The Saturn Parable

For instructors
Learning time
Sessions can range from 90 minutes to 4 hours
Authored by:

A fast-paced and engaging way to learn team leadership

What you'll teach

  • Team Leadership

  • Strategic Leadership

  • Organizational Leadership

Saturn Parable
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About The Saturn Parable

A damaged spaceship.

A squabbling organization.

A mission in jeopardy.

A new way to learn to lead.

In the Saturn Parable, teams of 4-6 students, each with their own goals and agendas, take over on a mission to Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, in 2087. The setting is fictional, but the leadership lessons are very real.

As students immerse themselves in their roles as their organization’s representatives on this historic space mission, they must decide... How to unite multiple competing organizational factions; how to set goals and directions for teams; how to develop and set winning experimental strategies by exploring the surface of a new planet; and how to negotiate with and outthink competing vessels.

The Saturn Parable is the most advanced way to build and test leadership skills at the strategic, organizational, and team levels. Students will need to apply organizational leadership to bring a fractious mission together, strategic skills to thwart opposing vessels and land safely on the moon, and team leadership skills to solve a variety of unexpected and urgent challenges.

Designed by faculty experts working with game designers and award-winning science fiction authors, the Saturn Parabe is unlike anything students have experienced before, with crises unfolding in real time over the course of the mission. Every choice students make is evaluated, and used to create meaningful learning. Students get detailed feedback, including reports on their team's performance, and actionable analyses of their own skills and decisions.

Fictional Setting - Real Life Lessons

The debrief connects the lessons to the real world, revealing that the challenges encountered by participants are actually the same as those faced by organizations like Amazon, Apple, NASA, and many others. The skills learned in the game are immediately applicable to work environments. The Saturn Parable's careful design ensures that these skills will be deeply integrated and retained.

The game is useful for any classes touching on issues of leadership or team management, as well as corporate training efforts or retreats.

The Saturn Parable is flexible and built to suit your class

Flexible timing

What does this mean for you?

You can run the game in 1 to 3 class periods and choose the number of in-class and out- of-class sessions spent playing the game.

Flexible facilitation

What does this mean for you?

Unlike other simulations, you don’t need to keep track of what happens in the game, and there is no management required. You don’t have to focus on providing context, lectures, or feedback. You can focus on making the experience have meaning in students’ lives and their future plans.

Depending on your workload, you can be as involved as you’d like to be, but you can shift class management to higher-order meaning-making for your students. The game is self-contained and self-running. You can choose to hold class discussions (or not) and conduct a debrief (or not). Feedback and debriefs are built into the game.

Flexible play

What does this mean for you?

The game can be played either online, in person, or in a mix of modalities. Teams can be co-located during gameplay or can be online at the same time. Physical aspects of the game (including maps, manuals, and puzzles) can be incorporated into the physical classroom or can be accessed online.

Flexible debrief

What does this mean for you?

The final debrief connects the shared experience of the game and student decisions to theories about leadership, strategy, teamwork, and communications. Students learn how each decision they and their teams made impacted their progress and affected what happened next in the game, giving them a glimpse into counterfactual realities – what might have been had they made different decisions. The debrief draws a direct connection between the game and team decisions and learning objectives, allowing all the pieces of the experience to fall into place.

Debriefing can be handled automatically by the game, or you can choose to debrief the game, choosing to focus on the topics most applicable to your students’ needs.

Should you choose to debrief, your discussion will depend on the nature of your class but there are a number of discussion pastures to explore. Since students have all lived through the same experience, discussions are very rich.

Available for Verified Instructors August 2022

The Saturn Parable - are you Game?

Course authors

Ethan Mollick - Headshot
Ethan Mollick Professor of Management

What you'll teach

  • Process loss: avoiding hidden profiles, miscommunication, the Abilene Paradox, and groupthink
  • Collective intelligence on teams: increasing team performance with psychological safety, coordination, motivation, and organization
  • Self-reflective teams: Building continuous improvement through chartering, closed loop communication, after action discussions
  • Strategic experimentation including hypothesis testing
  • Ambidexterity and planning for the future while executing today
  • Frameworks for strategic competition and cooperation
  • Goal setting, goal communication, and delegation
  • Motivating organizational change
  • Managing organizational conflict
  • Process loss: avoiding hidden profiles, miscommunication, the Abilene Paradox, and groupthink
  • Collective intelligence on teams: increasing team performance with psychological safety, coordination, motivation, and organization
  • Self-reflective teams: Building continuous improvement through chartering, closed loop communication, after action discussions
  • Strategic experimentation including hypothesis testing
  • Ambidexterity and planning for the future while executing today
  • Frameworks for strategic competition and cooperation
  • Goal setting, goal communication, and delegation
  • Motivating organizational change
  • Managing organizational conflict

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