Changing the Way We Learn Business ...with a Game


This essay was first published on Cristian Mitreanu's blog in September 2012, and on his LinkedIn profile in October 2014. The deck of slides (with the corresponding speaker notes) displayed below was part of Cristian's talk at the 2012 Game Design Conference in San Francisco (September 17, 2012). Although the presentation was focused on the video game embodiment of the game OFMOS, its findings apply to the current board game embodiment as well. 


"Business education is ripe for reinvention," wrote the Financial Times two years ago, in November 2012... And, indeed, it is. But, since then, most of the discussion and most of what's been happening revolves around the distribution side of things, leaving the content side of things almost untouched.

OFMOS is a casual video game that mimics the actions taken by a CEO in terms of products and markets. And, as a tool, it has the potential to make business education or learning more meaningful, right from the beginning. As opposed to the traditional learning process, which is one of accumulation of concepts and theories toward an elusive big picture, the new process becomes one of "detailing the big picture."


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1. Hello and thank you for coming! My name is Cristian Mitreanu, and I would like to talk to you about changing the way we learn business… with a casual video game.


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2. First, it is important to note that business is everywhere. If we look at the United States, for example, half of its population is formally involved in business. These individuals are either employed or self-employed. But in actuality, most people are exposed to business -- at the very least, as customers. We can easily argue that the idea of cost-benefit analysis is grasped by humans from very early on.


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3. So, there's no surprise to see that the demand for business education is growing.


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4. Even when compared to other fields.


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5. But things are not ok. Over the past decade, the economic crisis and various corporate scandals have made headlines, suggesting deeper societal problems. As a result, we increasingly see fingers pointing at the quality and value of business education and research.


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6. So, how is it done? Well, let's look at the curriculum of the MBA program at Harvard -- a school that has been at the forefront of management education and research since the beginnings. And what we see is an education process that starts with a foundation and ends with a concentration in a particular area. This is a model that has been emulated almost everywhere. But what it's really important for us here is the fact that the foundation is comprised of a collection of distinct "practices" or disciplines.


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7. In other words, the process of business education is one of accumulation of theories and concepts. The student learns more and more theories, advancing toward what could be a big picture of the real world.


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8. Except that there is no big picture.


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9. The main cause, of course, is the fact that business is a young academic discipline. Unlike philosophy and physics, for example, the field we call modern management is only about 100 years old.


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10. But in addition, we also got lost. Just a few decades ago, research findings and frameworks that seemed to provide valuable guidance in the quest for long-term success were quickly rendered irrelevant by the societal and technological progress. And many of us have not even noticed.


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11. So, I am proposing a solution. A simple casual video game.


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12. A game with two elements. A Map. And a collection of objects called ofmos.


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13. One property. Each ofmos generates a stream of income, as it moves right-to-left across the map. Once it stops, it starts generating loses.


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14. Three commands: Select sector on the map, Add ofmos, Delete ofmos.


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15. And one goal. Accumulate and maximize wealth over time.


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16. Now let's see how these elements come together in play.


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17. [Playing a 25-second recording of the game's prototype in action. No comments here.] (Note 2014: A recorded run-through, from which the embedded video was excerpted, is available at


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18. Just like running a company… [Pause] ...And let me explain.


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19. An ofmos is actually a virtual business space defined by a product and a set of active customers with similar behaviors relative to the product. As the product commoditizes, the ofmos generates profits. Once the product becomes obsolete, there are no more customers. However, since the company still has assets associated with the product, the ofmos will begin to generate loses.


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20. And so the beauty behind all this is the fact that every company is a portfolio of commoditizing ofmos. Which is a dynamic and comprehensive view of the business.


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21. It is the big picture.


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22. So, let's watch the play again. [Re-playing the 25-second recording.] What you see are the actions taken by a CEO over extended periods of time. Dealing with the constraints of time and capital, the CEO must decide on products and markets -- what to offer, when, and to whom. Select, add, delete. All with the goal of sustaining the company and maximizing its wealth.


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23. And that is revolutionary.


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24. It is revolutionary because it changes the process of business education for the better. The student begins now with the big picture and, with every new theory or concept, advances toward a more detailed big picture -- which translates into a better understanding of how business works. And all this provides more meaning and value to the student in the real world.


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25. In addition, at the societal level, the new approach will enable us to reach across age groups and social classes and provide meaningful business education for everybody.


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26. Thank you. … Now, we have a few minutes for questions.


A run-through the video game prototype and an a teaser commercial, both created in 2011, can be viewed below:

Cristian Mitreanu