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Safe haven for dangerous times


The tectonic plates of business are on the move and no one quite knows what the landscape will look like when the tremors stop.  

Where in the rule book does it say that government’s can bail out the banker? How can the winning tactics that rewarded our most celebrated business players yesterday suddenly be labelled short-sighted and critically flawed today?  What is the new objective in the business environment now rising from the chaos and how can the coolest players in enterprise learn to win with confidence in a new world order where the basic rules of commerce seem to be changing by the day?  

Presented with a corporate landscape that’s morphing out of all recognition, even our slickest corporate players will be prone to dither just at the very moment when decisive action is most critical.  But how do we prepare our major players for a corporate landscape not yet charted?  

Richard Berg is CEO at Business Smart International, the global simulations company that helps major corporates like BT, LloydsTSB, Xerox, Vodafone, NAB and T-Mobile develop business acumen within the workforce. Suddenly, the simulated environments his operation specialises in are providing the only solid ground that good business decision making can be founded on.  

“Business simulations have been winning hearts and minds at the top end of the enterprise space for about two years now, but it’s the economic crisis scenario we find ourselves in today that is really fuelling the boom in take-up amongst out largest companies. Whether we realise it or not, simulations have always been our traditional response to perceived potential threat: From the regular company fire drill and first aid training to the City’s response plan for potential terrorist attack, simulating the unthinkable has always been the most effective means of minimising damage in the event of a crisis.  As the economic threat crystallises within our business communities, simulating the difficult times ahead becomes a natural response for them.

“It’s in the days, hours and even minutes that exist between projected market conditions and market reality that the sweet spot for business simulations exists.  A far cry from the old style “nice to have” gaming facilities typically offered yesteryear, these highly specified simulated business environments are providing the first template for the new rules of business emerging from the chaos.

“Competitive advantage comes from being able to replicate most likely market conditions first and provide opportunities for executives to experience them fastest.  By providing a safe environment for experimentation, organisations can help staff develop the new tools and tactics required for success in tomorrow’s anticipated marketplace.  In the climate of change and uncertainty we find ourselves in today, that’s an advantage that more and more businesses are now locking-on to.

“Business simulations suffer from a definition problem: The term covers everything from 3D virtual reality to dramatisations involving real-life actors.  Certainly these approaches have their place, but what’s really important now is to provide an experience that’s compelling, engaging, focused and relevant:  For many of us, 3D computer gadgetry or physical staging and props actually serve to move us away for the reality of good decision making. 

The business simulations we run for companies like BT, Abbey, LloydsTSB, Xerox, Vodafone, NAB and T-Mobile were born out of the pioneering work that Business Smart International has undertaken for business schools and MBA programmes across the world. Large scale deployments are currently used by over 20,000 people in more than 300 universities and colleges worldwide. Online and networked, the system engages people in a way similar to the fantasy football game you might find at the Timesonline or a fantasy FTSE site like bullbearings.  Groups of company executives work together in teams within the simulation to build a successful company over a course of four business quarters.  Depending on the individual needs of the business, the simulation is customised and obstacles are introduced as the experience unfolds to provide real business problems within a safe but realistic clone of the company they actually work in. 

What we’re delivering is a methodology of how to look at business challenges: A way to make participants feel comfortable within the business situations they’re most likely to encounter.   

“Experts in any area have to respond to what’s in front of them. The more they practice; the more successfully they respond.  Simulations provide the backbone of the training systems that allow pilots to fly planes safely, they prepare our armies to go into action and they’re realistic enough to allow astronauts to go into space.  By comparison, using high definition simulations to train business people to navigate through the tough economic times in front of us seems like a relatively manageable task.

“The problem for business people at the moment is getting the right practice.  A booming market will allow some slack when it comes to good decision making. But as market conditions tighten-up so too, will margins for error.  Levels of debt or borrowing that may have been considered prudent yesterday are unlikely to constitute savvy decision making in the new business world we’re about to face.  Working efficiently within new regulatory frameworks or compliance rules means understanding a new set of checks and balances, and being able to accurately anticipate their effects. Now more than ever, business professionals’ need a safe environment for practice and experimentation if they are to successfully devise the new “set pieces” that will create tomorrow’s winning teams.”



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