Richard Branson once said “So I’ve seen life as one long learning process. And if I fly on somebody else’s airline and find the experience is not a pleasant one, which it wasn’t 21 years ago, then I’d think, well, maybe I can create the kind of airline that I’d like to fly on.”

If you were creating and running an airline, what type of airline would you create?  One which delivers a high end customer experience, or one which is very focussed on efficiency and cost effectiveness or maybe something in between?  It was a question which recently challenged 80 newly appointed senior business leaders from the UK arm of Allied Irish Bank.

Building on their award winning service quality, branch banking at AIB UK is undertaking a radical investment programme to position the business for future growth.  To help senior leaders step up to a new way of working and thinking, they were asked to move out of their current role for a couple of hours and instead participate in a business simulation game which involved running an number of airlines.  Pitched against each other, the five teams battled for a bigger share of the market by providing a quality service, while at the same time maintaining a sharp focus on delivery and cost effectiveness.

In an organisation that rightly prides itself on the customer experience, it was no surprise that every single team had a brilliant focus on the customer.  But in a short time, participants started to engage in a more profound thought process about ways to maximise business opportunities and their crucial role as leaders to enable success.

At Questions of Difference, our experience over many years from developing and delivering business games like this is that they can provide a very powerful way for people to engage in business changes while at the same time connecting as human beings.  Stepping into another industry for a period, however brief, can open people’s eyes to new possibilities – acting as a catalyst for innovation, a desire to try new things and a new focus on the customer.

Business games can also be great architectures for engagement – often creating a new language in an organisation, a powerful reminder of the original learning.  Phrase such as “you’re becoming a baggage handler” and even “come fly with me” have become common shorthand in companies that have benefitted from this simulation, triggering reminders of new ways of working and opportunities, long after the event takes place.

If you would like your management team to take off, soar above the competition while having fun in the process, then make sure you check-in with us.