Product: Capstone Business Simulations Price: $18,000
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4
Company: Management Simulations, Inc. (MSI)
Reviewed by Tim Hall, American Express
The Capstone Business Simulation (Capsim) provides an excellent targeted supplement to a business education program or company-sponsored management training. Simulations like Capsim accelerate learning and breathe life into otherwise arid business education material. Sims are popular and effective due to their real-life situations and scenario-based learning activities.
Capstone was initially developed by Dan Smith, the president of Management Simulations Inc., as a part of his Ph.D. program. The simulation is available for both corporate and educational markets.
The basic plot of Capsim involves making decisions for a fictional company that manufactures electronic sensors. Through entry of information in a well-designed Excel spreadsheet, the user develops strategies, develops products, and makes decisions for areas such as research and development, marketing, production, human resources, and finance.
Students run the fictional company over the course of a few days or weeks in a risk-free environment and observe how decisions affect the company.
The simulation brings together knowledge taught in different courses, challenging users to integrate what they have learned and help them practice applying the learning. The user experiences how different issues interact with each other to produce outcomes. Competition among students helps enhance its effectiveness and engaging qualities.
Capstone is used to train management at multinational firms such as Microsoft, General Motors, Samsung, and Schneider Electric as well as students at leading business schools, including Harvard and Northwestern.
Capstone teaches strategy, accounting, marketing, finance, teamwork, and leadership. The program measures performance according to predetermined success measures and a Balanced Scorecard. Corporations can use the results in their own LMSs. Capstone allows some customization.
How It Works
The simulation opens with a Getting Started section. It provides a thorough introduction of all the parts and goals of the sim. The navigation is simple and quick. Extensive training is provided to professors for running the simulation. A user manual for students explains everything needed to succeed in the sim. Those students who take the time to read the manual get the most out of the sim. Numerous tutorials provide guidance along the way.
Graphics are used well to tell the story. The sim acts somewhat like a learning management system in which the instructor can relay assignments and other information.
After completing Getting Started, tutorials, and practice sessions, users begin making decisions for their company by entering and changing data on an elaborate spreadsheet. Over time, good and bad changes and decisions are represented graphically. The sim provides many resources to turn to when making decisions. Capstone is separated into "rounds" that the instructor controls. Processing of rounds takes place both automatically and through the instructor.
I found the simulation interesting and easy to navigate. The Getting Started section provided a good overview of the system and goals of the exercise. Since the information is fairly complicated, the sim would work best as a part of a business course in which the instructor or facilitator provides frequent and detailed guidance.
As a first-year MBA student, I can see the value of this type of sim later on in my program after I have completed finance, accounting, and economics courses. In other words, Capsim, as the name suggests, is a capstone exercise of learning from the principal business disciplines. It isn't something to throw at individuals with little formal management education or narrow knowledge of one or two areas of business.
The producer of the sim, MSI, is an industry leader in the business simulation market with a presence in many MBA programs and Fortune 500 businesses. We are likely to see more use of business simulations like Capsim as students and employees demand real-time, real-life education blended with entertainment.
Cost and Implementation
For corporate customers, Capsim is used in facilitated sessions that last either two or three days. The cost for running 36 people through a three-day program is $18,000 plus a leadership fee ($3,000 to $5,000 per day) and travel-related expenses. The $18K includes:
- Simulation software
- On-site facilitator
- Uniquely branded simulation training website
- Complete technical support
MSI provides printed materials, Website tutorials, a program coach, and other support tools for instructors and participants. The Capstone manager guide is available in print, downloadable in PDF, and viewable online.
When participants first log in to play, a pop-up coach takes them through the step-by-step tasks they need to complete. Participants begin, for instance, by viewing the company's results the previous year and this year’s starting conditions in the "Capstone Courier" newsletter. Many cells in the spreadsheet are flagged so participants can hover the cursor over them for advice.
MSI provides instructors with unlimited, one-on-one training by telephone and Internet guided tours. Staff members also provide unlimited live (toll-free for U.S. and Canadian callers) telephone support directly to participants, from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday. The support staff fields questions about simulation rules, results, market conditions, tactical trade-offs, and technical issues.
The MSI staff also monitors an online Support Center until 11 p.m. Eastern, weekdays and weekends.
I recommend the Capstone Business Simulation. Many organizations and schools have used it to help accelerate learning in areas such as finance, competitive analysis, teamwork, and strategic thinking. With proper content knowledge, and facilitation, the Capsim simulation can be an effective tool for learning and change in any organization.
Tim Hall is an instructional designer for American Express. He has experience developing performance improvement programs for various companies. Hall holds a MS Ed. in Instructional Development from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and is currently an MBA student at Elon University. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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