We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: The Income|Outcome® Business Simulation is nothing like Monopoly® or The Game of Life®.

The concept of “serious gaming” is near and dear to our hearts, but we know it may not be familiar to Income Outcome Business Simulationeveryone. If you’ve never seen anything like Income|Outcome, it might be hard to imagine how a board game can accomplish serious financial and business training.

If you’ve read this article, then you probably have a handle on the philosophy behind the Income|Outcome business simulation.

Here, we want to offer a more detailed description of the gameplay to help our most skeptical readers understand how and why this program is such an effective education tool.

The Setup

The group of 25-30 people is divided into teams of 4-6 by the facilitator. Team play takes some of the pressure off individuals, while encouraging a competitive atmosphere and necessitating effective communication as the game progresses. The rules are explained in a quick 3-5 minute presentation.

The basic rules and game play are easy enough to grasp, but the strategy, the outcomes of actions, and team dynamics are still hazy when the game begins. Participants are thrown in head first, so to speak, and immediately realize the need to “sink or swim!”

The Game Begins

Facilitators have often described the first 15 minutes as “magical” because of the palpable transformation of the energy in the room. By the time the business simulation begins, even the most sullen participants have realized that this isn’t going to be boring. Those who may have felt patronized by the idea of “playing a game” are already immersed in the experience and are excited to participate.

Each team creates a game board business and begins manufacturing a product (other business models are available).  One of the first tasks is to set a price for the product, which means players are evaluating cost structures, direct and indirect funding, staff costs, overhead, and taxes, most of which is probably unfamiliar territory.

This is the first challenge. Teams flounder through the price setting decisions, bicker among themselves, and begin establishing team communication dynamics. Everyone is a little overwhelmed because the decision is more complicated than they expected.

The facilitator asks: Who wants a tool to make this easier? A glimmer of hope! Every hand in the room shoots up.

Then the facilitator drops the bad word: BUDGET.

Income Outcome Business SimulationsNo one likes the idea of a budget. For most participants, their experience with budgeting has always been passive and negative — they’ve been given a restrictive budget from a manager or finance officer and have felt the weight of its limitations without appreciating the need and the context.

But as they determine their own budgets, a moment of revelation occurs: what once was restrictive becomes their greatest organizational tool.

The “Aha!” Moment

Suddenly, enabled with the know-how to create their own budget for the exercise, participants see the value of a precise system for setting prices and managing their company’s costs. Their new skill has a clear and immediate effect on the game.

This is how the magic happens! Not only do participants have a new skill and their own ideas about how they can use it within their real-world job, they have a new appreciation for the financial principles behind it.

They also develop empathy for the mysterious “nerds” in the finance department. Long term, this can affect the atmosphere of an entire organization and dramatically improve cross-company relationships.

And so on and so forth…

The business simulation continues much in the same way; a new task or level of complexity is added, and teams are allowed to suffer through unguided decision-making before they are offered resources to make the process less painful.

Income Outcome Business Simulation

Participants learn to use cash flow forecasting, SWOT analysis, strategy planning tools, unit cost analysis, and more.

Depending on your organization’s needs, the simulation can last anywhere from four hours to three days. The level of complexity and immersion is scalable, but the same learning principles are consistent at any level.

Click here to learn more about the Income|Outcome gameplay levels.


By the third round of the business simulation, tool haters have become tool users.

Teams are creating budgets and using the new skills they’ve learned without being prompted! Our facilitators report that participants often skip breaks or stay late to work through game components.

The immersive, hands-on experience enables them to think creatively about how these new skills will affect their work.

Income Outcome Business SimulationWhen the game is completed, there is a facilitated discussion to help everyone process the things they’ve learned and discuss how to apply it.

Complex topics invariably surface, often well beyond the scope of the individuals’ jobs. Now that they’ve managed a business within the simulation, the “big picture” is much clearer as it pertains to their real-world organization.

During the discussion, the facilitator draws the group’s attention back to the game board, and points out that it is an income statement and balance sheet — two real-world tools that are key to “business visualization.”

With the new skills participants have acquired, they can now analyze a business based solely on its financial statements. They are equipped to understand how financial pieces fit together and to recognize problems and opportunities.


Are you starting to imagine it? We hope this helps you see the psychological processes and interpersonal dynamics that contribute to a powerful learning experience for Income|Outcome players.

We also hope you’re beginning to imagine all the ways that our “serious gaming” approach to business simulation training could benefit your organization.

If you’re ready to learn more, click here to take the next step and start a conversation about how Income|Outcome can work for you!