Are the Business Simulations we Play too Complex?


  • Richard D. Teach
  • Elizabeth Murff


"U. S. Business games were born as small, experiential exercises in the 1940s and 50s, but with the advent of electronic computers and the birth of the American Management Association’s GENERAL MANAGEMENT BUSINESS SIMULATION (THE MOSE COMPANY) in 1957, these games became computerized and evolved very large and large and complex. That is, the simulations were designed modeling oligopolies with only a few identical competing firms that required making many decisions regarding the finance, marketing, production, and managing of a firm selling a product or set of products over a few (6 to 12) rounds of play. The players (managers) were to make decisions and establish a set of overall corporate strategies to guide their decision making for the relatively few rounds that were to be completed. When the decisions and strategies included many of the functional areas of a firm, the games were deemed: “Total Enterprise Simulations.” As mainframe computers became more sophisticated and faster, the business simulations were saddled with more and more decisions, but the teams still made decisions using the same number of rounds of play. While there were a few gamers who saw the limitations of large business simulations, in general this concept was little noticed until the advent of the microcomputer with its limited memory and speed of calculations. However, one particular professor, Dr. Ronald Frazer, presented a number of papers at ABSEL supporting the concept of small business simulations. He thought that students would learn more by participating in several, limited purpose games, each of which would only require from one to a few days of effort to play, than when they played a total enterprise simulation that requires an entire semester of effort. This paper re-explores the logic of Professor Frazer’s premise in the light of still newer technologies, the current reliance on very large and complex total enterprise business simulations and recent research findings regarding the relative outcome evaluations of teams that play these oligopoly type total enterprise simulations."