Learning journeys for businesses: Celemi

There are different approaches for companies to drive change and improve their performance. Business simulations and experiential learning (the process of learning through experience) is one established method, with objectives that include: strategic thinking, decision-making, problem solving, financial analysis, teamwork and leadership etc.

Scandasia highlights one of the international providers from Sweden, with presence in China (Shanghai) and Southeast Asia (Singapore). And no one from Celemi can be better to talk to than the Swede Barbro Andersson, who has built up their presence, first in China and now continuing with Southeast Asia and beyond.

The reason to enter China she says was to be close to their direct clients but also to be there on site for their partners, Celemi Solution Providers. And there it was important to show that she would stay on for the long term to build the trust.

Business acumen

Based on an innovation from back in 1985 by three Swedish consultants, Celemi has evolved into a global operation with a wide portfolio of clients and a network of consultants and partners around the world.

The ‘Power of Learning’ (the natural and spontaneous learning process that occurs when people learn without noticing) lies at the heart of every business simulation or custom solution Celemi creates, based on the purpose to provide business clients with faster, quicker and more compelling methods of bringing about change and increasing business knowledge.

One such skill is Business acumen (the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions): when everyone has developed it the organisation can more easily succeed. It increases the bottom line to build employees’ knowledge of how the company makes money and creates value.

For Celemi it is a central belief that we, as human beings, want to understand the context that we’re in, the big picture – of the organization we work for and the strategy. Celemi’s simulations and learning solutions help this cause and how everyone in a business can make a difference.

Connect to challenges
It’s a learning journey for any company to embark on, explains Barbro Andersson.
“We want clients to have an open dialogue about their needs to enable us to offer the right products and packaging. We package around a business simulation but we not only have one such – this is our strength – as we have developed many different ones.”

‘In the simulation you usually run a company, though there are others with focus on projects. I think it is clearly beneficial when the participants can leave their own company behind to enter with open eyes and allow failure, because then they get the learning aspect as well.”

Hence, the participants develop a deeper understanding of business decisions and their consequences, relating to their businesses.

“As a mentor I connect to the challenges the company is facing and how we can get a link into their organisation. Small parts can be applied onto their company during the simulation, for them to start thinking in the right direction. I guide them onto that path. Then they approach their own company without noticing,” she describes.

Functional teams

A seminar and simulation can be for the executives themselves of the particular business.

“And they may expand to include many more people and ask for a shorter version suitable for all levels to get a clear message through the organization. To support implementing taken decisions.”

Barbro has also run seminars for people on the factory floor together with the management. For instance a company had cash flow problems, tying up too much working capital and not being aware of it.

“Then one must find the right level not to frighten the workers off. And they discover, in the simulation, that they actually play a role, and at the end of the day I try to collect suggestions for improvement what they could do differently when returning to work. And I collect all this and write a report.”

“When running the business as a team you get the communication. And you can also notice any dysfunctional team. It may be a person being too strong that makes the others too hesitant to object. Therefore I am very concerned when putting together the teams in order to get them to function properly. And I ask the client in advance if there is anything in particular they want to look into, where I can assist to assess based on certain aspects.”
One simulation called Tango is about managing people and attracting the right type of clients.

“One is not really aware of and what makes a company attractive. One can also discover when putting together a team if one lacks the right competence and also concerning the experience on the precise business one is doing, as well as concerning the personal chemistry. When problems turn up during the journey that needs to be solved it is crucial to have the right people on the team.”

In a simulation the company has four different levels of clogs (problems) that come up during the project.

“And they do not know in advance, and not the mentor either, but we can control to a certain extent. And it should be solved. And if one does that well the customer starts talking about how clever Celemi is: ‘We had these problems and they solved it!’ There are usually many eye-openers that they must look at.”

‘It is amazing that you can discover this in the simulation,’ was the comment of one Tango simulation participant. ‘And if we do not have the right competence and must decline a customer request, what does then happen?’

Custom-made solutions

Celemi are also heading strongly towards becoming increasingly digital in what they offer: “The digital part is to strengthen the whole experience and create added value. We can prepare the participants by digital tools so they can be more effective during the seminar. Then of course the follow-up after a seminar is also very important.”

“I want it to be continuous learning – which is what we are driving a lot to generate a large added value around what we are doing.”

“It’s also about that we work close to our customers. If doing everything via the partner network we cannot be sure to get the direct feedback on custom-made solutions. We work with many global companies on our own with completely tailor-made solutions; which is very important.”

Since some business needs are unique Celemi also offer custom solutions where they work with clients to create highly effective, tailor-made learning experiences.

“We can be very flexible depending on the customer and their needs; how much they need to partake in the development, because all content we must get from them. We can see different needs that a client may have and meet those. It can be about solutions based on cultural adaptions. We get that via our partner network. In certain countries one cannot run it in English and then translation is required.“

“Our clients are often geared towards high-end as our products are not cheap. But they quickly realise how much value there is in using them and how much one can save through the measures one can take after having gone through a seminar, how one gets return on investment. And that is very important for me to see that the client gets a ROI on what I have done for them,” states Barbro.

Turn theory into practice
Along the way to achieve business improvement reluctance to change can be a hindrance. “One is comfortable in what one is doing. In Southeast Asia that’s important, and it differs from country to country. In Thailand one may be happy if one has an O.K salary, and is not really looking for more.”

In Singapore the challenge is of different nature: It’s more about that they have attended all these prestigious schools and then think they ought to know things. But the need is here! To bring all theory into practice is very important and many newly graduated from highly ranked schools are poor at that part,” she thinks.

“Scandinavian companies are not specific targets but we have many such companies that we work with, as we have followed them out in the world.”

“And having Swedish presence is important for Celemi. It’s a big advantage concerning the cultural aspect. To be Swedish is an asset; with many clients things get easier then. One feels safe with us, knowing that we treat proprietary information discretely.“

Barbro gives support to their partner network all over Southeast Asia, as well as countries like India. Indonesia has been challenging for their partners to be paid by their clients but she thinks that the market is there and has developed well.

“I see good potential. Our partner network should be able to do much more, and The Philippines is a very exciting market now – I am searching for a partner there to learn our simulations. We have exciting clients in the Philippines and I have done seminars there myself for large local companies.”

”In China we are heading more towards assisting large customers directly with support from our partner network. We aim for global roll outs. Our first signed partner in China is still facilitating a lot of seminars, actually the most busy partner we have in Celemi worldwide.”

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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