Paragon Simulation Business

What I’ve learnt from 25 years of simulation consultancy

Neil Higton

If you’re a decision-maker (and we all are in one way or another) then you’ll know that discomfort that comes from realising you’re not in full control of the circumstances.

I’ve run a simulation consultancy firm for 25-years now. When somebody asks me what I do the normal response is “you’re so fortunate to be in control of your own destiny”. I immediately think (and sometimes say) the one thing I have learnt from running a business is how little control I have over it. There are so many factors way beyond my control. All I can do is plan to mitigate the risks.

Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don’t. But I’m happy to admit I’m not in control of my destiny.

However, there’s a difference between not being in control and not understanding my circumstances. One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is bringing clarity and understanding to a team faced with a complex decision landscape. In these circumstances there are always “many versions of the truth”. The challenge is to understand which version (if any) is true. Don’t you often find when you press colleagues for the underpinning rationale behind their opinion it is more based on intuition than information.

The advantage of using a time machine…

When I’m using a well-constructed business simulation I often feel I’m operating some kind of time-machine that reveals the future. The magic of simulation is that it accurately plays “the many versions of the truth” and creates the information that tells you which one is in fact true. I simulated plans for a major refurbishment of a brick plant. There were three designs or versions of the truth! Remarkably the simulation revealed none of the designs would deliver the required performance. Not only could we see the shortfall, we also understood the reason why. And so we were able to develop a fourth design which was implemented. Twelve months later when we took tour of the new facility, we were told it was the first time a major project had been implemented without any corrective action.

I have the fascinating job of presenting this type information and insight to some great management teams that are looking for understanding and clarity. The best feeling I get at work is when they say “we now understand what we need to do and why we need to do it”.