'Intense, engaging, stressful'

Computer game takes students from classroom to real world of business

July 20, 2016


From left, Dr. Gary Gorman, winners
Chris Lewis, Liam Coombs, Chris Mallard,
and CPA representative Courtney Barnhill.

A computer game that lets students buy, sell and trade products brings real-world learning to the classroom, say the winners of the 2016 CPA INTOPIA Competition.

Developed in the early 1990s as the first strategic management computer simulation focused on international trade and overseas operations, it’s now a web-based game used in an upper-year undergraduate strategic management course at the Faculty of Business Administration.

‘Fantastic learning tool’

“We think the simulation was a fantastic learning tool to reinforce what we learned in the classroom throughout the semester,” said Chris Mallard, 20, who spoke on behalf of his winning team that also included Liam Coombs, 21, and Chris Lewis, 22.

The trio took home the Gary Gorman Cup as the best overall team in the competition.

“A lot of times in school, students study with the hopes of simply retaining the material for a certain amount of time and getting a good grade,” Mr. Mallard continued. “Once the exam or assignment is completed, they simply forget all this information.

“With the simulation, you were engaged in a real-life business scenario dealing with conflict, negotiating with other teams, making contracts and financial projects and in order to succeed, you had to be prepared in all these aspects. The simulation required you to truly understand the material, understand the business you were building and the growth strategy that it would take to develop. It forced you to understand the material and then apply it in a stressful, time-constrained, real-life situation.”

‘The concepts come alive’

Dr. Tim Jones, associate professor of marketing and strategy at Memorial’s business faculty, has been running the INTOPIA simulation as part of his strategic management classes at various universities for the past 21 years.

pull-quote-jonesThis year, 191 students comprising 64 teams participated in the simulation, which ran from July 13-16. It’s supported by CPA Atlantic School of Business.

“INTOPIA is an application of concepts in a simulated environment,” said Dr. Jones. “It allows students to integrate knowledge from many functional areas such as finance, accounting, marketing, human resources, organizational behaviour, international business and strategic management. They take ownership of a simulated company—it is truly theirs, so the concepts come alive in a competitive environment taking advantage of business students’ innate competitiveness.”

During the simulation the student teams, or “companies,” are involved in the production, buying and selling of batteries and smartphones. Teams are headquartered in Canada but may operate in North America, Europe and China. They trade with each other, develop partnerships, sign contracts, borrow or lend money, license patents—in short, they undertake all aspects of developing successful businesses in these three markets.

Teams must report to a game master (Dr. Jones) each day and the winning team is determined by the amount of revenue generated over the simulation period.

Preparation key to victory

pull-quote-mallardMr. Mallard says that in addition to the simulation period itself, his team spent a significant amount of time strategizing and preparing for the competition.

“The week prior to the simulation, Chris, Liam and I spent hours each day discussing our plan of attack, constantly updating our financial projections and understanding what was the best possible way to allocate each dollar of our $150-million initial investment to deliver the best possible return,” he said. “Entering into the game, we did not need to settle in as we were totally prepared and understood our plan before the game even started.

“The INTOPIA game for us was a very stimulating, intense, engaging, stressful and enjoyable experience all at the same time. As opposed to sitting down and studying for a final exam, the simulation allows you to enter into a real-life business scenario and create and build a company with your teammates.”

To view a complete list of the winners from the 2016 INTOPIA simulation, please visit here.

Susan White