'An engaging experience:' FYIC students compete in Market Games

Student points at another student's laptop screen

Being a C-suite executive is tough work. Being a first-year Farmer School student is also tough work. Now imagine being both – if only for a couple of weeks. “At first, it was challenging to figure out how to do it and the best way to get it done as it was nothing like I have ever had to do before,” Graceann Tizmo said.

“It” was Market Games, a business simulation in which First-Year Integrated Core (FYIC) students took part this semester, designed to teach critical thinking, cultural intelligence & effective collaboration skills.

“Previously, we talked about business within many topics, but we didn't talk about the functions of business. We didn't talk about what a CEO does and what finance does. And we didn't talk about how a business works, essentially,” FYIC professor Justin McGlothin said. “I think this simulation has been fantastic because it takes in the critical thinking, the ambiguity of having some information, but not everything. It makes them super uncomfortable. And for the most part, a lot of teams do really well and figure out how to take a little bit of information, make decisions the next round, and then take more information and the results of their decisions to make better decisions. Very, very representative of my experience in business.”

The simulation has the students in teams of four or five, each with a job ranging from CEO to marketing, and puts them in the situation of creating and bringing a product to market. During the three-week simulation, the teams competed against each other in a variety of metrics, metrics that can change based on what they do, what their competitors do, or what the market does because of – or in spite of – their decisions.

“You have to understand how each department's actions affect the others. If we choose to upgrade our product, it affects every other department and our overall bottom line. You cannot do Market Games blind -- every variable you can control is super important, but more importantly than that, understand that Market Games is VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) and there is no way to control what is going to happen,” Zachary Roemer said.

“Everybody's coming for you. Customer preferences are changing, so you have to adjust,” McGlothin said. “One of the lessons to learn is ‘Don't get too comfortable,” because what may work for a while, others are going to learn and they might be able to do it better than you.”

“From designing a product, manufacturing the product, selling shares and taking loans to raise capital, and analyzing other teams’ decisions, it was a very involved process that mimicked real world decisions business face,” Ryan Schroeder said. “It gave me a new perspective on what decisions businesses actually make on a day-to-day basis.”

“Not only did I learn how to reach a specific market share and KPI, I learned how to successfully collaborate with my teammates. I bettered my understanding of what a competitive market looks like and how to successfully produce and sell products according to a certain demand,” Ashley Venalick said. “I also learned how to adjust certain things, such as a unit price, to compete with other teams, as well as how sell and market my product. I am a finance major so it was extremely important to me that I furthered my knowledge of the different functions of a business and Market Games helped me do this.”

Not everything the students learned during the simulation was about numbers and marketing. “This helped me learn multiple skills for working in a team and solving any kind of problem. It has helped our team also come together and work effectively, helped me learn how to strategize and think about many different things to get to one common task or goal,” Sadie Spriggs said.

“I thought that the experience of Market Games really brought everything that we have learned in the FYIC to life. Personally I was never big on finances and numerical values such as the ones used in Market Games, but reading the business case really brought those real world situations to life,” Brittany Roman said. “I have taken away a lot of lessons that I would have never learned if I was simply lectured through the topics. I think it was an engaging experience and I would 100% do a simulation like that again.”

Previous story: Simulation puts FYIC students in C-suite roles, teaches critical thinking, collaboration

Student gestures while explaining an issue with a professor

Laptop displays a team's latest decision impact

Students raise their hands in response to a question

Student teams work on the next round of Market Games at their tables