I should preface this entry by saying that I read ALOT both in
hard copy and online, so I’m not necessarily suggesting that you DON’T
read new books and blogs and essays that get you thinking about how to
manage differently. But experiential learning, especially online, is
definitely a trend you should consider.
Some of the world’s biggest and most successful companies — including
Nokia, Accenture, Sony, Phillips, Rolls-Royce, Novartis, Ernst &
Young, KPMG, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco — are encouraging
up-and-coming management candidates to participate in such an
experience, the BTS Global Business Tournament, to build the skills they need for their next step up the corporate ladder.
What makes the BTS tournament a bit different from other business
simulations is the fact that it is run completely online, which means
companies do not have to cough up the money for travel while still
helping individuals from different branches or locations learn to
collaborate with each other. Also, there actually is an end-game: The
top three teams each year can win a round trip to Cannes, France.
Rommin Adl, executive vice president of global sales and marketing
for BTS and head of its Philadelphia office, says experiential learning
has been shown to result in a higher retention rate than other
educational methods. But the repeat participants from its bluechip
client list, including three-time winner Nokia, also are responding
increasingly to the sustainability factor of this learning method: All
of the team interactions over the 10-week simulation projects are
virtual, which means educational activities won’t negatively impact a
company’s carbon footprint. They can also take place off-hours, which
means employees can work during the course of the simulation process.
The simulations work pretty much like you would expect. Participants
are introduced to a business that has a certain financial statement and
industry profile and certain challenges associated with it. The
simulation spans four years in the fictious company’s life, and the
teams (usually four or five individuals) are required to make management
decisions during each phase of the simulation. The decisions require
financial, process, human resource and marketing insights. Based on the
impact of their decisions, the teams will see after each heat how they
stand in comparison to other teams, which keeps things competitive.
Incidentally, BTS hasn’t formally added a sustainability component to
the simulations it uses but Adl and I discussed this idea. After all,
this increasingly will be a factor in future management decisions so it
technically should be part of future simulations.
One other note: Adl observes that the simulations are popular with
participants in their 20s and early 30s, individuals who are used to the
idea of online gaming and who are more comfortable with the
experiential learning process. Not really surprising, but a
consideration when you’re thinking about who to pick as a participant.
There are nine tournament heats every year, and about 900 teams
participate in a given year. Many of the participants join through
referrals. There is a fee to participate, but Adl would not disclose it.
The next heat begins on Sept. 9, 2009.