Shall We Play a Project Management Game?
ISE Magazine – Volume 48 : Number 11
By Denis Solan and Avraham Shtub

Games is fun and can bring a lot of benefits. Gamification is the application of game principles in nongame contexts to improve engagement, productivity and learning. Gamification presents the best tool humanity has ever invented to create and sustain engagement in people. The world’s best organizations are increasingly using these techniques to challenge competitors, reimagine their strategies, deliver unprecedented loyalty, and recruit, retain and drive exceptional achievers and innovators.

In some fields, sophisticated simulators replace on-the-job training or reduce it to a minimum while ensuring that the quality of training is the highest possible. Training project managers and team members on the job is expensive due to the high cost of mistakes that inexperienced managers make.

Using simulation to learn

Confucius said, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

This is the essence of simulation-based training (SBT). We must do things ourselves in order to understand them. Simulation has been used for training in a wide range of fields: in engineering, in management of quality, in supply chain management and in process re-engineering. Today it is widely accepted that learning through simulation is based on three pillars:

  1. Learning from content: The dissemination of new ideas, principles or concepts
  2. Learning from experience: An opportunity to apply content
  3. Learning from feedback: The results of actions taken and the relationship between the actions and performance

A well-designed simulator supports a process of action-based learning. Simulators offer an opportunity to try different ways of doing things without risking the consequences of doing so in the real world and create an environment that requires the participant to be involved in a meaningful task.

There are a number of advantages of using simulations to teach: Simulators are characterized as tools that enable the user to acquire practical experience. Simultaneously, users learn how to deal with the response of the learned system immediately, or in “real time.” Simulators offer a realistic model of how decisions that the trainee makes are interdependent.

Simulation-based training reduces the gaps between the learning environment and the “real” environment. Simulation-based training gives your charges the opportunity to operate in situations that are difficult to obtain without actually working in the real world. Simulations also promote active learning, especially at the stage of debates that arise because of the complexity, interconnectedness and novelty of decision-making.

Using simulation-based training, students learn how to develop, test an efficient project plan and can take risks without suffering the consequences they would face in the real world while analyzing trade-offs within the training simulator to see what challenges they may face and how one decision can affect project results. Simulation-based training presents a unique approach to the teaching and training of how to manage projects in a risky environment where the cost of mistakes is negligible.

Combining simulation-based training and gamification methodology had a positive impact on students’ project management learning. There were a number of advantages to combining gamification with simulation-based training for this project management course. Doing the gamification methodology exercise in project management gave students a better understanding of project management methodology and challenges.

Simulation-based training supports learning both aspects of project management. By adding gamification to the course and using simulation-based training, the art of project management can be practiced while the science of project management is mastered to plan, monitor and control projects.

The combination of simulation-based training and gamification improved students’ engagement, productivity and learning of theoretical knowledge, methodologies and techniques for project management. A combination of simulation-based training and gamification can be used as a substitute to on-the-job training to advance project management education and practice, develop project management teams and project managers and improve project management knowledge, experience and skills.