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:
Congratulations to Alan Cohen, Hormoz Movassaghi and Warren Schlesinger for winning the Middle Atlantic Association Colleges of Business Administration’s 2017 Innovation in Teaching Award for their work with the freshman course – World of Business.
The MAACBA selected Ithaca College’s business course from 26 other submissions in the undergraduate category. Lawrence Singleton, President of MAACBA and Dean of Marist School of Management, said the Innovation in Teaching award is an important recognition in alternative teaching methods within business schools.
The World of Business course at Ithaca College is a requirement for all freshmen in the business school and has been taught for almost 20 years, with over half of this period using a different business simulation. However, this year the faculty and Dean, Sean Reid, made significant changes to the course; including a new simulation – MikesBikes Introduction.
Schlesinger said the simulation requires students to work in groups both in and out of class to manage their own bicycle manufacturing company. They must rely on the skills learned in the course to make decisions ranging from pricing and marketing their products, to making finance and product development decisions.
“If we’re teaching from an academic perspective about marketing, finance and accounting, we really wanted a simulation that would stretch our students and really bring their academic concepts. They would apply it in the simulation and compete with each team in the simulation. This is working fantastically well”
Freshman business student Zachary Islam said he finds the MikesBikes Intro simulation enjoyable and engaging.
“The MikesBikes game makes it really fun”
During the summer, prior to the start of the school year, students receive emails giving them the contact information for their MikesBikes group. Once the World of Business class starts, students sit and work with their group. Schlesinger said this early formation of groups allows students to come to the college as freshmen who have already formed connections with peers and cemented the importance of collaboration.
“We really focus on teamwork because when they get out into the business world, that’s really of critical importance. Also, we feel that students are more likely to persist at Ithaca College and be successful as freshmen if they develop connections and bonds”
Millennials have become a hot topic. Even the word itself has become a trigger which sets off comments from older generations. However, the reality is “it is what it is” and those working with the millennial generation must learn to adapt. So when it comes to education, colleges and universities must also adapt to meet the needs of students or risk losing enrollments to other schools or the booming online learning industry. Continue reading Gamify Your Course and Appeal to Millennials→
In this video, Professor Darl Kolb discusses the unique way he has designed his course and complementary simulation-based activities to achieve amazing learning outcomes for his students.
Kolb is the Professor of Connectivity at the University of Auckland. His courses have always received high student ratings, praise from his faculty and have earned him multiple teaching awards. At the core of his courses for over 15 years has been the MikesBikes Business Simulation. Kolb has used this Strategic Management Simulation for over 15 years, in both his Undergraduate Course and his Masters of Business (MBA) Course.
MikesBikes is a means of introducing students to business concepts; such as strategy formulation, decision-making and teamwork. When used in a Capstone Course the simulation enables students to bring together all the theory from their business degree into a single experiential learning activity. To not only understand the individual functions of business, but to also see the connectedness and interaction of these functions. Over the years Kolb continues to receive feedback from students that their MikesBikes experience has not only provided them with workforce readiness, but gives them the leading edge in job interviews.
Kolb has designed his courses to create the most a realistic business environment he can for his students. Students are first tasked with writing their MikesBikes Résumé to apply for a position in their management team. This is done using a combination of their Single-Player (practice version) performance and their personal skills, experience and abilities. Based on their résumés, students are put into teams and assigned roles; Marketing Manager, Operations Manager, Finance Manager, R&D Manager and CEO.
The student teams then work together to conduct a market and company analysis, formulate strategy and implement their decisions prior to the first decision deadline (Multi-Player rollover). After each rollover, the results are displayed and discussed in class, giving students time to meet and reflect on their decisions.
Over the length of the course students participate in mock board meetings and management team presentations. These complementary activities aim to not only help add reality to this experience, but to also give students genuine confidence and real-world skills to take into the workplace.
For Kolb, and hundreds of other instructors, the MikesBikes Business Simulation has proven to be a great foundation for students at all course levels.
Credit: Drexel University, LeBow School of Business
Associate Clinical Professor Jodi Cataline uses MikesBikes simulations to teach her freshmen students the foundations of business. Teaching at Drexel University, she found that business simulations improved the quality teaching through its unique hands-on approach.
Jodi describes how the simulations allow her to move beyond purely academic forms of business education. She extracts terminology and concepts from her teaching material and challenges her students to use it in the MikesBikes simulation.
Jodi and her freshmen cohort demonstrate how Drexel’s business faculty benefit from MikesBikes. Drexel students are prepared and confident to enter the workforce after completing the MikesBikes simulation.
Andrew Patterson a professional teaching fellow at the University of Auckland discusses his experience using MikesBikes Advanced with his undergraduate students. He describes how the MikesBikes Advanced business simulation provides a new and effective system to engage his students.
Andrew has spent over 4 years teaching in the University of Auckland Business School. He is currently using the strategic management simulation, MikesBikes Advanced in his undergraduate management course. It remediates what Andrew identifies as shortcomings of traditional learning styles.
Traditionally, learning environments have been passive systems unable to effectively target large student cohorts. Andrew found that MikesBikes provided an entirely new form of experiential learning. He used the business simulator to provide students with a business and management simulation where they could strategize and apply course content. This allowed him to focus on guiding students through their business strategies and building on their educational experience.
The course focuses heavily on the student’s experience in the simulation and their reflective observations. Andrew primarily uses his lectures to meet with student teams and coordinate their business, management and marketing strategies. The course is graded based on the overall performance in the simulation and on the student’s learning journal. Andrew notes that the students’ MikesBikes experience made the reflective journal component possible.
The simulation allows him to keep his finger on the course’s pulse, set period goals and observe how students execute their strategies. The experiential learning environment created an active foundation where students could reflect on their learning using their own simulated business models.
Andrew closes in saying that in four years of teaching, he has never encountered anything like the MikesBikes Advanced simulation. The level of student engagement and interaction made it a positive experience for him as an instructor. His students added that it was one of the best learning experiences they had in university – this was echoed by their high attendance and engagement in class. Their experience with the simulation provided tangible case studies for them as they begin their careers; proving that its learning potential goes beyond the classroom.
King’s Own Institute (also known as Australian Institute of Business Management) instructor, Rex Walsh (pictured above) was over the moon when he found out that one of the teams in his class achieved the top spot in the MikesBikes Introduction Hall of Fame. A big congratulations toDashcycle and Rex for this amazing achievement!
We interviewed Rex to learn more about his course and how he prepares students to succeed in the simulation.
Tell us about your experience with MikesBikes Introduction.
Wonderful. Players universally rate this unit as the most relevant, rewarding and personal development based course they complete and this is incredibly rewarding for me.
Players have even made their own customized bike and accessories! It’s mind-blowing!
How does MikesBikes allow you to engage with your students?
MikesBikes allows me to engage with my students in the most rewarding way. The players develop competence, skills, confidence and learn to relate to me simply as a mentor. They grow up quickly in my course!
How is your course designed?
We operate the course as a practical real life program. The simulation is the vehicle for which students must then adjust to be business ready in a real world sense.
How is your course assessed?
Assessment is based initially on the position achieved in simulation. Based on this grading, students must then present various supporting assessment materials. This includes reflection journals, business reports, business presentations, including a startup for venture capital and at completion a business ready presentation to launch in the real world.
How do you prepare students for the MikesBikes simulation?
In the first few weeks, they go through the Single-Player practice version of the simulation. The students must survive on their own with my role purely as a mentor. They are challenged to experiment and explore various decisions, and strategies.
Tell us about unique activities used to complement the simulation.
Players are asked to develop webpages, social media pages such as Facebook, Instagram, etc. Students also use video editing software to make presentations and advertisements.
What do students take away from the simulation? For example, did the simulation improve their academic performance and/or assisted in securing a job?
Students are able to launch their own businesses after and during completion of the simulation. My approach is very much based on simulating real world application.
Why do you like MikesBikes?
The support offered by Smartsims is terrific and the lasting relationship is very rewarding!!
Comment on your experience with the staff.
The staff are terrific and very responsive, not just to me, but also to the students. I cannot recommend Smartsims staff more highly!