Simulations and Gaming Can Give Your Enterprise an Edge

Author: Jim Lundy                 Date: August 15, 2011

Topics: Knowledge                    Research Note Number: 2011-09

Issues: How will enterprises take advantage of new ways to share knowledge?

Planning Assumption: By 2016, gaming platforms will become the standard for enterprise multi-person training.

Summary: Simulations accelerate knowhow and skill mastery by presenting real world situations. Gaming and virtual environment platforms are increasingly being used for multi-user training scenarios. Enterprises can gain a competitive advantage by deploying them for high value/high return positions. 

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Today’s business environment demands that enterprises respond to changes quickly and continue to improve the effectiveness of their workforce (see Five Forces Impacting Work and Why You Can’t Ignore Them). In addition, learning all the skills to master a job takes time. An accomplished account executive, manager, or even a restaurant employee didn’t start out that way. They learned from others and in many cases sought out those who excelled in those roles. In 2011, enterprises need to accelerate professional development and skill mastery for their people. Advanced simulations and the technology – and psychology – be-hind many games can help. This research note explores the ways in which simulations and gaming can speed up productivity improvements.

The age-old saying that “practice makes perfect” applies to business as much as it does to sports or any other discipline. For people in critical-skill positions, proficiency is built through practice and time on the job, and along the way mistakes are made. The problem for enterprises is the time this process takes. Employers can no longer afford to give their workers on the job training.

The State of Simulations and Gaming Today

Entry-level simulations have become much less expensive to develop. The tools have evolved so that less custom development is required for more basic uses. Generally, simulations tend to focus on individual skills and are constructed to ensure that a specific set of skills or tasks are mastered. When selecting off-the-shelf training products, it is important to choose suppliers who are increasing their use of simulations instead of the traditional teach-and-test approach, in which the student takes a course and then has to pass a test. For vendors, the cost of developing a good simulation engine can be amortized across many different training products, so there is no excuse for shirking this crucial transition.

Conversely, higher end simulations that go beyond single user engagement have become much more expensive, in part because they still require skilled specialists to develop. As a result, many enterprises have not yet replaced teach-and-test training, which is neither efficient nor effective enough to meet the needs of tomorrow’s fast-moving business environment. In the next-generation workplace, students will have to pass simulations to become certified.

Multiplayer games that use an immersive virtual environment represent an evolution of task-specific simulations that can more closely mimic real world situations because they offer free play and multi-user participation. Subjects include combat training, disaster preparedness, advanced software development or even personnel on-boarding. So far, virtual environments have been a popular choice for enterprises; increasingly gaming platforms are starting to be used as well, particularly for modeling more complex situations.

There are three reasons why advanced simulations should be used; leverage, acceleration and testing (see Note 1).

1. Leverage: Develop Once, Deploy to Many

Leverage is a substantial benefit of a training strategy based on simulation. Simulations can be deployed to many users at once and used repeatedly by large numbers of people to develop core skills without the need for instructors.

For maximum value, a simulation initiative should focus on the main skills needed by people in complex jobs. For jobs that require a broad range of skills in multiple interactive contexts, a curriculum of several simulations may be needed. To improve the return on a simulation investment, focus on situations where a lot of people have the same job; ideally, mission-critical jobs such as sales, support, or service, in which performance improvements will directly impact the bottom line. With good planning, the payback on a simulation investment can be in months rather than years.

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