Reaching the summit: Bryant management professor’s award-winning simulation uses Everest climb to teach leadership and team dynamics

February 27th, 2012

Learn more about Bryant University Professor Michael A. Roberto, co-creator of the award-winning simulation, and watch Bryant MBA students take on the Everest leadership challenge in this video.

SMITHFIELD, R.I. - The high-stakes decisions needed to reach the summit of the world's tallest peak are at the heart of an award-winning interactive teaching tool created by Michael A. Roberto, Trustee Professor of Management in Bryant University's College of Business.

"Leadership and Team Simulation: Everest V2″ draws in part from Roberto's research on the failures of a May 1996 Mt. Everest climb that resulted in five mountaineers' deaths. Co-written with Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, the online simulation is a hands-on study in leadership and group dynamics. The players are organized into teams of five climbers: an experienced leader; a physician; a photographer; a marathoner; and an environmentalist.

The goal for each team is to reach the summit and avoid rescue. But during the course of the simulation, students discover that there are many pieces to the puzzle: weather, the status of food and medical supplies, and the health and mental acuity of the climbers, each with a unique personal goal to achieve. Reaching the summit requires a complex system of group and individual decisions, and not everyone will succeed.

"There's only so much you can learn about business and leadership by reading," Roberto says. "This simulation is a dynamic form of active learning that lets each player try out different techniques and put them into practice. Players take on a role, look at the data, share information, make a decision and then see the results in a pretty objective way. It's fun, there's a big a-ha moment, and the teams get competitive."

But though the multimedia simulation is engaging, "it's not a videogame," Roberto cautions. "It's complex. I tell the teams that they'll need to slow down. They'll need to make calculations: How many oxygen tanks are needed for the next stage of the ascent? What's the weather forecast at the next base camp? Are there enough medical supplies?"

Learning by doing only works if there's a chance for reflection, Roberto adds, which makes the post-simulation debriefing about what worked, what failed - and why - especially meaningful.

This past December, "Leadership and Team Simulation: Everest V2″ received top honors in the eLearning category at the 16th annual MITX Interactive Awards. The best-selling simulation, available through Harvard Business Publishing, has been used in universities worldwide.

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Keywords: awards and honors, College of Business, eLearning, Everest, leadership, management, Michael Roberto, simulation, team dynamics