inability to keep up with the increased diversity and pace of the modern business climate. Systems like classrooms, slides, and textbooks cannot keep up with these pressing factors.
Digital learning allows businesses to mobilize their training systems to each employee in customised, consumable forms. This portable form of learning turns training into a continuous and ever-engaging experience. Bernd Knobel, a director at CGI Consulting called his company’s digital training, “a ‘moment of need’ reference tool” that assists his employees in their everyday duties. As a continuous system, it is a tool that lets employees access it where and when they require. Like CGI, digital learning methods are continuous training systems that give more employees the autonomy to learn as they work.
2. Digital’s Competitive Advantage
Digital learning helps businesses keep up to date with modern developments in technology and communications. Companies like Uber, Netflix, Airbnb and many others used modern technology and digital systems to outrun the developments of tomorrow. Any business can gain this competitive edge by using and understanding the potential of digital learning methods.
3. The Need for Multi-Skilled Employees
Jim Carroll, a renowned business consultant, uses the automotive industry to describe the modern need for multi-skilled employees. Carroll exemplifies how a regular car dealer requires a range of knowledge, “infinitely more complex than it was 5 or 10 years ago.” The integration of complex technology into normal, day-to-day activities necessitates a multi-skilled workforce in any business. Digital learning’s versatile and mobile systems make it the best tool in closing the skills gap of the modern workforce.
4. Motivation the Next Generation’s Workforce
The authors cite that in less than a decade 75% of the workforce will comprise of Millennials eager for expedient and diverse learning. Digital learning is a necessary addition to common business practice should the businesses of tomorrow want an engaged and prepared workforce. The Oxford Economic Workforce 2020 survey suggests that the top concern of employees surveyed is becoming obsolete. Digital learning benefits both businesses and their employees in addressing that reality of obsolescence.
5. The Defining Characteristics of Digital Learning
The article identifies six key characteristics that exemplify the transition from traditional to digital learning methods. The first is micro-learning, breaking large concepts into smaller consumable pieces. Businesses have the freedom to deconstruct their training into whatever sequence or series is appropriate. The main principle is taking large complex ideas and breaking them into smaller, simpler parts.
The second is self-serve learning. An overarching theme of the article is the importance of mobile, accessible learning systems. Digital learning can be cloud-based, updated in real-time and accessed where and when an employee needs. This is just one exciting foundation of its self-serve learning method.
The third is learning as a form of entertainment. Digital learning’s ability to take the form of business simulations, gamified goal-setting or virtual reality makes it an emotive and entertaining learning style. Joe Carella of the University of Arizona shared his praises of digital learning methods describing them as, “more immersive” than traditional online methods.
The fourth is the social learning of digital learning methods. Learning is an “emotional experience and most people don’t want to be alone when they learn”, says Brown et al. The potential for social collaboration produces new avenues for learning strategies and internal business growth.
The fifth, building off social learning, is user-generated content. Founder of The MASIE Centre, Elliott Masie described “raw, user-created content” as having a higher demand above “polished corporate-created content.” Digital learning leverages this social trend allowing employees to learn from each other in a collaborative environment.
Finally, the sixth characteristic is video. Video content can now be created, edited and consumed by anyone with access to a digital device and the internet. VP Cushing Anderson of the firm IDC says “[digital] learning is often about substituting convenience for perfect quality”.
6. The Human Equation of Shifting to Digital
The article concludes by emphasizing the importance of having a strong human connection throughout the digital learning experience. The point is succinctly summarised by the authors, “excellent learning depends on excellent instructors.” Blending digital into traditional, formal modes of learning leverages its human connection to produce knowledge that sticks.
The Main Takeaway
The key premise of the article is that business that leverage personalized, carefully-integrated digital learning models generate effective employees and dynamic business strategies. Digital learning methods are continuous learning platforms that give businesses a competitive edge while fostering a collaborative culture. Nevertheless, its benefits and advantages all rely on the human element and intending businesses should endeavor to integrate digital learning into existing formal training methods.
Silicon Valley is ruled by millennials who rushed in to claim one of the many tech jobs available. This campus-inspired atmosphere is known for its culture of working hard and long hours, but it’s also the birthplace of innovative ideas that have transformed the way humans experience the world. So for many students it’s the dream place to work!
However, entering Silicon Valley requires more than good grades and the right attitude. Those who dream of landing a job in this market know that previous experience is essential to scoring big. Engaging in business simulations can help future movers and shakers experience the industry and get tech-ready for the road ahead.
The Job Market in Silicon Valley
The technology job market is becoming more and more competitive, and it’s no different in Silicon Valley. There is a huge demand for tech-savvy workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary in the computer science field is $81,430. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for project managers in Silicon Valley is $110,197, and the average Bay Area salaries for experienced data scientists and engineers are $162,000 and $189,000 respectively. Sounds good, right?
LinkedIn’s Workforce Report for June found that Americans agree. The report shows that of the 20 largest US metropolitan areas, Silicon Valley is the 12th most attractive place for jobs. Unsurprisingly, interviews are lengthy and difficult. A standard interview process will begin with an email, followed by a phone screening and then an on-site meeting. It’s important for applicants to be prepared, confident and present a fresh perspective in these interviews.
How Do Business Simulations Help?
Business simulation games allow students to manage their own virtual business, so they experience what it’s like to run a simulated company. Start-ups are popular in Silicon Valley, and many of them succeed. Having a simulated business provides a risk free learning opportunity. Bridging practice and theory in a low-risk environment (Gosen & Washbush, 2004). Simulated games teach real-life details in a flexible setting.
Students often find it hard to land a job after graduating, because they never learned how to bridge the concepts taught in class with real-life experiences. Simulated games are more engaging and memorable than traditional teaching methods, so students retain information better and have an advantage over others. Business simulations have also been proven to improve critical thinking skills (Lovelace, Eggers & Dyck, 2016).
Make an Impact with Business Simulations
If you’re looking to give your students a leg-up in the competitive job market, business simulations can help. Humans learn best by doing, reflecting and then doing it again, and that’s what business simulations are all about; action-oriented and reflective learning.
This article is written by Frank Voehl. Frank is an Innovation Coach and expert in the application of the business improvement tools and innovation methods to public and private organizations, including city, county, community government, and non-profit operations. He is also a Grand Master Black Belt Instructor in Lean Six Sigma and Performance Management. He’s a noted author and series editor of over 30 books and hundreds of business management and improvement articles and technical papers. He also provided input on the original design of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, and facilitated its crossover to other nations and regions, including the Bahamas, South America, Europe and the Czech Republic.
In a Nutshell
There can be few tasks so daunting as to describe Action Learning in an abbreviated and concentrated way. Those who have experienced action learning know the wide variety of forms it can take. There can be vast differences of interpretation and application. The lack of a tightly defined framework can be a distraction, especially to those accustomed to curriculum design. On the other hand, the flexibility of action learning in promoting learning and elevating organizational performance can be highly attractive. This article covers action learning in a contextual way, first, by relating it to two societal trends. Some examples and a Case Study are then provided that leave the reader free to interpret their significance and how they differ from traditional approaches to problem resolution. The remainder of the article then outlines action learning principles. The goal is an integrated view of action learning in application, including some contrasting beliefs.
Action learning is once again starting to gain popularity as a method to improve performance, promote learning, and position organizations to adapt better in turbulent times. It is also seen as a method to develop the capabilities of individuals, teams, and overall organizations. The suggested path for most effective learning is through knowing yourself and your capacity to learn. The journey is complicated by the processes that have been successfully used in the past, as well as group interest in, and knowledge of, the subject you wish to learn. For example, it may be easy for you to learn physics but difficult to learn tennis, or vice versa. Action Learning, and all learning, is a process which settles itself logically into certain steps, if done correctly.
Action learning is a learning and problem-solving strategy for organizations, whether commercial, government or non-profit. The focus is to increase employees learning capacity within an organization while responding to a real-world challenge in a cross-departmental team. An excellent seminal report, Continuous Learning, first published by the Canadian Centre for Management Development in 1994 and updated 10 years later, suggests that “some of the most interesting and promising innovations in management learning have taken the form of what is called action learning”.
Reflection is an important part of the action learning experience. A small, mutually supportive group takes advantage of its members’ own actions and experience. The experience of information exchange can generate fresh approaches across departmental lines (networking), and help build systemic innovation and knowledge management capacity within the learning organization.
The number of corporations that have or are now using action learning approaches is growing. They include TRW, Inc., General Electric (GE), Andersen Consulting, Conoco, Whirlpool, Ameritech, and GEC (England). Public sector organizations are now also represented, such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Defense Management Systems College (DMSC) of the U.S. Department of Defense.
Action Learning begins with a period of strategic questioning of the problem; sets action items and goals; regroups to analyze progress; and reflects upon, and documents, the process. Groups are formed to solve real problems, not to make recommendations. They are empowered and trusted with the necessary resources to take on the issue, and as a derivative can present the organization with new procedures that build the productive power of the organization
Action learning, as a concept, dates back more than 70 years. It has, until recently, received more interest and attention outside the United States. Its roots can be traced to action research, a concept and term originated by the German psychologist, Kurt Lewin, in the 1940s (Weisbord, 1987, pp. 183-195). Reginald W. Revans, of England, originally an astrophysicist, pioneered the concepts related to action learning over more than a half a century ago . His effort is extensively documented and involved much in-depth research, including work in coal mines, hospitals, and with industry in Belgium organizations, whether commercial, government, or non-profit. Since action learning is intended initially to increase the learning capacity of employees, and then to resolve a real problem in an organizational context, it is not intended as classroom learning experience, or as an academic exercise, per se.
The Situation Team
Action learning always begins with a clearly defined organizational opportunity or problem. Its objective, set by the management Leadership Team, should be clear and significant. Next, the team is fully empowered to bring the challenge to a successful conclusion. An ad hoc action team of four to eight people, voluntary or appointed, with diverse backgrounds, skills and experience is often employed. Team members are:
Expected to first understand the objective, then commit their energy and expertise to the team process
Participate as equals, empowered and encouraged to contribute, no matter what their rank or role within the organization.
Share with, and learn about, fellow team members early in the experience.
What are our backgrounds, range of expertise and skills?
How can these contribute to resolving the situation?
Diversity ensures that team members will discuss and contribute out of their strengths, and in so doing teach each other on various points
Establish procedures common to group learning and process, i.e. Active listening; accessible communication and meeting times; assigned administrative tasks, recognize emerging leadership, Insightful questioning and reflective listening.
The key is to start with fresh questions, not with constructs from the past, and focus first on the right questions rather than the “right answers”. Then, clarify the exact nature of the problem, explore what is known and unknown. The more challenging the questions, the better the learning experiences and strategies. The more potential resources are identified, either relevant/irrelevant, available or needed, the more comprehensive the strategy set. The questioning phase also builds dialogue within the team, and generates an innovative and cross-disciplinary approach to strategic resolution. After this phase of questioning and reflection, action items are identified.
The process always requires that the Team does Journaling, as keeping journals and logs helps to facilitate later documentation for the organization, as well as personal progress. Lessons are recorded throughout the process of active learning, and at its conclusion, which helps:
to benefit team members in documenting responsibilities and timelines, as well as reviewing actions for what is going right and what not-so-right,
self-awareness learning, both situational and holistic
individuals in reviewing their own experience and growth in the problem-solving process
organizations in documenting the processes for future reference, as well as building a program of implementation throughout the organization, whether for organizational review, entrepreneurial activities
Key Questions About Action Learning
Given the renewed interest in action learning in the 1990s, the pivotal question becomes, “What is action learning?” There are associated questions as well: “Why is there so much interest in action learning today?” “How can action learning be applied?” “What are the perceived benefit values?” “How can action learning be related to performance improvement?” For answers, we turn to some of the SMEs, including Robert Dilworth and the Grand Master, Reg Revans himself.
1. Just what is Action Learning? According to Dilworth (and even Revans himself) this is when things get difficult because defining action learning is not easy to do. Action learning can take a variety of forms. In other cases, it can be closely interwoven with other organizational interventions. In such cases, a number of labels may apply, including organization development (OD), management development, team building, and transformative learning. Revans, even with all his writing on the subject, avoids defining “action learning”. He is more inclined to describe action learning in terms of what it is not. Revans, in effect, holds the view that to try and build finite structures around it, as is usually done with management concepts, only robs action learning of its power. It can be like trying to sail the Queen Elizabeth II in a bathtub. A highly definitive concept with narrow parameters simply does not fit the subject. The eclectic nature of action learning, drawing from various disciplines, also makes finely chiseled depictions difficult.
2. How does one explain it to the layman and the practioner alike? Dilworth’s strategy for explaining action learning is to ‘frame it in relation to societal trends and the prism of practice. This will allow us to isolate some of the most basic characteristics and underpinnings associated with action learning’. We will begin with two broad societal trends that are perceived to be influencing present day interest in action learning. Then we will turn to some actual examples of action learning. This will also encompass some of the issues that can arise in implementing an action learning program and how to go about putting such a program in place.
3. What are the societal trends that Prof Revans spoke about? The first societal trend relates to significant disillusionment with initiatives to improve the quality of work life and performance. It is frequently expressed in terms of marginal results and knee-jerk, short-lived initiatives . The disillusionment often stems from management approaches that do not prove out. This can take several forms:
The initiative was launched without a full awareness of its implications, and the workforce may have been left in the dark. This can be particularly true in downsizing situations. In a survey of 547 companies that had downsized, the American Management Association (AMA) found that operating costs had improved for fewer than half, while 77 percent experienced a decline in employee morale after downsizing (Boyett & Boyett, 1996, p. 54).
Top management said they supported the initiative but then became distracted by crises and daily work activity, and the initiative died on the vine. It can also be a case of management losing heart when they do not see immediate results. This can be true with regard to quality management initiatives, even when experience shows that you can go through a productivity dip for one to three years while the quality program is being brought fully on line. In other cases, top management turnover occurred, and the workforce was immediately asked to go a different direction. Cynicism ensued. The net result can be deep reluctance on the part of employees to mobilize behind management initiatives except on a superficial level.
Consultants came in, applied (or recommended) solutions, and then left systems that continued a downward spiral. Then, secondary consultants were called in to fix residual problems after the first intervention. This can lead to confusion of objectives and a workforce essentially immobilized by uncertainty.
Application to 21st Century Organizations.
The second trend that Revans and Dilworth spoke about 20 years ago relates to 21st century organizations and continuous learning. Interest in this area is now becoming pervasive, and there is reason to believe that it will be a lasting focus. There is an awareness that organizations as human systems must constantly learn to adapt if they are to survive. As the turbulence of the environments in which organizations exist accelerates, the learning must be continuous, as opposed to being anchored to intermittent formal training. This second trend also spawns intensive interest in workplace learning.
There are at least three questions that arise when considering the need to orient on learning organizations:
What constitutes a learning organization? (The concept is still evolving.)
How do you jump-start an organization to get it into a learning mode?
How do you go about shaping the “organizational DNA” to sustain a learning organization culture once it is created?
I personally believe that the answers to these questions can be linked to action learning, and the number of organizations now turning to action learning tends to confirm this. Action learning is usually discussed in relation to organizational learning and creation of a learning organization. In some cases, the organizations decide to try action learning out of disillusionment with approaches that failed. There can also be a belief that action learning can be an important vehicle for transformation of organizational culture, by increasing the learning capacity of the enterprise and empowering workers, as recently confirmed at the MIT Sloan Action Learning Labs. 
Action items Framework: 10 Commandments
Strategies of resolution frame action items; action items promote learning.
Group members divide tasks, set timelines, and individuals or sub-groups return to their respective work environments to implement them.
Individuals are challenged both to use their range of expertise as well as stretch their approaches to implementation.
Hold Team mid-course reviews. At scheduled points in time, the team reconvenes to process individuals’ feedback, discuss progress, encounter problems, set next steps.
If assumptions are proven wrong, a period of re-questioning is implemented, taking care to view the situation fresh; objectives and timelines are re-set if necessary.
Progress and lessons are journaled for future analysis.
There is no penalty for reconsidering the process and action items until the problem is resolved, or team refers the issue back to administration for further analysis.
Team concluding reviews; institutional review.
With reflection on the concluding process, individuals should gain from self-awareness within the process of experiential learning.
Organizations should realize an immediate benefit in resolving the issue, as well as multiplier effects in enhancing employees’ learning/problem solving skills, cross-departmental communications, and alternative processes of engaging with problems.
Coaching and Facilitating
Prof Reg Revans, founder of action learning, believed that team members are their best coaches, facilitators or leaders. If the team does not have either the experience with reflective or group processes, experiences problematic participants, or needs outside direction, an outside facilitator can be sought to assist the team, much as any resource can be accessed. A coach again uses a “questioning” approach to facilitate reflection and focus on the issues. Coaching can also be a task assigned within the group.
The role of the facilitator can be an important role at the onset in helping the team norm itself in terms of interpersonal dynamics. If you are dealing with mature learners, the role becomes more problematic thereafter, as the facilitator, is not a member of the Team whose mere presence can influence and even damper what actually occurs. As one of the realities of group dynamics, there is no such thing as a benign presence, and we have seen facilitators rejected in several instances because of perceived interference with operations or simply unwanted presence. The presence of a facilitator, even when they remain silent for the most part, can influence interaction within the team. 
My own belief from my experience with many action learning teams and interventions is that facilitators can play a key role in “jump starting” the set activity and orienting the set members on basic fundamentals of action learning (e.g., all set members are equal; the importance of listening to the views of others). After that, though, they need to fade back to what can be called ‘mentor status roles’.
The facilitator is available as needed and will provide perspectives related to action learning but never tell the set how to deal with an issue. How the set deals with its problem is left to the learners. In my experience, it can be wise to make the presence of a facilitator at a set meeting “by invitation only.” Some advocates of action learning take a diametrically opposed view and believe that a facilitator’s presence at the team meetings is a necessity. Our position, and that of Prof Reg Revans, is that,
People do not “learn how to learn” through the guidance of others so much as they do from creating their own meaning.
Team members need to learn about each other early in the action learning experience and need to make the time to do this. Here is where facilitator can assist in uncovering what background and skills are at the table; how can they potentially contribute to problem resolution? During this early state, norms also need to be determined. One of the client projects at FPL that I was associated with came up with these norms:
We will meet only when all members can meet.
We will debate earnestly but never attack one another.
All will carry their share of the responsibility.
We will listen to one another.
The Group Problem Solving norming process is particularly significant because there is no designated leader. Therefore, interpersonal relationships become critical. In my client experiences, groups have operated throughout the action learning process without a single leader emerging, as all tend to share this role. See our Action Learning Case Study here:
Case Study: The FPL Story
Florida Power and Light (FPL)  was the winner of the Deming Prize for Quality in 1989. This is a Japanese award named after an American, W Edwards Deming. FPL was the first non-Japanese company to earn the award. It was also the first major quality initiative related to the service sector, as opposed to manufacturing, in the United States.
At about the time that they pursued the Deming Prize journey, FPL had experienced a difficulty with its power generation systems. In fact, the problem had persisted for several years, and various teams and task force attempts to solve it had failed. FPL was experiencing an unacceptable inefficiency relating to the conversion of energy to electricity in its power generation systems. Electricity generated was significantly less than it should have been, based on energy input to power generator systems. We called together a team of people from different FPL areas to troubleshoot the problem. Team members had not worked together before as a team. They had a range of skills. See Choosing Projects in Action Learning Programs here:
The team solved the problem using action learning, developed a strong team spirit (they asked the company to continue them as a team for other problem-solving effort), and gave their presentation of results in shirts with their self-determined team name, “Drips,” embroidered on them. The team name related to some of the problem sources they had identified. The “Drips” found that there were many individual problems, not one overriding circumstance that was causing the inefficiency. They found, among other things, that birds nesting on power lines across the state of Florida could lead to problems, one of them being shorting out of lines.
As a Pioneer Lead Facilitator at FPL, I participated in many applications of Action Learning as part the Quality Improvement (QIP) efforts and some of the lessons learned in this case study at FPL were as follows: 
They were not mired down in the past and they started a new line of inquiry.
They asked fresh questions. It represented unfamiliar territory to several of the team members.
Therefore, they had to question assumptions and explore avenues that traditional troubleshooting approaches might have overlooked.
What they learned achieved some breakthroughs in thinking about problems of the type addressed. In other words, the established company knowledge in this area had to be updated and modified.
It was a real problem, and they were expected to solve it.
In conclusion, the presence of the following characteristics are what separate action learning from other modalities, some of which may at times be inaccurately labeled action learning. 
1. It is always a real problem that the action learning set or individual set members are dealing with. In some cases a set will address a common problem. In other cases, the individual team members may bring to the set problems from their own workplace. In either case, the standard is the same. The problems must be real, meaning unsolved and of considerable significance. Revans argued for problems that can be so daunting that they appear insoluble.
2. The perfect situation in the view of Revans is to be confronted by a real problem with which you are unfamiliar, and to have to solve it in an unfamiliar setting (Revans, 1983, pp. 21-22). To that I add that it can be instructive to be asked to engage in action learning with set members that you either do not know or have had only minimal contact with before. This adds a third dimension of unfamiliarity.
While meaningful learning can occur in settings that are familiar, while dealing with problems with which you are somewhat familiar, it is in the unfamiliar setting and confrontation with an unfamiliar problem that the learning can prove to be greatest. This can seem counter intuitive to those with limited experience with action learning. Several questions can result. “Why would you want to place people outside the bounds of their knowledge and familiarity?” “Why train people for one thing if you are then going to ask them to solve problems that they have not been trained to solve?” The answer is that you want the person outside of their comfort zone and placed in a situation where they must ask fresh questions and even challenge their own long held assumptions about what should be true. See Choosing Projects in Action Learning Programs for more details:
3. An action learning team set should have no more than four to eight members. Four to five seems ideal. If you’d like mentoring with your Action Learning, then email us at info@ActionLearningSource.com or see the YouTube video on approaches to developing action learning programshere for more information.
4. All members of an action learning set are equals. There is no designated leader. Set members share the leadership role. The set operates by consensus.
5. Learning (L) = Programmed Instruction (P) + Questioning Insight (Q). Revans made it clear in this “Learning Equation” (Revans, 1983, p. 11) that you need both ingredients for learning, but he also strongly believed that the process needs to begin with questioning insight (the “Q” factor), the here, the now and what you sense may occur, as opposed to beginning with an examination of past knowledge and results (the “P” factor). When you begin with questioning insight, you can find that some of the existing “P” is of little value, and there may be new “P” that needs to be developed.
6. A facilitator (also referred to as Set Adviser or Learning Coach) is almost always present in action learning. When a facilitator is involved, the role can differ widely. Some believe in the omnipresence of the facilitator when the set meets, believing that the facilitator needs to be there to make sure that reflection occurs and that important learning opportunities are not overlooked. Revans takes a different view, and one that closely aligns with what this author believes. Revans holds that the set can do its own best facilitation. Therefore, the facilitator involvement is best limited to setting up the process properly, jump starting the work of the set (without excessive “P”), and then fading back. During the process of action learning, the facilitator serves as a resource and promotes the learning process. The facilitator only intervenes in a limited way, letting the set chart its own course, including the interpretation and capture of its own learning. The facilitator does not attend all set meetings, and may only be present for a portion of other meetings.
The view that the facilitator should not be omnipresent gets strong support from adult learning theory, where the goal is fostering independence, not reinforcing dependence (e.g., a facilitator or teacher who will tell you what to do). The learning comes out of the action learning experience, not the “fount of knowledge ” of some supernumerary, who may have views that are far off center with learner needs. The participants decide what structure they need to use and the milestones to be pursued in accomplishing the work of the set. While the facilitator will assign the overall deadline, and point out some intermediate markers that need to be honored, it is up to the set to manage its own effort.
There can be more controversy around the role of a facilitator than any other area related to action learning.  Some adamantly hold that the facilitator is the center of the process, with “absolute authority” over the action learning set. Others, myself included, believe that the learner is at the center of the process, and that to have a facilitator regularly intervene during the activities of a set only serves to dilute the learning that would otherwise occur. It can also become extremely irritating to the learners. I have seen instances when the members of a set asked the facilitator to leave.
7. As indicated at the outset, action must be balanced by reflection. It is the reflective component that generates the depth of learning. Some of it is reflection-in-action as you move along in your project effort. We do this daily in our lives. There is also “reflection on reflection-in-action”, which inherently calls for looking back over the various reflective moments when the actions were taking place and examining them for patterns. This is greatly facilitated by the maintenance of a learning log, as shown in the YouTube Ted Talk. Click here for more information.
What action learning can provide is elevated levels of discernment and understanding through the interweave of action and reflection. In a time of rapid change, it can be an intervention of choice. GE uses it throughout its global operations. In some cases, it takes the form of what is called the work-out, i.e., group work on real problems in real time, with key executives expected to provide on-the-spot decisions to employees as proposed solutions to problems are offered. At the higher levels of the company, it can take the form of change acceleration programs. Here you see the clear linkage between change and learning.
Action learning takes careful thought in execution. It can run cross-grain with established ways of doing business. While growing use of cross-functional (and global teams) is symbiotic with action learning principles, some corporations still think almost exclusively in terms of formal training. Since action learning can provide learning experiences outside the bounds of formal training programs, it can be viewed as a threat. The suggestion that people be considered for problem solving activity outside their expertise can also be viewed as a strange proposition.
Finally, when groups are going to meet, an important early decision is what type of facilitator — internal or external — will help your group make its best progress on goals. When the type of facilitator matches the needs of the meeting, effective meetings are more possible. 
One thing was crystal clear to Revans and Dilworth alike:
More and more corporations will be turning to action learning because it is viewed as a way of transforming the culture and providing continuous learning. Some view it as the portal or gateway to learning organizations. Most importantly, they have found it an excellent tonic for driving performance improvement and accomplishing rapid results.
See the following presentation called Typical Results from Action Learning here:
We provide support to start-up and small enterprises during their first through fifth years of operation in the districts of Nipissing and Parry Sound by offering easy access to business consulting services and information concerning market research, business planning, management, marketing, technology and financing.
We also create and deliver projects designed to give high school students experiential learning experiences in entrepreneurship which, in one of our projects, includes the use of MikesBikes.
What is the Entrepreneurship Outreach Program?
This program has been renamed ELS or Experiential Learning Stream. We have a series of projects designed to give high school students in our area some hands–on learning experiences involving some aspects of entrepreneurship. We run entrepreneurship leadership camps, hosts entrepreneurship and social innovation workshops in Toronto, Ontario, teach students how to make better business decisions using MikesBikes. We also run a special business project each year with our local “alternative” school, whose students do much better academically in a less structured educational environment.
What made you choose MikesBikes for the program?
We chose it for its ease of use, affordability, accessibility and especially because we were able to adapt/simplify its excellent complexity to fit the needs and academic background/level of high school. We also like the almost immediate financial and non-financial feedback the students get when they submit their inputs for processing.
How do you use MikesBikes in the program?
We initially spend around five hours in total teaching the students and going through the first two periods of the simulation. Students complete hundreds of “what if” scenarios to achieve the highest profits possible.
How does MikesBikes allow you to engage with the participants of the program?
We are in the classroom with the students, teaching, answering questions and providing learning exercises based on using the game.
Describe both your experience and the student’s experience with MikesBikes?
Students love the game and the competition among their peers. There are many Aha! moments. For us, it is a wonderful learning and teaching tool.
What do students take away from the simulation?
Students learn about the inter-connectedness of input variables, how to isolate variables and how to interpret financial statements. We run in class competitions and an inter-school competition near the end of the semester.
What successes have you seen with the program and MikesBikes?
The students learn very quickly that business involves many inter-connected variables required for success and how to structure decision-making to maximize results. They tell us they love playing with the software. Teachers keep asking us to return to their classes year after year.
Smartsims would like to thank Bob Walpole and The Business Centre for sharing their experiences with MikesBikes.
Want to learn more? Drexel University also use MikesBikes in their Foundations of Business course: