Maximulation Business Simulation Games Ltd. cooperated with secondary schools of economics from Tatabánya, Transylvania and Slovakia to develop a business simulation curriculum designed to help children prepare for managing enterprises themselves in a few years without being aware of it. Secondary school students can try making decisions in a constantly changing financial environment while playing company managers in a virtual space. We talked to the founder of the company, Managing Director Márton Boda.
What was the background to the project? How was the team organised?
The roots of the project go back to the turn of the millennium, when the friendships which our joint work is based on were made in a secondary school in Tatabánya.We played a lot together, mostly strategic board and computer games, and we soon recognised that when you've learnt the logic of the computer, it was easy to beat it.People are a lot more unpredictable.This insight was of key importance to our later common work.
Having graduated from university, we launched a joint enterprise.Similarly to every starting business, one of our greatest challenges was how to find funding for the implementation of our professional visions, especially as regards international relations.
We first saw the call for Erasmus+ applications in 2015, and although our first application was rejected, with some modifications, but with the same partners and goals, we were successful for the second time.
In our application, we set the goal of introducing in secondary schools a teaching method which relies on business simulation and has been tested in higher education. This project team is also an interesting experience for us because it requires cooperation between a highly regulated school system and a company with a youthful approach, flat organisation structure and colleagues with flexible time management. And a different background always offers new learning points.
You mentioned learning points: the greatest achievement of the project is a business simulation game for secondary school students, providing new teaching methodology. Would you tell us more about it?
Indeed, behind the intellectual product you’ll find a very fresh methodology and approach. The use of business simulations traces back to the US of the 50's. Since then, the method has been greatly improved, just as the complexity of the models in the situations and the technical background. We entered this industry at a time when we’d already had the opportunity to skip a few initial steps and come out directly with the latest solutions.
Most simulation games are designed to provide a model that simplifies reality as a framework to the game. Players are placed in that framework, with optional decisions. We give them business goals and an opponent who mostly tries to prevent them from achieving their goals.
The game we developed as part of the project models an oligopoly market engaged in selling technical products. All the six market players are played by real, thinking people, and therefore the number of students in a school classroom is useful for this game element. The players need to manage three product categories. They need to manage purchases, set the sales objectives and manage the stocks. They also need to make strategic decisions in financial, marketing, HR and development issues.
That sounds rather complex. Isn’t it too much in secondary education?
Definitely not! Let me give you an example. When we were still in our first year of development, during the testing phase we created an environment where – without the participants being aware of it – we put university and secondary school students together. The fictitious companies competed in two markets with six players each, and the university students only won in one of the markets.
When students leave school, they’ll need to face real decisions, and life won’t spare beginners from more complex and difficult questions, either.
At school, simulations should be regarded as an opportunity to make decisions as company managers without putting your real money at risk. And it’s still better to lead a fictitious company to bankruptcy than your own.
Don’t failures experienced during the game scare the players away from enterprising?
We also wanted to find that out, so during our Central European competition we assessed how much using simulations had contributed to entrepreneurial willingness. It turned out that it had increased the willingness of 78% of the players. Players make mistakes. Through experience, the memory of these mistakes remains much livelier than those you hear from others. Therefore, they’re also easier to avoid in the future.
If you had to say one word to a secondary school teacher about why he or she should use simulation in the classroom, what would it be?
We often say that a teacher’s main duty is not to transfer the curriculum according to a textbook, but to arouse interest in a given topic or subject. If your students are properly motivated, they will immerse in a subject matter much more on their own, too. In our simulations, it’s mainly competition and the opportunity to try ideas in practice that motivate students most, who regularly report that, at the beginning, they didn’t understand how businesses were run, but by the end of the competition they’d learnt the basic principles of operation, and had a different view of enterprises.
Besides making the students motivated, how else can you help teachers? How can you make them integrate using the software in their classroom work appropriately?
That’s a very important question. A number of studies have pointed out that simulation in itself cannot be regarded as a magic tool. The fact that it's there and available won't make a difference without the teachers. The primary goal of the simulation is to raise questions in students’ minds, to which they will get answers by learning the respective material. So motivation comes from the questions raised. Teachers have a key role in giving answers and teaching through simulation. In order to make this work as smooth as possible, we’ve compiled a collection of best practices and frequently asked questions. It contains a recommendation for teachers on how to integrate simulation into their teaching in the course of their everyday work. Besides the most frequently asked questions, the collection also includes the recommended answers.
I think there’s only one thing left that the reader might ask: how and where is the simulation available?
Now we only talked about the project funded by ERASMUS+ and intended for use in secondary schools, but the simulation we've developed basically affects a broad target audience. So I suggest that anyone who is interested should visit our www.maximulation.com website, where a few clicks will take you to the platform that suits your interest. Once there, you're only a quick registration away from gaining playful experiences, whether you’re a teacher or a student.
Last modified: 19-06-2019