Turning Setbacks Into Success


Why do large, well-established businesses experience setbacks? Why do half of new businesses fail within two years? Why do less than 20% survive five years? The information communications technology revolution has brought countless benefits, yet the survival rate for business has shown little, if any improvement. In aviation or medicine, this level of attrition would be unimaginable!

There are no "black box recorders" for companies but while lack of cash often brings about a company's demise, the underlying cause is often mistaken policy decisions triggering a sequence of escalating consequences. What caused the initial errors? The explanation usually takes the form of "things they didn't know they didn't know" which psychologist describe as unconscious incompetences.

Pilots, surgeons and other professionals gain experience and confidence by performing their duties under supervision. When mistakes occur, the lessons learned lead to changes aimed at preventing recurrence. Simulators are used extensively, not just for practicing techniques but for testing alternative strategies without putting real people or assets at risk.

The use of sophisticated simulations in business is not new. Large corporations commission systems to simulate specific markets, timeframes, products or services. Business schools use applications which focus on aspects of marketing, finance, project management and other disciplines. But what about the day-to-day practical challenges of running a business? How do we develop leaders, build effective teams and deal with the often-conflicting needs of different interest groups? Above all, how do decision-makers learn about the interdependence of different issues? In short, how do they discover "what they don't know they don't know," see the bigger picture and hidden consequences of some key management decisions?

In simulation-based business games, teams compete against each other, taking control of an under-performing company in an emerging market. Policy decisions resonate with those in real life, including pricing, salaries, research & development, staffing levels, customer service, promotion, quality and training.

Human nature, in the form of the natural desire to win, provides a powerful motivation to contribute to the team effort, identifying and eliminating any "unknown unknowns" by sharing knowledge and experience. Paradoxically, teams that make the most mistakes are usually the most enthusiastic advocates, whether or not they win!

Each team sets its own objectives and strategy, reviewing past performance and analysing market opportunities before making key policy changes. In addition to balancing finance, marketing, production and resource planning issues, they must safeguard the interests of shareholders, customers, employees, suppliers and other interested parties. Teams have up to six years of trading to reach or exceed their objectives.

Just as flight simulators accelerate pilot training, running a virtual company provides a highly realistic and a truly memorable learning experience - in every sense. Participants explore beyond their comfort-zone limits, deepening understanding and broadening perspectives of how businesses work, without risking real financial assets or other resources.

The flexible format provides several options, including a two or three-day on-site workshop, an on-line version and a combined on-site/on-line event. These may be augmented by pre-selected third-party training sessions or with live, recorded or e-learning programs chosen to reflect individual needs. For example, events can focus on team-building, change management, business turnaround, finance for non-finance managers, training needs analysis, commercial awareness, investment readiness, company values or almost any other business-related issue.

Doug Holman
New Dimension Enterprises Ltd.



Doug Holman is the Founder of New Dimension Enterprises an organization launched in 2003 to produce simulation-based business games. Clients include some major corporations and training organisations as well as leading universities, colleges and organisations supporting small and medium enterprises.

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