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Navigating the business world from the classroom

Competing CEOs and classmates Jeff Collingwood and Meaghan Whelan.


By Jennifer Kelly

Dr. Tim Jones of the Faculty of Business Administration and instructor of the Applied Competitive Marketing Strategy course has a mantra: Memorial students don't just study business – they experience it.

The course is based on a computer-based simulation game called INTOPIA. The game was developed in the early 1990s by the late Dr. Hans Thorelli of Indiana University as the first strategic management simulation oriented towards the problems of international trade and overseas operations.

Dr. Jones has been running the program for 18 years at various academic institutions, and recently introduced it at the graduate level at the faculty.

The simulation is designed to provide general management training and balance decision-making in all the classic functional areas of finance, marketing, research and development, information systems, operations, human resources and organizational behaviour. The first half of the course is comprised of general seminars; then students learn how to use the program. Finally, during a weekend competition, each student acts as CEO of a company, facing off against each other.

"It's set up as though they were running an actual company," said Dr. Jones. "The game is such that teams can network together and it allows for social networking within and between teams."

The program forces students to make decisions and then actually implement those decisions to see what the results are.

"The best part of the simulation is that it allows people to make mistakes and learn from them, which in the real world, is all part of the strategic decision-making decision process. Most strategies do not work out the way they are planned; it emerges over time and all complexities of the real world are taken into account in our simulation, giving the students the most realistic experience possible."

Memorial's Distance Education, Learning and Teaching Support (DELTS) also had an integral part in the course's development. DELTS created 15 different videos for the various sections of the course and simulation program.

"This is actually the second time DELTS has recorded videos for this course, and this time, the quality was vastly improved," said Mr. Kevin O'Leary, producer/director, DELTS. "Our studio had been re-capitalized, so all the videos were done in high definition. This, combined with an updated version of the software, made the quality much better than the original course offering."

Dr. Jones says the course is a humbling experience, as most students find it "dispels a lot of common business myths." Students also realize that decisions in one area have an impact on all other areas of a business.

"This course is about so much more than marketing," said course participant and CEO competition winner, Meaghan Whelan. "It's really about being strategic and drawing on virtually every area of business."

The course also put things in perspective for Ms. Whelan. "Towards the end of the third day, a light bulb went off for me and I realized the link between production and marketing and how important it is to have good communication between the two."