Why is competition vital in a business simulation game?

Article by Ken Thompson, 06 Apr 2017

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Competition can sometimes be viewed as not always necessary in an organisation especially when it comes to training; however I oppose this idea, especially in the context of business simulation games. There are various advantages of creating healthy competition within a business simulation game environment, just like in the real business world:

  1. Increases motivation

For some people just saying the word ‘competition’ instantly motivates them to want to win and perform their very best.  This is usually due to the fact that they really want to beat their rivals, otherwise known as ‘competitors’ in the real world. So instead of delegates just doing what is required of them they do the very best they can do, as their drive to win shines through.

  1. Improves team co-operation

Competition may help teams to co-operate better as they all have a common goal…… to WIN! Therefore competition can help teams to come together and prioritise the areas which they feel will help them to enhance performance and win. This ‘team spirit’ enables teams to work more effectively, as well as improve communication and social skills.

This is especially evident if there is a leader board and a trophy at stake. Delegates will also take things more seriously if there is a prize and particularly if that prize is being judged by a senior business person – nobody wants to show up like a loser in front of a senior business exec, as it’s not career enhancing!

  1. Opportunity for progression

Competition makes us want to constantly improve and better ourselves to either keep up with everyone or even better, to be one step ahead of them. I believe that delegates are able to learn from their mistakes and can identify their strengths and weaknesses.  Also in a business simulation game environment it is safer for delegates to take risk, than in their actual job. If teams win by making really good decisions or lose by making a really bad decision they will be able to learn from this and remember it when carrying out their actual job.

  1. Reflects the real world.

Life is a competition, and it is important that this is reflected in the business simulation environment to make it as realistic as possible. Otherwise delegates are in danger of not taking it seriously as they know it won’t have any impact on their actual everyday job. However if it is a competition delegates won’t want to lose as they may feel it reflects badly on them, so will take it more seriously as they want to look good in front of their peers.

Healthy competition is therefore a vital aspect in running business simulation games. However facilitators need to be aware that if teams are too competitive they may become fixated on ‘gaming’ the simulation to provide the highest financials. Teams may therefore become disinterested in the overall simulation objectives, so it is vital that facilitators keep referring teams back to their overall objectives.

On a final note, it is important to remember that although competition is healthy we must not forget that the main purpose of the event is learning not winning. If competition gets out of hand I think what suffers most are the learning conversations. Facilitators also need to make sure that there are no actual losers (individual or teams at the event) – i.e. should only be an illusion that there will be losers - every team should have been the best at something!

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'A Systematic Guide to Game Based Learning within in Organizations' by Ken Thompson

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