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Simulations in Management Education
Glimpse of the Future
Simulations offer learners the chance to test out strategy, make decisions and experience realistic market and product repercussions without risk but with feedback. Johnson Controls Inc. launched the Foundation Business Simulation to give new directors, senior managers and other managers of managers a workable glimpse into the types of business decisions required in their new roles and even roles a step or two above the one they’re transitioning into, said Janice Simmons, vice president of learning and development, Johnson Controls Inc.
“A lot of people think that running a business and making decisions is tough, but they’d like a crack at it and be part of a team,” Simmons said. “What we see as results is awareness raising, a lot of ‘ah-has’ around ‘Did we follow our strategy or did we veer from it, and if we did, why did we change our strategy?’ There are a lot of lessons that they pull back into their own organization. People who are coming out of sales, manufacturing or a functional area will say, ‘Wow. I had no idea it was so hard to forecast sales. I had no idea how all these things have to come together,’ and ‘I’ve always wondered why that other group couldn’t get their plan together. Now I see it’s because I hadn’t given them the right information.’ It creates a real understanding of how all the pieces of the business fit together and how you have to share information for people to really do the best and meet expectations.”
“If you define learning as ‘OK, we’re going to change behaviors with new skills, knowledge and pieces of information and attitude and do this quickly with increasing speed.’ If you put a business spin on all that, what we want to do is create learning that benefits long-term retention. You do that by paying attention to adult learning processes and what are the different learning styles of the individuals involved,” Filupeit said. “Training has to be active, emotional, so the person gets excited and says, ‘I can take this back and make this work.’”
Pre-work can help management-level learners fully connect to learning. Stephen Mercer, president of SRM Consulting Ltd., former vice president of learning and leadership development at Boeing Company and former manager of executive education at General Electric, said providing executives with pre-reading helps to level-set the person’s skills coming into the simulation and aid its learning purpose. Simulations might be the focal point of a program, but a blended learning delivery approach is still the best way to relay and cement knowledge and skill.
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