Transparency, Trust, Ethics, Cheating, and Business Simulations


Over the past week, several fascinating global elements of the day have converged into my world thatbusiness-ethics-business-simulation have left me wondering and thinking about the futures of both business and learning. As a leading designer of award-winning Business Acumen, Business Leadership, and Strategic Business Selling learning solutions, I have this unprecedented opportunity to travel around the world working with the best companies, the best people, and sometimes the best leaders on the planet helping them to get better at what they do so their companies perform better. This has already been a busy week in terms of travel and deliveries, and I am preparing to return to the United States after being in Europe since Sunday.  During this time, the work has gone extremely well while interesting distractions and requests for more work have filled up my inbox.

On Monday, I had an existing client ask me to take a leadership learning module I created on Transparency and Trust and turn it into a series of scenarios as part of a reinforcement micro-simulation.  On Tuesday, I had a request for my thoughts on creating an ethics simulation.  The interesting – and somewhat unappealing part of the request – was that the client asked if we would call it a “Business Acumen Simulation” but “secretly” it would be an ethics simulation to see if learners would do things unethical to “win” the simulation.  Talk about irony! It took a few minutes for the request to sink in before I realized how absolutely unethical the ethics simulation would be if you told participants it was designed to develop Business Acumen skills! Then on Wednesday, as I was leading a sales training program, the topic of the American Baseball cheating scandal came into the conversation as we were talking about how to best prepare for a sales meeting. One of the participants said something that took me by surprise, “If you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying hard enough so everything I do is to give myself the most competitive edge possible.” Again I was taken aback by the conversation and it reminded me of a situation a few weeks ago where a simulation team actually stole the log-in information for their direct competitor to gain a competitive advantage.

The dialogue in the class turned out well and was actually heart warming as other participants shared, “I don’t believe people want to do bad things. I believe every person is precious and every business relationship I have is precious. I would never do anything to hurt my integrity or trust among my customers, colleagues, and friends and I expect and see the same in others.” It was a stirring moment as this gentleman touched the entire class all week with his openness, sincerity, and genuine warmth.

Reflecting on all these disparate yet interesting things made me come full circle and start thinking about unique Business Simulations that could address a number of challenges faced by today’s business professionals.

The first things that must be asked is the question, is it possible to actually teach things like Transparency, Trust, Ethics, and how to treat all people as Precious?  The optimist in me says yes, absolutely.

So how to do it?  Here are some thoughts:

  • The design would have to be open and transparent but also ambiguous enough to make sure that the answers and “best practices” aren’t obvious. But then again, isn’t that life?
  • The scenarios within the simulation would have to be realistic and based on real-world actual situations so we can tell participants that nothing was made up and there are best practices for every situation.
  • The scoring would have to be based on a rubric of best practices coming from the best and most accurate teaching about ethics and transparency.
  • Participants can’t cheat and we can’t make it tempting to cheat which means the log-in information must be very secure.
  • Include scenarios that present opportunities to make the “right” decisions and the “wrong” decisions and let them play out with hopefully the “right” decisions driving the business metrics that matter the most (hint it’s not always the best return to shareholders).
Everest Business Simulation
Robert Brodo

About The Author

Robert Brodo is co-founder of Advantexe. He has more than 20 years of training and business simulation experience.