Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Who knows more about business decisions...

...the engineer or the business graduate?

On first view, this may seem to be a no-brainer: The business graduate has a related degree and (usually) relevant professional experience. There is a hitch, however: Engineers are much more prone to engage in endless sessions of strategy games of various kinds, Wesnoth, Civilization, Age of Empires, SimCity, ...

I have myself taken two semesters of business at Sweden’s leading business school, the Stockholm School of Economics; but with the abysmal level of the education there (cf. TODO), I have learned far more about making business decisions from computer games. Consider e.g. the experiences to be gained and questions to be answered when playing a Wesnoth campaign: What kind of unit is suitable for what task in what terrain at what time of day? Should I focus on training up new units or should I use established veterans? Should I spend a lot of gold to get to the next level quickly or hang on to my gold so that I am not low on it when the next level does start? Should I divert units to take villages (and gain income) or move them against the enemy? Should I attack now, during poor conditions, and hope that superior force is enough; or should I wait until the conditions change? Which unit should get the opportunities for promotions and which should be thrown to the wolves? Etc. Notably, these decisions must be made looking at the long term, not just what happens during the current level.

Other strategy games involve yet other decisions, e.g. what research should be prioritized or whether mining efforts should be put in at no return today, so that valuable equipment can be produced in the far off future. Even factors such as the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the people play in, as do the pros and cons of various means to address these issues (e.g. better living conditions vs. a stronger police force).

These decision may involve digital figures and fake currency, but they are still decisions of the same kind encountered by a manager (although the shape can vary sufficiently that this is not always obvious to the casual observer)—and there is a continuous stream of them with feedback in the short term (whereas a real-life manager has one every know and then, may not receive feedback at all, has little room for experimentation, etc.; and is unlikely to experience a major training effect). True, experiences gained from a computer game are not always directly applicable; however, the right kind of thinking, knowledge of problems that can occur, sensitivy to cause and effect, etc., can all be immensely improved.

In an analogy: Who would you rather have on your soccer team? A man who plays soccer once a month or one who plays hockey twice a week? In all likelihood, the latter will be more valuable; albeit, his performance may be initially worse while he adjusts.

Just a little food for thought for the business graduate who considers his engineering colleagues naive where the running of the company is concerned...