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 Nov. 9 at an event hosted by CEU Business School. 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 CEU 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 Discovered: Incorporating 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 CEU 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."