“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”
Credit for the underlying concept belongs, in particular, to the head of management training in a large multinational office systems company. His responsibilities included residential courses for managers capable of running teams, groups and ultimately the company. The candidates and teaching were of the highest calibre but something was missing – knowledge retention.
For many years, it has been widely recognised that we retain less than a quarter of what we hear and only about half of what we see. However, if a task is actually performed, retention improves to 90%, rising to 100% with practice. If future managers could run their own business unit for a few years under supervision that would be ideal - but the time and money required would be unthinkable. What's needed is accelerated experiential learning - the decision-making equivalent of a flight simulator for pilots.
The head of management training set about finding an off-the-shelf simulation which would bring the key business disciplines together, while reflecting the often-conflicting demands of shareholders, customers, staff and suppliers. It had to incorporate all of the basic cause-and-effect principles that determine the performance of a business and provide the opportunity to practice, experiment, gain confidence and identify areas where further study was needed. There was only one snag. There were no products on the market that met that requirement. So, in true aviation industry tradition, it was decided to invent one.
Due to the untimely intervention of a recession and a significant change in the office systems market, the large multinational company shut down all of its UK operations. The head of management training started his own company to continue developing the concept. A new generic business simulation was produced, together with a computer language which enabled bespoke simulations to be written for individual markets, products or situations.
In addition to on-site events using the generic simulation, bespoke software was produced for corporate clients. Examples included a simulation to develop a mast location strategy for a mobile phone service provider develop and modelling the interface between the manufacturing and distribution operations for a major car manufacturer. However, it was clear that technical expertise alone would not produce commercial success.
Doug Holman met this former head of management training when an airline pilot friend introduced them with the immortal words, “You two are both into computers.” At the time, Doug was a self-employed aviation marketing consultant working mainly in the In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) sector. Previous employment with avionics companies had focussed on supplying black boxes at the sharp end of the aeroplane for the pilots and at the back end for the accident investigators. It seemed churlish not to fit black boxes in the cabin for the "self-loading cargo!"
Having the major international airlines as your clients isn’t always as glamorous as it might sound. As anyone familiar with long-haul flights will know, early seat-back IFE programming was not optimised for frequent fliers. After watching a film for the fourth time with any scene capable of misinterpretation removed, surveying the duty-free gifts and playing a child’s console game, you were left with the moving map. What if the business simulation could be run as a game played by individual passengers? When the idea was suggested to a number of airline contacts, everyone thought it was a potential winner, until it emerged that most of the IFE suppliers were still using an earlier - and incompatible - operating system.
Still acting as a self-employed marketing consultant, attention turned to other opportunities. A local business school agreed to evaluate the simulation with a view to verifying that it “did what it said on the tin.” Afterwards, they asked to purchase a license and referred us to colleagues at a local university, who did the same. We had inadvertently “productised” the simulation but were operating in an unfamiliar market. Although dozens of colleges and universities in the UK purchased copies, obtaining feedback proved less than straightforward, even using distributors. There had to be a better way of achieving scalability.
As the former head of management training was approaching retirement, it was decided to reverse roles. New Dimension Enterprises (NDE) was set up, with several events co-facilitated in the UK and overseas. More recently, the focus has shifted to providing a comprehensive on-line capability, where Partners can access an on-line resource to facilitate simulation events for their own business clients, whether larger, medium or small.
The transformation into an on-line, service-based operation has taken longer than expected after a series of external challenges during which stubborn determination and persistence (the product of three decades in the aviation industry) proved invaluable. This new web site offers an exciting range of opportunities for simulation users, together with our Partners, Affiliates, Associates and Suppliers – but what really matters is whether we can make a difference. Our thanks to Levenson, Sinek and others who have helped define our "what and why."
The company's core purpose has been to take the performance benefits which the aviation industry has gained from using simulations and apply them to the wider business community. Business Game Ltd is focussed on the rapidly growing market for those seeking web-based applications to identify and implement opportunities for improvement.