Sylvie Humbert from the Grenoble Institute of Technology (INP Grenoble) has been an integral part of the organizing team of our recent Business Simulations Workshop in France. She is an educator in marketing, industrial marketing and business development, as well as a supporter of innovative projects. In this interview, she talks about her experiences with business simulation games for engineering students, and what advice she'd give to fellow educators thinking of trying them out in their courses or training programs.
1. What got you interested in business simulator games and when did you first use one?
Since 1999, we have been using business strategy games. We started with the first-year engineering students in order to introduce management classes in a few hours. This was a good compromise between formal courses and practice work, and it is still the case!
2. What do you think the difference is between using business games in engineering schools compared to business schools?
Management is not the major concern for engineers, we only have a few hours dedicated to these courses compared to business schools. The objectives are different too: for engineering students, we try to make them “management oriented”, that is to say able to know what management is and able to communicate with business people. Thus, they have to practice with management tools in order to understand the other point of view, even if they will not become specialists.
3. Tell me a little bit about your decision to integrate Cesim Global Challenge into your course. What type of course it was (blended, online classroom), topical focus, pedagogical objectives, and in what ways did you intend the simulation game to complement it?
For many years, we had been using other software for students in their final year. We needed changes! This is a good reason, isn’t it? I found Cesim Global Challenge excellent for working under assumptions. This allowed students to easily test different strategies, which was one of our objectives. During the 2 first years they discover management, study the major tools and after that we focus on figure analysis, dealing with performance indicators. We mix face to face classes with online time for the students. During the face to face, students feel free to ask questions and we can advise them by giving them new approaches, new tools. With online time, they go further and deeper in the game using the tools given.
4. How did your students react to the simulation? What was the overall engagement level with Cesim Global Challenge and what strikes you as the most exciting thing in your students behavior during the course of the game?
Competition and gaming are certainly the most motivating words during the game. All of the students get into the game quickly even if some of them are not very keen on management such as foreign students. The opportunity of playing the way they want, with open spaces in the school, or large schedule with evening decisions, lead them to autonomy in a secure environment. Some of them will fail in managing their firm but they learn anyway.
5. What do you think your own role was during the simulation game? How did you help your students get the most out of the experience? How did you adapt the facilitation to the students?
We try to advise students even more than telling them what to do. We have to be very keen on the game to provide them keys for explaining the competition, the trend, some figures and show where to find and analyze information. We suggest different tools, ways of screening, connecting with the strategy. We also suggest that they try and make errors to improve!
6. What are some of the most important takeaways you have learned over the years about simulation based courses?
Business simulations are pivotal because they have to work properly to avoid computer problems, as well as, they show the context of competition. However, more important than the game, is the environment you have to build around the game:
- The logistical environment: rooms, network connections, because it can ruin your business game!
- The pedagogical spine: objectives, methods, workload and work papers to be handed out, and the game is just one part of this spine. Do not think that top level software will be enough.
7. What tips or words of advice would you give to other engineering school educators who are planning to use business simulation games in their course(s)?
Keep cool, it never works as you were thinking but you have to be prepared under any circumstances!
Try to build a specific team dedicated to the business game, because last minute workers are not always efficient!