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uni'wissen 01-2016_ENG

“Departmental egoism” is just one of many topics Lengsfeld simulates for students with his concept “EconRealPlay.” “The basic questions come from the business world,” stresses the economist, whose research partners include companies and local trade associations. “We take these questions as a basis for developing simulations that achieve a learning effect in the students and at the same time allow us to analyze behavior patterns.” What are the effects of incentive systems that reward or penalize certain behavior? What information do employees need to carry out their tasks? At which points in the process is communication necessary? What part does the general organiza- tional set-up play? These are the kinds of questions Lengsfeld is looking to answer. His methodology involves changing a single organizational element each round – in the chocolate factory it is first the walls and then the communication barriers that disappear. “This reveals which innovation leads to which effect.” In some simulations he divides the participants up into two groups and has them play through the same scenario under different condi- tions and observes how the effects differ. Besides simulations in which teams of students reconstruct a process with Lego bricks or other materials, Lengsfeld and his team also conduct computer experiments. Some of them focus on both indi- vidual and group decisions. Others involve partici- pants competing against one another without knowing what the others are doing, allowing the researchers to study competitive situations. From Experience to Analysis All of the simulations are based on a multistage concept that combines experimental economics research with problem-based interactive teaching, while at the same time encouraging the students to develop their own research projects. The students begin by running through a simulation themselves without knowing what it is about. Then they are taught theoretical and methodological concepts that enable them to study their own behaviors and motives. This forms the basis for a move from the level of experience to that of analysis: Since the students have taken note of the steps and results of their work at all stations during the individual rounds of the simulation, they now have data to analyze. In the next step, the students provide their input to improve the simulations or develop new ones. And finally, some of the scenar- ios are used to conduct social science experiments. One such study is currently being made into a publication on time autonomy: What are the con- sequences for product and process innovation when employees either can choose their own working hours or need to spend a fixed amount of time on planning and production? Other publications in preparation include studies on the interaction between incentive systems, process flows, and employee motivation. “The approach offers an unbelievable amount of pos- “All ideas are welcome.” From confusion to a coherent structure: A simulation shows what makes up a lean office. Photos: Thomas Kunz 42