Simulation puts FYIC students in C-suite roles, teaches critical thinking, collaboration

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“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” – Aristotle

Aristotle was never a business major, but his thought fits well with the goals of an upcoming simulation in which Farmer School First-Year Integrated Core students will be taking part this month.

The simulation, Market Games, is part of Business 101, a skills-based FYIC course that teaches critical thinking, cultural intelligence & effective collaboration.  “It’s our job to prepare our students for the contemporary business environment, which can be volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. We can’t give them all the answers or predict all the changes to the environment, so the best thing we can do is teach them the skills they’ll need, regardless of industry or discipline, to successfully navigate new and complex challenges,” assistant lecturer Cynthia Oakenfull said.

“Market Games is a business simulation that really focuses on critical thinking and collaboration skills in a business context. Every person on the team has a role to play -- CEO, marketing, operations, finance, etc.,” Oakenfull explained. “We know that as first-year students, they have zero experience in these disciplines. What the game is designed to do is to help them think critically through problems and decisions and in the process, they gain insight into these functional areas.”

The entire cohort of more than 850 fall FYIC students takes part in the three-week competition, putting the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired so far in the semester to use. Each team of five students is tasked with taking on an opportunity in the tech industry and bringing it to market though an AI-powered simulation. “The AI rates the quality of their decisions and awards points,” Oakenfull explained. “There's a dynamic component as well because a team also has to anticipate what their competition may or may not do, and decide how best to counteract those activities.”

“They have key performance metrics, targets like revenue, market share, gross margin return on equity, and return on assets. Their ability to hit those measures is how the teams are ranked. But their ability to hit those measures isn’t just impacted by whether they're making good decisions internally, but understanding how those decisions are interdependent and what they looks like externally,” Oakenfull said. “Market Games is a fantastic tool that allows us to provide experiential learning at scale.”

Students who took part in the simulation in previous semesters agreed. "I think that it’s important for students to work in teams for a simulation like this because it simulates more than just the market, it simulates a real environment where you will be working in teams as a professional,” sophomore analytics major Charlie Beatty said. “I think that this experience was really valuable for me as a student and aspiring professional and an important first look at how business works, both in the office and the marketplace."

“It’s a great representation of how teams collaborate in a real-world setting. No matter what profession you go into, you’ll have to know how to work alongside others, make decisions with them, and share a common goal,” sophomore finance major Mia Gaddis explained. “This simulation sets students up to make strong relationships in the workplace and be successful in their futures!”

“The game can be demanding and difficult but it really pushes them to stretch and exercise these skills,” Oakenfull explained. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see how much they learn and grow from this experience.  At the end of the game, students gain an enormous amount of confidence in their ability to tackle unfamiliar tasks.  And as such, we know the next time they’re confronted with a novel situation, they’ll have experience to rely on, a process to apply, and the confidence to meet it head on.”