When Developing Managers and Leaders, Have Them Play Games…
It’s one of your first days as a general manager of a small, family-owned winery in California. Minutes into a meeting with your new executive team, your sales manager insults your tasting room/hospitality manager. Do you continue the meeting as if nothing happened or reprimand the sales manager in front of the group?
That is one of the opening scenes of “FLOW is Good Business,” or FLIGBY, a 23-part management and leadership simulation game that executive MBA students at CEU Business School recently completed in Professor Paul Marer’s “Strategic Management” course. “The game teaches effective ways to manage,” explained Professor Marer, who played an advisory role in developing FLIGBY. “A manager or leader must deal with personal conflicts and reconcile multiple objectives, such as profitability and sustainability, to arrive at a long-term strategy that most everyone can enthusiastically support and implement in the nitty-gritty of day-to-day management and almost continuous interruptions.”
Prof. Marer explains FLIGBY at his “Strategic Management” class
In addition to those obvious managerial objectives, a key focus of the game is putting people into “flow.” Flow is a theorized state in which a person is so engaged and motivated by a particular activity that he or she ignores all other concerns, like time and hunger. You could call it “being in the zone.” When in flow, managers and staff are most inspired, and thus most productive, a win-win for the individual and the organization. FLIGBY, which won a gold medal at international Serious Play Conference, is based on the work of Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, creator of the flow theory. His insights have been used to help people become more satisfied with their lives and make organizations more effective. Along the way, the game keeps score of the player’s performance and a neutral third-party, Mr. Fligby, tells the player what he or she did right and what facts or subtleties the player missed. Over the course of the game, the player makes 150 decisions and is tested in 29 competency areas — from conflict management to communication skills. The game takes seven to nine hours for most to complete. At its conclusion, a feedback report shows players their strengths and weakness in an effort to make them better managers and leaders.
In Professor Marer’s class, students earned points equal to about 20% of their course grade based on how they played the game. They received a maximum of 10 additional points for earning a high score and for class participation during the post-game debriefing where they reflected on their experiences. At that debriefing, students remarked on how the situations FLIGBY placed them in not only challenged them to manage complicated employees and a fractured team, but also to manage their own reactions to what many would consider unprofessional behavior. And while some of that behavior is extreme, it’s all too familiar to many. “I have had students say that characters in the game reminded them of their current boss or colleague,” explained Professor Zoltan Buzady, director of CEU Business School’s MBA programs, who has used similar role-playing games by FLIGBY’s creator, the serious gaming company ALEAS, in his leadership and organizational behavior courses.
“FLIGBY and similar games are the next step in business education after case studies,” said Professor Buzady. “They bring business scenarios to life. Full-time MBA students, who typically have fewer years of work experience, find the game beneficial because, unlike in the real world, there are no wrong decisions. Executive MBAs, many in managerial positions currently, also enjoy the game because they can immediately put the learning into practice.”
Anita Somloi, a member of Professor Marer’s “Strategic Management” course and a supervisory examiner for the USAID Representative Office, expressed a similar perspective. How does that “safe environment” compare to the actual work place? Jitesh Jayarajan, also a member of the class and head of pre-sales and business solutions at TATA Consulting Services, thinks real life is easier. “In real life you have more options and time to talk to people,” he said. His classmate, Nenad Apostoloski, a senior IT expert for IPA Project, had a different take: “The game is easier than real life. In real life, people don’t come to you as much. You need to go to them when you sense something isn’t right.”
Source: CEU Business School, © 2014