Improving Performances of Novices in Dynamic Managerial Simulation Games: Gradual-Increase-in-Complexity Approach

Hakan Yasarcan, Australian School of Business (Incorporating AGSM), University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Simulation games of managerial challenges are frequently used to study learning and to train people in the management of complex dynamic systems. Often, these simulation games are very complex and the performance of the participants tends to quickly reach a plateau, which is much lower than the corresponding benchmark performance. A challenge for those who use simulation games for learning of dynamic complex systems is how to improve the understanding and management of these systems so that the performances of the people are closer to a good benchmark level. According to cognitive load theory, the information processing demands of a task must be managed so as not to exceed the very limited working memory capacity of trainees during the learning process. However, due to their complexity, most simulation games have information processing demands that exceed the capacity of novices. One way to decrease the cognitive load to manageable levels is to isolate the elements of the problem. In this paper, we first develop an inventory management simulation game. Later, we adopt the idea from the cognitive load theory and isolate the elements of the complexity, which is embedded in the underlying structure of the game. We add the isolated elements in a gradual way increasing the complexity of the task at each step. Accordingly, we develop a series of inventory management simulation games from simpler to more complex. We also describe an experiment that tests the gradual-increase-in-complexity approach to the whole-of-task approach. We hypothesize that our approach will help participants to develop a better understanding and improve their performance. Researchers may find our approach useful in obtaining the elements of their own complex simulation games so that they can design simpler versions of those games in order to enhance understanding and learning.