Business Games as Strategic Management Laboratories


  • Joseph Wolfe
  • Gary Castroviovanni


"It has been suggested complex, computer-based business games can serve as controlled strategic management re-search laboratories, yet there is little evidence on the valid-ity of such approaches. This paper examines the degree that a sophisticated business game establishes the conditions and thus creates a laboratory whereby the field's Environ-mental Contingency paradigm can be investigated. Using Duncan's environmental uncertainty framework, the simula-tion was able to create contrasting objective environments but the study's participants incorrectly identified the nature of their environments and dealt with highly limited portions of the competitive environments presented to them. More importantly, the strategies that were implemented were al-most uniformly incorrect for the competitive conditions posed by the simulation. These results suggest business games cannot be used as laboratories for studying the envi-ronmental contingency paradigm although they may be ap-propriate for studying phenomena associated with organiza-tional learning and leadership/followership development patterns. If a simulation is to be successful at serving as a labora-tory for the study of any phenomena, it must possess in its structure those elements that are idiomatic or indicative of the real-world situation it is attempting to emulate. Thus if the study's object is to obtain controlled insight into the poli-tics and interpersonal maneuverings associated with arriving at a within-group consensus in decision-making situations, the relatively closed, human-based simulations such as Looking Glass Inc. (Lombardo, McCall & DeVries, 1990) or The Organization Game (Miles & Randolph, 1985) may be entirely appropriate. As cited in Thompson's (1967: 9) classic Organizations in Action, however, the Simon-March-Cyert (Cyert & March, 1963; March & Simon, 1958; Simon, 1957) tradition has inspired a research stream that looks at the organization as a socially created and environ-mentally-influenced ""problem-facing and problem-solving phenomenon"". "