Flow Theory-Based Management Education Transformed by Simulation Gaming, Csikszentmihalyi Says at CEU Business School

Flow theory and management education will be transformed by the learning and research potential of the online management simulation game FLIGBY, said Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of the seminal book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, speaking at CEU Business School in Budapest Nov. 9. Analysis of the vast amounts of data collected in the cloud by tens of thousands of online players will provide important insight into decision-making and management behavior, he said. CEU Business School faculty and Csikszentmihalyi, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University, are working together on this via the Leadership & Flow Global Research Program.

Csikszentmihalyi was joined at the event by CEU Business School Professors Paul Marer and Zoltan Buzady as well as Zsadany “Zad” Vecsey, founder of ALEAS Simulations, creator of the FLIGBY game. Marer and Buzady already use flow theory and the FLIGBY game in management and leadership courses for MBA students.

“This work on the simulation game is an epoch-making change in the way you train young people,” Csikszentmihalyi told a packed auditorium at Central European University and over 200 viewers via livestream. “Case studies were a great step forward 50 or 60 years ago. Games are a step forward – making it much more engaging, more flow-producing, and producing data that is much more accurate or systematic in the behavior of the player.”

In FLIGBY, players acting as managers of a fictional California winery make over 150 management decisions in over 40 types of scenarios. They receive immediate feedback on their decisions, when are then stored as anonymous personal profiles and records of millions of business decisions. Professor Buzady aims to analyze this vast data to produce new knowledge about decision-making and leadership, and he invited academics worldwide to join him in this research effort.

“People are looking for a work environment in which they can experience flow,” said Buzady. Management skills that are important in order to induce the flow state in a team include strategic thinking, realizing and engaging the personal strengths of employees, balancing skills and the challenge level of key employees, and giving feedback which is also actionable at work,” he said.

Though these leadership skills can be taught, simulation gaming provides important practice and insights in a world where there are principles, but no easy formula to apply to every situation, Buzady said.

“The game teaches students and future managers how to make decision after decision in accordance with flow theory of leadership,” Marer said, introducing the book the four have published on the topic, entitled Missing Link DiscoveredIncorporating Csíkszentmihályi's Flow Theory into Management and Leadership Practice (ALEAS Simulations, 2015).

The research project stemming from data collected via FLIGBY, as well as flow theory, reflect the core of the mission of Central European University to promote the principles of open society, according to CEU Business School Dean Mel Horwitch.

“You can only have an open society if you have a thriving robust economy that continues to create value and harnesses the creativity of citizens,” Horwitch said. “CEU Business School, with the input of faculty, researchers, entrepreneurs, managers, and students, produces next-generation managers and entrepreneurs with the skills needed to help create value and therefore, open society, in a challenging business environment.”

FLIGBY creator Vecsey would agree.

“A good business has something to contribute to society,” Vecsey said. “This is a possibility with this game. It’s possible to give feedback that can help find out what the traps are regarding leadership, and what skills must be developed.”

About FLOW

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is best known for his theory of flow: “A mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment.” His book Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning (Basic Books, 2003) addressed how to use flow theory in business. CEU Business School faculty are applying the theory to management education.


FLIGBY is an online, single-user, scenario-based simulation game in an interactive movie format. In the virtual reality, each individual player is charged with leading a management team of 8 individuals. The player must build a cohesive leadership team, craft a strategy, handle conflict situations, prioritize tasks, and resolve a plethora of day-to-day leadership and management dilemmas. Players receive a personalized report of their management/leadership skillset, based on their decisions made during the game play.

About CEU Business School

CEU Business School focuses on leadership and strategy, innovation and entrepreneurship, business and society and finance, especially for transitional and emerging regions. The School is the CEE’s leading business school. CEU Business School was founded in 1988 in Budapest, Hungary by a group of visionary leaders headed by legendary investor and philanthropist George Soros. The School’s graduates are highly sought-after by such global firms such as Citibank, Cisco, Ernst & Young, IBM, KPMG, Microsoft, and Procter and Gamble, as well as by dynamic SMEs and entrepreneurial start-ups. CEU Business School’s faculty members are distinguished academics with a diverse field of research fields and industry experience; the institution is deeply committed to academic excellence through all of its research, publication and teaching.

Media Contact:

Barbara Raffai

CEU Business School

+36 30 9775 635