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Applying theory into practice using a strategy simulation in Business

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay


Anna Tilba is a Professor in Strategy and Governance at Durham Business School.


In first-year module Strategy in Practice, students work in groups to run their own business online using a business simulation game making strategic decisions. This exercise informs their formative assignment, a group presentation, and their summative assessment, which is an individual written report.


In the previous iterations of the module, students were assigned a case study where they were required to analyse strategic issues of the company using external sources. The simulation platform was introduced in 21/22, facilitating a ‘learning by doing’ approach and has been successfully implemented over the last two academic years.


Students often study strategy without gaining practical experience. Through the simulation exercise, students learn to apply techniques, strategies, and theoretical concepts they’ve learned throughout the course. Students run their own companies, making both good and bad decisions that have financial implications. This hands-on, experiential learning process creates a safe environment for students to learn from their mistakes and experiences. The goal isn’t to make the most profitable company but engage as an active team member in making collective decisions, critically analysing, reflecting their performance, and making continual changes.

This practical approach offers students an authentic experience that mirrors the real business world, allowing them to navigate the intricacies of organisational life and develop key transferable skills.


The simulation exercise is facilitated during weekly workshop sessions. Students are assigned into groups and remain in the same team throughout the module. They decide on roles and specialties as executives. Based on internal data for a FTSE 100 company, teams run their business, make decisions, and actively monitor their results.

Since the individual summative report requires students to discuss their company and its performance, there is a sense of accountability and motivation for students to be actively engaged in workshops sessions. Throughout the term, students collaborate as a group, engaging in negotiations, discussions, and debates about their strategic decisions, fostering a collective learning experience. Additionally, students compete against other teams in the simulation, with successes celebrated at the end of workshop sessions.

Having access to data enables students to engage in meaningful discussions in their individual final written reports, even when they disagree with their team members. Poor performance in the simulation does not equate to a failed assessment. It’s understanding what they have done and could have done better, making mistakes in a safe environment, learning, and reflecting – linking theory to practice.

How did it go?

Students were actively engaged in the workshop and simulation sessions, leading them to take ownership of group discussions, formulation of their strategies and action plans. They were immensely positive and expressed that this module and activity was different to others that they have experienced and felt like they were part of a business programme. Some also took advantage of the feature within the platform to link the success of their business or completion of the simulation to their LinkedIn profiles. This not only served as a professional acknowledgment/certification but also boosted their confidence.

Many also commented that being in a team, working collaboratively throughout the term, fostered a sense of community and helped build friendships, which supported their transition into university as a first-year undergraduate student.

What’s next?

Anna is exploring options to run the simulation as a competition with Business School European partners, who offer business strategy modules at the same level. This perhaps might provide an international perspective for the students.