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Some Serious Business Games

Monday, March 02, 2009 | Category :
    • In the News

Just as rabid college basketball fans are preparing for March Madness and the upcoming NCAA tournament, U.S. business leaders will soon have their very own tournament to paint their faces and cheer about.

For the first time since its inception in 1999, BTS > Tournaments has decided to open its very popular online business-simulation competition to American companies. (The tournament's founding company, Finland's Business Game Factory, was acquired by < BTS > in 2003.)

European heavy hitters such as Nokia, Philips, Novartis and Eriksson annually field teams and achieve great results, with Nokia winning the competition each year from 2004 through 2006.

More than 30,000 participants from 100 countries have tried to win the competition thus far.

This innovative tournament pits hundreds of five-person teams against each other as they run a fictitious company through four years of business scenarios in just eight weeks' time.

The teams spend approximately two hours a week on the tournament, which Rommin Adl, executive vice president and managing director of Stamford, Conn.-based < BTS > Interactive, says helps build both business knowledge and a sense of team spirit.

"This is a very effective way to build that core business acumen that anybody in any company needs to have," he says. "It puts [teams] in the shoes of senior leaders and [they] run this business represented by a computer model.

"They make decisions on pricing, marketing, research and development, product development, production, HR, finance decisions, all the real-life decisions," he says.

In addition to a shiny trophy, each of the top three teams also get a glittering, all-expense paid trip to Cannes on the French Riviera.

"We believe the competitive nature of our concept will be received with great enthusiasm in the U.S. market," says Taavi Thiel, < BTS >' vice president of sales.

According to Adl, younger workers are "very comfortable with online competition. And, especially in this tough business environment," he says, "people are even more committed to online learning." He adds that the tournament format leverages "a very effective form of learning, discovery learning, with a competitive dynamic to ensure engagement."

Michael Echols, executive vice president of strategic initiatives and director of the Human Capital Lab at Bellevue University, outside Omaha, Neb., admits he had never heard of the tournament before, but is intrigued by the program's mixture of simulation and competition.

He says he also appreciates the teamwork aspect to the competition, because "... no organization today functions like a monolith. It's a lot more like a movie set these days."

And where do the best movies often get their premiere?

You got it: Cannes ... .

Just like the winners of the < BTS Tournament.

By Michael O'Brien, Talent-Management Columnist

Michael O'Brien can be e-mailed at


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