157429244_detailMost of our clients use business simulations in classroom settings. Groups of 15 or 25 or even 50 are the norm, and our simulation experiences trigger interesting interactions, great discussion and debate, insights in a business context, and great relationship building. Participants leave the experience with insights about themselves and their roles.

Several times in the last two years, however, we’ve been asked to create the same impact for a group of 300…

We wondered. Can we design an engaging, high context experience that gets people talking and engaging in real business issues but at 8-top banquet tables in a ballroom so big that you need three screens to project the PowerPoint slides?

Yes we can, we said…and we did.

Here’s what we learned in case you’re wondering the same thing…

  • Power of feedback—personal, business, competitive. Simulations are all about rapid feedback loops, and the challenges we created delivered feedback in multiple ways throughout the day. Feedback from your peers on interactions; feedback on your choices in terms of the business results; feedback from the group from comparing your decisions to those of 299 other people.
  • Power of the familiar— to engage a group, give them challenges they recognize. We created business issues that felt painfully close to the challenges back on the job. We created archetypes of customers and employees and then let participants create the words those people would say. Participants would present their greatest challenge to a peer, and the conversation would run from there.
  • Power of peers—in a large room the best teachers are sitting in the next seat. We’d start conversations at the front of the room, but peer pairs would make the ideas come to life. Structuring activities with peers kept everyone engaged. Participants couldn’t hang back or drop out of the discussion, which is always a risk in large group settings.
  • Power of polling—mobile polling let us capture the conversation in the room into big picture themes. Once we knew where the energy was coming from, executives could comment and build on the discussion and drive home the learning points.

Simulations can deliver high impact in a short time frame. An engaging business simulation learning experience will introduce new ideas and build strong relationships, whether it for 5 or 50 or 500.

 

Amanda Young Hickman is co-founder of Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich, immersive business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.