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ASK, NOT TELL

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Trainers for Business Simulation

Updated: Mar 8

This is a follow-up post to my last 2 which are also about business simulation. I talked about my recent experience in a board game type simulation in the first one, and discussed ‘Why Business Simulation’ on the second one. Let me share my thought on the trainer aspect. How important is a trainer in a business simulation? And if important, what specific quality is needed for a business simulation trainer?


The first question comes to my mind because it seems that a well-designed simulation by itself can already engage the learners in the class. Like in the Monopoly Board Game, the players are pretty much self-running. No need for a trainer. Well, you may need someone to act as a banker or to clarify instructions if needed, but not a trainer. That’s the first quick thought coming to my mind.


But as I think more carefully, I realise that it is not correct. We do need a good trainer for a good simulations experience. Taking Monopoly Board Game as an example again – if you just want the players to have fun, you do not need someone to facilitate. But if you want the players to learn something together and relate such learnings to the real world, you will need someone to facilitate. In fact, we will need some extra qualities from a simulation trainer, as compared to a lecture-based trainer. And here the extra qualities:


Thorough comprehension – If you train by lecturing, you can pretty much stick to a certain scope of knowledge. (Unfortunately) some less-than-satisfactory trainers can even survive by just going through one slide after another. It is sort of safe as the learners are bored anyway!! But if you train by simulation, you really have to comprehend the matters. Because the learners are actively APPLYING the knowledge, they are more likely to have A LOT of questions. And their questions can come at different angles or competency levels. In addition, the questions would be not only about the topic-to-be-learnt, but also about how the simulation is run – the details….


Contain rather than ignite – Opposite to what a lecture-based trainer will do, a simulation trainer will probably have to contain the learners’ energy rather than ignite it. After a heated discussion of which group is the winner in round 2, the trainer should be able to calm the learners down and get them reflect on the learning.


Focus rather than broaden – If the simulation is designed to be real and engaging enough, there could be a lot to be taken away from it. At the end of the day, the learners can be thinking about and thus learning on different topics:

  • Budgeting – Why did we run out of cash?

  • Valuation – Shall we take over the team which went just bankrupt today? How much should we pay?

  • Influencing Skills – Why did my team member playing the sales manager role never listen to me as the production manager?

  • Leadership – Why did I as the CEO role fail to stop them from taking rush decisions?

  • etc…

Nice to have different learnings. BUT…. it is more important to ensure that the original training objectives are met. The Head of Sales paid for the training because he has been facing delays as a result of poor inter-departmental understanding. It is thus the trainer’s job to focus the learners’ attention to reflect on teamwork but not the others.

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