The Three C’s of Simulations: Understanding the Basics of Simulation Modeling

business simulation software

Business simulation games and software are built on complex computer modeling systems that can vary significantly across solution providers. And while it is certainly not necessary to know the mechanics behind simulation modeling in order to extract benefits from these effective teaching tools, understanding some basics can be helpful. Below we unpack three simple lenses you can use to view and evaluate different simulation platforms.

Simulation Software & Computer Modeling

Part of understanding why simulations are such useful tools for business education and training is understanding the basics of the computer modeling that supports them. Doing so will shine a light on the different levels of complexity and rigor a given solution is capable of modeling, and how you can use it to support your discipline-specific teaching goals.

That’s because the type of modeling system that powers a simulation will determine its ability to simulate theoretical concepts and therefore has real implications for which simulation you choose and how it is applied in the classroom.

Lenses for Evaluating Simulation Platforms

Without getting into any heavy-duty mechanics, BizEd contributor and professor Usman A. Ghani categorizes simulation software into three categories – what he calls the ‘three c’s of simulations:’ Correlation, Causality, & Confluence. Using these categories as a lens can help instructors identify not only which kind of simulation might be right for them, but also to see the overall benefits and application possibilities of simulation-based learning.

Extract from Usman A. Ghani:

To read the original post, “Business Simulations Aren’t Just Games Anymore” by Usman A. Ghani, click here.


Simulations built on correlation focus on the foundational theory of a particular field. They are generally designed to teach students the basics of a functional discipline such as accounting. These types of simulations are not capable of modeling complex, dynamic theoretical concepts, but offer a simple solution for foundational learning.


Simulations based on causality are more likely to incorporate time-delay effects and create the kind of feedback participants will encounter in the real world, giving participants a deeper understanding of potential issues and problems. These simulations confirm what we know (reinforcing our theories of business) and expose what we don’t know (bringing us new knowledge). These experiences can offer powerful insights.


The most sophisticated types of simulations emphasize confluence, or the dynamic integration of business systems, and they help participants understand the dynamics of an entire business or industry. Like a pilot’s flight simulator, these simulations allow participants to test ideas and processes in a safe environment; they also provide a sound basis for deciding policies or designing strategies.

Understanding these basics about how simulations work and the different types that are available can be helpful to instructors who want to get a better grasp on how to use these important educational tools. Educators and corporate trainers must learn how to discern which kind of approach each simulation is using, so they can choose the right one to use for their specific learning goals. Choosing the right solution, and knowing how and when to integrate it into the right curriculum, can be daunting – but basic knowledge like the three C’s laid out here can help empower better simulation implementation results.

If you have questions about how to select and incorporate simulation-based learning into your course or training program, contact us today.