Everything you need to know about Serious Business Games

The so-called Serious Business Games have become very popular. Whether at renowned universities or major multinationals, Serious Business Games have become the perfect tool for teaching how to start up a business or manage product supply chains. While that’s all well and good, what are business games exactly? What are their benefits and most prominent examples?

Serious Business games

Serious Business games are used for teaching skills and concepts related to economics or the business world. This could include contents on corporate or business management, finances, human resources, negotiations or trading shares on the stock market.

Most of these games use simulators to imitate real life and favor experiential learning. So much so that business games are also referred to as business simulation games.

Serious Business Games initially followed the spirit of experiments carried out in the 1950s by the US Army to train its soldiers. By the 1960s, different universities incorporated business games in their economics and business departments, where board games and experiential activities were used to teach students. Serious Business Games eventually took their place and still continue evolving, forcing their way into learning institutions such as Harvard or corporations such as Coca-Cola.

What are the advantages of Serious Business Games?

There is a simple explanation for the growing popularity of Serious Business Games: they work. Overwhelming scientific evidence confirms that the use of games and simulators improve the learning process. Why? There are at least three reasons:

  1. Learning by doing. The secret to success of Serious Business Games resides in their capacity to represent real-life problems and afford the direct practice of knowledge and skills via simulators. Learners are given a safe environment (therefore lacking economic risks) to immerse themselves in the same corporate issues that company executives face regularly, responding and interacting with them from the very beginning.

2. Interactive learning. Another key aspect of Serious Business Games is their capability to capture learner engagement and participation. Numerous studies demonstrate that our brains remember knowledge better if we actively participate or interact when learning it. Compared to classroom-based or video lessons, Serious Business Games bolster the direct participation, including emotional involvement, of the learners.

3. Cost reduction. Even though developing a good business game requires time, knowledge and money, once created, economies of scale entail an enormous competitive advantage. Unlike classroom lessons, these business games can be quickly and securely implemented anywhere in the world. Many of the best Serious Business Games currently available only require learners to have smartphones and an Internet connection.

Examples of Business Games

Though something of a quirk in the beginning, there are currently an enormous amount of Serious Business Games on the market. The following are only 4 of the most salient ones:

  • Capitalism. First published in 1995, this video game soon became a business game classic. Used by Harvard and Stanford universities, Capitalism helps students understand and tackle the challenges of virtually every company and sector (marketing, distribution, manufacturing or import/export). Its latest version, Capitalism Lab, was released in 2012.
  • Beer distribution game. Designed by the business school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) toward the end of the 1960s, this game has often been reinterpreted and reworked. It was designed to teach all the secrets of supply and distribution chains (with cost overruns, delays and multiple suppliers).
  • SimCity. This legendary video game is centered on the process of building and managing a city. Players must build transportation services and utilities such as water supplies, electricity, sanitation or education while attuning their budgets (raising or lowering taxes, changing budgetary items, etc.) to satisfy the needs of their citizens. Another similar, critically acclaimed game is Cities: Skylines.
  • Merchants. Players of this Serious Business Games are transported back to medieval Venice to engage in multiple “real” negotiations regarding the shipment of goods, silk trade or sovereignty of various Mediterranean islands. This video game imparts all the secrets and techniques of negotiations and has been highly successful in companies across the globe.

Merchants – Serious Game on Negotiation

Module I
Course Section I: Understanding
  • Case: Resolve a client conflict.
  • The fundamentals of a negotiation.
  • Keys to building trust.
  • How to avoid common mistakes.
Module II
Course Section II: Information and Interests
  • Case: Negotiate a sensitive political agreement.
  • Strategies to obtain information.
  • Determining objectives and clarifying interests.
Module III
Course Section III: Flexibility
  • Case: Secure a business loan.
  • Focusing on interests vs positions.
  • Introducing “magic” variables to increase the size of the pie.
Module IV
Course Section IV: Criteria and Procedures
  • Case: Negotiate a joint venture.
  • How to use anchor points that satisfy your interests.
  • Managing variables during the bargaining phase.
  • 6 essential rules to concessions.
  • Employing objective criteria and procedures.
Module V
Course Section V: Communication
  • Case: Negotiation between sovereign nations.
  • Checklist to prepare for your negotiation.
  • Keys to communicating and presenting your proposal.
Module VI
Course Section VI: Review
  • Case: Hire a highly regarded manager.
  • Extensive review and application of all you have learned.