Instructional Games in Government and Industry
A growing trend in today’s business learning environments has been moving toward simultaneously teaching and experiencing important ideas through verbal, tactile, and surrogate methods. In other words, we don’t just describe, display, and observe — we simulate. Game-based business simulations provide a means for students to perform tasks, demonstrate skills, and also exhibit attitudes in order to create or experience effective approaches in dealing with real or potential situations.
The concept and practice of simulations are not new; they’ve been part of human behavior for centuries. Child’s play, drama, and scientific experimentation all facilitate knowledge acquisition and personal experience in ways that encompass formal, informal, and various combinations of learning. However, in this technological world, the word simulation most likely conjures images of computer-, tablet-, smartphone- and other types of digital hardware and software-based approaches.
Business learning and simulation games take several forms including in-person role play, computer simulations, and team-centered scenarios while connecting multiple players that are geographically near and far. During business simulations, whether in-person or computer-based, the participants typically assume a specific persona and exhibit behavior within a business setting; are given tasks to perform or decisions to make; and receive feedback on the quality of their individual or team performance. Through the development of realistic business scenarios, the participant is provided with a problem or situation requiring various physical, mental, emotional, kinesthetic, and combination responses. In both in-person and via computer, the scenario events will branch based on the dynamic interactions of the participants, frequently yielding a multitude of solutions or outcomes.
Meaningful simulations, especially in business and industry still require human interaction, the kind that cannot be fully satisfied through surrogate, two-dimensional, or even three-dimensional representations or natural language processing. Computers, for the most part, have rebranded the definition of simulation. There are still actions and tasks that computers cannot perform. The benefits and uses of people-centric, interpersonal, and table-top simulations that have been widely used by the military and other tactical decision makers in government and industry is not dependent upon the graphics representation, but rather, human collaboration.
There are two basic types of business simulations: content and process. It is important to note that the line between process and content is often blurred because each simulation contains elements of both. However, in most cases the type of simulation used skews the primary learning either towards learning the process or learning the specific content.
For the most part, content simulations are hosted on computers to explore what actions are to be taken. For example, if an individual makes a decision and implements that decision by pressing a button, what will happen? On the other hand, process simulations examine the how and why of actions taken. In other words, the focus of the simulation considers the outcome as it pertains to the level of agreement among the interpersonal processes and motives used, the how and why regarding a particular decision.
Process simulations usually precede content simulations and are more interpersonal by nature. The reason is that human beings are a why-driven species. We like to know why we are doing something before we actually engage in the task and do it. Knowing the why helps us make sense of our actions, no matter how small or large they might be.