Why is a subject matter expert vital for a business simulation to succeed?

Article by Ken Thompson, last updated April 2017


A Subject Matter Expert (SME) is someone who has an authority and experience within a particular area; they can be internal or external to a business. An SME can act as trainer, knowledge sharer and can help with the design of a business simulation. The role of an SME is vital to ensure the simulation has real credibility; however this can be a very challenging role, you need to make sure the SME is willing to take questions from the room and are fully aware of how the simulation works.

I am now going to explore why their role is so vital for a business simulation to succeed. An SME is vital in the design of a simulation before it is even run for 2 main reasons:

  1. Able to provide the best and most relevant data when designing the simulation.

It is important the data provided is relevant and up-to-date, if this is able to come from an SME within a business it is more likely to be accurate and you will be able to run any anomalies or questionable data past them, so they can explain it better. This is extremely useful if a developer is designing a simulation for a business sector which they haven’t dealt with before.

  1. Provide the business rules

The subject matter expert’s knowledge is vital to determine the business rules within the simulation. Their input ensures that the developer is creating a simulation which reflects the company using it and best suits the needs of the audience who will be taking part. The SME’s involvement is also crucial during the running of the simulation for the following reasons:

  1. To share their knowledge with delegates.

A main objective of business simulations is to enhance the delegates learning and in many cases the business simulations are built around the subject matter’s knowledge. When running a simulation only half of the time should be spent at the computer screen the rest should be spent discussing and coming up with strategies. In these discussion periods, if the SMEs knowledge is able to be shared with others it can really help boost performance and learning & development within a company.

  1. Give real-life examples to help explain the simulation.

The SME is often a senior business person who has a vast amount of experience in their field, so are often able to give real life examples from business to explain the simulation and the reasons why certain decisions produce certain results. This adds to the credibility of the simulation keeping delegates engaged. There is a risk when running a business simulation without a subject matter expert. This is dues to the fact that if facilitators aren’t able to answer questions well or give good explanations for why certain decisions give certain results, delegates can quickly lose confidence in the simulation.

To find out more about the role of SMEs and other key people when running a business simulation, check out Ken’s blog on key people roles in transformational learning.

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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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