Business Simulation Games: Facilitation Skills 101

Article by Ken Thompson, last updated April 2017


How to facilitate a business simulation game for transformational learning

No matter how clever a business simulation game is 70% of the learning is not in the game but in the people – the players, the subject matter expert and the facilitators. But what is the essence of the facilitator role? Simulation facilitators are responsible for ensuring that the "conversational opportunities" afforded by the simulation are translated into the achievement of the specific learning objectives for all the participants.

Core Responsibilities

They do this in 2 main ways:

1. By asking questions and giving feedback to their team(s) about their decision-making particularly:

a) their use of all resources and knowledge available to the team

b) whether they have considered all the options not just the obvious

c) whether they are working based on evidence based not hunches

2. By enriching participant experience by providing useful information – on background and context but never “inside information” to help a team make a decision – this defeats the whole purpose which is to learn, not to win!

Practical Duties

In addition facilitators must support their team(s) in the 20 practical areas listed below:

1. Ensure the live game does not commence whilst people are confused

2. Ensure conversations are about the business NOT the simulation

3. Amplify high-value conversations and kill low-value ones

4. Ensure each team works as a team

5. Ensure all participates actively engage (not dominators or checked-outs)

6. Ensure each team manages its time well

7. Over the course of the simulation exploit opportunities to connect the players experientially to each key point in the learning charter

8. Ensure learning happens throughout the whole event

9. Ensure the end of round and end of game debriefs have adequate time

10. Ensure all players capture personal learnings

11. Ensure commitments about behaviour changes and results are captured

12. Ensure the participants learn from each other and other teams

13. Ensure the competitiveness between teams is well managed

14. Ensure the hand-outs are distributed with impact and at the right time

15. Ensure that any technical confusions are quickly resolved

16. Ensure the leader-boards are effectively used

17. Ensure that any business rule queries are confidently resolved

18. Ensure that the recognition of team performance is managed sensitively

19. Ensure facilitators and subject matter experts work as an effective team

20. Anything else to ensure the learning goals are achieved…..

Managing Conversations

The facilitators job is also to amplify and enrich high value conversations and to sensitively shut down low value conversations.

Low value conversations: - what are the detailed rules in the simulation model ? - how do we “game” the simulation ? - how does the exact maths work ? - why can't the game do X or Y ? - why can't the screen offer more information on Z ?

High value conversations: - what is the central business principle or issue we are debating here ? - what would we do in the real world ? - what real world dilemmas are we wrestling with here and what are we trying to balance or trade-off ? - what extra key complexities are present in our business (and not in the simulation) which we must also understand better ? - what new possibilities about how we think about our business are we uncovering ?

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More about Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson

Ken is a practitioner, author and speaker on Leadership, Collaborative Working, High Performing Teams, Change Management, Project Management and Business Acumen. His work has featured in major publications including The Guardian , Wired Magazine, The Huffington Post and The Henry Ford Magazine. Ken has also spoken at many international events including TEDx, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Learn Tech (London) and NASA.

Ken is Founder of Business Simulations Ltd.

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