Business Simulations in Practice: TOPSIM – General Management at University of Hamburg

Premiere at University of Hamburg: Dr. Stefanie Pakura and Prof. Sebastian Späth (Chair of Management & Digital Markets) integrated the business simulation TOPSIM – General Management in their seminar “Business Simulation Strategic Management”. The feedback was throughout positive.

In the winter semester 2019/2020, the business simulation was introduced into the curriculum for the first time, and can possibly become a permanent course in the future. 20 students from the Bachelor of Socioeconomics participated in the seminar with TOPSIM – General Management in the Pro scenario for 8 periods. As Professor Späth emphasized, the business simulation is very complex, due to time pressure and uncertainties on the part of the students. Nevertheless, the simulation-based seminar as a ‘prototype’ to real life was a breakthrough in terms of innovative teaching at University of Hamburg.

How was the seminar conducted? 

The simulation-based seminar was held in 14-day-intervals for students who are at least in the fourth or a higher semester. At the beginning, everyone participated in an introductory event in classroom format. Expert groups worked through the simulation manual, specializing in their respective areas, and took over the role of an expert in their team. In addition, CEOs were chosen who acted as contact persons and were also responsible for timely decision-making in the course of the seminar.

In the seminar sessions, lecturers provided theoretical input and evaluated the simulated periods. The seminar grade consisted of the final presentation at a recreated shareholder’ meeting and a strategy paper in which the periods played and the underlying objectives and strategy had to be explained and critically reflected. There was a bonus of 20% for the success in the simulation, which was calculated on the basis of the share price, rating and the implementation of the goals.

Why was the seminar so successful?

Dr. Pakura underlines the risk-free, yet realistic environment that comes with a TOPSIM – Business Simulation. The learned theory could be put into practice in the simulation. Students made important decisions in all business areas and were able to apply and better understand the basis of business administration and interdependencies within a company. The business simulation supplemented the lecture on “Strategic Management” because the knowledge could be tested directly in the seminar. Overall, the business simulation was a very hands-on experience and is crucial to the students.

“I learned more through the business simulation than in any other subject in my previous studies. It was an enriching experience to face the complex and holistic management questions. We have learned to develop problem solutions under time pressure, to act as a team and to make decisions. In the end, only as a team could we get our company on a growth path and end the game with the best share price. ”

Marica Ramcke, one of the participants of the winning team.

Mastering the challenge

Since it was the first time Dr. Pakura and her team used a business simulation in teaching, there were one or two challenges, and both the lecturers and the students had to learn to deal with the simulation. A piece of advice for other new seminar instructors: small group sizes! In a team with five or more players, it can often happen that the members do not cooperate well enough so that conflicts may develop. In smaller groups, each member can have the same amount of work and responsibility. It is also possible to schedule an additional specific session on team building and conflict management.

We would like to thank Dr. Pakura for sharing her experience with our business simulations and look forward to new exciting seminars and projects. Here are some impressions of the seminar and the winning team:

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