At Cesim we are glad to welcome Graeme Kirkup into our team, who has recently assumed the position of Senior Vice President of Corporate Solutions. The following post reviews his professional background and the path that led him to fall in love with business simulations.
This is my journey, a journey into the world of simulation based training to develop business acumen skills. (And a whole lot more!)
In 2005 I ended my corporate career as a Sales and Marketing Director for a Global Company. At this stage, I had both entrepreneurial experience and corporate experience. I had owned my own businesses in the hospitality sector as well as the manufacturing sector. And I had cut my teeth working for large multi-nationals like McDonalds, Astra(Zeneca) and Sappi.
Throughout my career, I have always thrived on the development of those around me. I thrived on discussing the opportunities that existed with my colleagues amidst the challenges faced by our present circumstances. There was something in these discussions that led me on the path to becoming a global business simulation facilitator. I saw the merits of these discussions as well as the frustrations.
There was a consistent theme that emerged when having discussions with my colleagues and when reflecting on my own businesses. This theme was the general performance of the business, and mostly there were differences in what performance criteria we considered as important. What became apparent during discussions was that we had differing views or preferences of the elements driving performance. This divergence was further exaggerated in our discussions on how we could impact the elements driving performance. Yet somehow we managed to keep conversation going albeit with levels of frustration and with varying degrees of common understanding.
I noted that frustration as referred to above be either a symptom of insufficient business acumen skills or not understanding the business context or frustration with trying to get the message across. The skills required to address these frustrations are vastly different so how can these critical skills be explored and developed. And more importantly, how can the relevance of these skills be related to an individuals’ present or future business environment. I found the solution in business simulations.
Shortly after I ended my tenure in 2005, a former colleague and friend approached me to "help out" with the development of entrepreneurial skills in rural South Africa. I was at a lose end, and this was a once-off event. I happily accepted. The methodology that was used to develop the entrepreneurial skills used a board based simulation as the platform. The programme was run in English, however English was not the mother language of any of the participants. I feared that my first venture into simulations training was going to be a disaster. Having set the various teams up in their simulated business, and allowing the participants to run the first round, I realised that the language of business is universal. Participants, despite the language barrier, despite the academic background and despite the relevant experience fully engaged in the simulation and were both teaching and learning from one another. "If I tell you something, it is true to me, however if you experience it for yourselves, it becomes true to you!" The power of simulation based training became a reality to me. And I wanted more! Seeing the participants grow in knowledge and confidence inspired me. I developed my skills as a global facilitator in varied industries. I saw the endless possibilities of simulation based training - from developing basic business acumen skills through to strategic development, alignment and execution.
Business simulations have the ability to engage participants at an intuitive/gut level. The decisions participants take during a simulation are based on their existing paradigms and perceived reality. Very similar to real life decisions! Generally we do not wish to make an error in judgement. We want to make a decision that would lead to a positive outcome. And this is where experience is developed - consciously comparing real outcomes to anticipated outcomes. Business simulations work in the same way, challenging our paradigms and developing our repository of experience. And this experience is vital if we wish to lower our levels of frustration in the future.
Business simulations build the narrative to articulate thoughts relevant to the performance drivers of the business confidently when engaging with colleagues. Relevant and applicable business acumen skills are developed during a business simulation. Further participants collaborate and build confidence when engaging in team discussions during the simulation.
Business simulations have afforded me the opportunity to be a part of the growth and development of so many individuals and teams, a truly humbling thought.