Most of our clients use business simulations in virtual or 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 few years, however, we’ve been asked to create the same impact for groups of 100, 150, and sometimes even 300 leaders.
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? Or, more recently, in 25 Zoom breakout rooms where participants are divided into simulation “worlds” to compare results?
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 experience. Feedback from peers on interactions; feedback on choices in terms of the business results; feedback from the group from comparing decisions to those of 299 other people.
Power of the familiar— to engage a group, give them challenges they recognize. We’ve created business issues that felt painfully close to the challenges participants face back on the job. We’ve created archetypes of customers and employees and then let participants create the words those people would say. Participants present their greatest challenge to a peer, and the conversation runs from there.
Power of peers—in a large group the best teachers may not be the ones with a formal “facilitator” title. Facilitators may start conversations, but peer pairs often make the ideas come to life. Structuring activities with peers keep participants engaged. Participants can’t disengage or drop out of the discussion, which is always a risk in larger group settings.
Power of polling—mobile or zoom polling allows facilitators to capture the conversation in the group into big picture themes. Once it’s clear where the energy is coming from, executives can comment and build on the discussion and drive home the learning points.
Most recently we delivered a simulation to a group of over 130 leaders at a global retailer over Zoom. 23 teams of five to six leaders each worked through a simulation experience over two 5-hour sessions. Teams made three rounds of simulation decisions, while having to manage urgent interruptions and navigating conversations with their direct reports from the simulation. Leaders enthusiastically participated in simulation debriefs where comparative results were revealed. The real-time feedback loop coupled with the ability to network with leaders from across the organization made this program a highly rated learning experience.
"I thought the multi day session was fantastic and I truly gained some great experience in participating in it. I thought it was very well organized and the experience was fluid without a lot of disruptions. Oftentimes these types of events can be very frustrating with many challenges and bugs in the presentation but this one was remarkably well managed, and the execution was on point." – Leading global retailer director
Simulations can deliver high impact in a short time frame and can scale to meet the needs of the target population. An engaging business simulation learning experience will introduce new ideas and build strong relationships, whether it be for 5 or 50 or 500. For more on Flexible Delivery options click below.
Amanda Young Hickman is a Founding Partner at Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.