Randömia Simulation Exercise

GROVEWELL LLC closed on 31 December 2020. More information here.

RANDÖMIA BALLOON FACTORY: A Simulation about Working Across a Cultural Divide is a unique half-day business simulation created by Cornelius Grove & Willa Hallowell, GROVEWELL's partners.

Published in 2000 by Intercultural Press, Randömia has been revised and republished by GROVEWELL.

Here you can access the ordering instructions for Randömia, or several testimonials from users of Randömia.

The Learn More button speeds your inquiry to GROVEWELL partner Cornelius Grove, co-author of Randömia.

Why does GROVEWELL claim that Randömia is "unique"?

Of the two groups created during this simulation, one is instructed merely to solve a simple business problem; thus, its members "play themselves," doing whatever they would usually do in real life to solve that problem. But instead of solutions, their approach yields frustrations!

No other intercultural simulation dares to allow the members of one group to proceed as they would in real life. The fact that Randömia does this makes it unique. The fact that this self-directed group quickly becomes visibly frustrated gives Randömia its credibility and persuasive power.

Brief Description of Randömia Balloon Factory

After receiving initial instructions, participants are divided into two groups, each of which receives special instructions. The two groups then interact face-to-face, and one group (whose "special instructions" were solely to solve the business problem) tries to obtain certain information from the other group. Unanticipated cross-cultural difficulties occur, leading to frustration. After this interaction ends, there is a facilitated debrief during which all participants review the interaction, explore why the difficulties occurred, and discuss what was learned that will enable them to be more effective in future real-life cross-cultural encounters.

Basic Objectives of the Randömia Simulation Exercise

Individuals who participate fully in Randömia will:

  • Experience the frustration and upsetting emotions that result from unresolved cross-cultural value differences;
  • Better understand the differences in terms of four cross-cultural value-sets;
  • Recognize that in the face of cross-cultural frustration, most people seek resolution by applying their own culture's values and solutions with ever more determination; and recognize why this approach is usually counterproductive;
  • Recognize that in the face of cross-cultural frustration, most people characterize the problems by making disparaging attributions about their culturally different counterparts; and recognize why this tendency usually works to their disadvantage;
  • Appreciate the wisdom of responding to future differences in cross-cultural values from a descriptive/inquiring perspective rather than from a judgemental mindset.

Access the co-authors' explanation for why they created Randömia Balloon Factory.

Access detailed ordering instructions for acquiring Randömia Balloon Factory from GROVEWELL.



Testimonials for Randömia Balloon Factory

Dear Cornelius, I just wanted to let you know that a colleague of mine and I facilitated Randömia at the weekend with a group of German MBA students and we felt it went very well. The students loved it. There was laughter, anger, confusion, frustration - the whole gambit of typical intercultural emotions. Thank you for creating such an ingenius yet ultimately simple simulation.

Matt Beadle, Germany; unsolicited e-mail

This is a note to tell you two [authors Grove & Hallowell] about an incredibly rich Randömia session I ran yesterday with [name of government agency]. This was for a group of high-level executives who have a lot of global experience. Well, the Richlanders made the Randömians stand apart from each other (in mock cubicles) and blow up balloons without talking to their neighbors!!!!

During the debrief, there was genuine animosity from the Randömians about this, and it came up several times. The Richlanders (all Americans) got the message: They had been purely focused on numbers and productivity. Wow! Many of the attendees said this had been a really powerful 'ah-ha!' experience.

Just wanted you to know the impact of this little gem of a simulation...."

Jo Ann Ross, Silver Spring, Maryland; GROVEWELL Senior Associate

I first used Randömia Balloon Factory with a classroom of undergraduate students in a Business Anthropology class as a way to energize them around learning about global cultures. It was such a success that I began using it in place of a final exam and students loved it. The experience draws together the concepts from the course and students walk away from the class able to articulate, and internalize, what they've learned.

In my role as an internal organizational development consultant in the automotive industry, I have been using Randömia with the manufacturing professionals I support. As they take their business units global, these professionals are experiencing many of the issues and problems captured by this simulation. Randömia has encouraged open dialogue about "going global" and has surfaced previously unforeseen challenges associated with working across cultures.

Randömia is easy to set-up and can be used with groups of different sizes. I've adapted the length of both the experience and the debrief to accommodate different group requirements, without losing the key elements. Randömia is an enjoyable learning option for business teams or older students because it allows for that "ah-ha!" experience that normally cannot be captured in a training room."

Susan Ferkany, Detroit, Michigan

Elegant in its simplicity, clever in its design, Randömia Balloon Factory simulates an interaction between corporate trainers from one country (Richland) and factory workers from another country (Randömia). The four key cultural concepts that this simulation is modeled on are useful for any global corporation whose employees deal directly with people from other cultures or support employees who do. The designers take each of these concepts and trace behavioral outcomes, exploring ways to respond appropriately to culturally different others. Much more material is available in the play of this simulation than can be covered in three hours. If you have done a thorough needs assessment, this can be handled by focusing on those aspects of the experience that are most relevant to the client.

Sandra Fowler, Editor of the "Intercultural Sourcebook"; quote from Simulation & Gaming



Two Ways Your Team or Unit Can Acquire the Randömia "AH-HA!"

1. PURCHASE THE MANUAL. The revised Randömia Balloon Factory bound manual, which provides detailed instructions and revealing background information, is available directly from GROVEWELL for $60.00 plus shipping. Following your purchase, GROVEWELL will e-mail to you the Randömia PowerPoint deck and four handouts. To be completely clear, you'll receive...

  • The bound manual, which will be shipped to you via post or courier
  • The deck in both PowerPoint and PDF, which will be e-mailed to you
  • The four handouts in PDF, which will be e-mailed to you.

The Randömia instructions include a bound manual and two e-files. These items are all you'll ever need to purchase from GROVEWELL, regardless of the number of Randömia simulations you lead.

NOTE: Besides the manual, deck, and handouts, each Randömia facilitation also requires a large number of balloons (two types), a few stick-on name tags, and a large room with chairs but no furniture fixed to the floor. You will need to acquire these items for each Randömia delivery.

To order the manual and the downloads for $60.00 plus shipping from GROVEWELL, contact Clark Fidelia at clark@grovewell.com.

2. PURCHASE FACILITATION. GROVEWELL LLC may be engaged to provide an experienced professional Randömia Balloon Factory facilitator. In many cases, this would be a half-day engagement; morning and afternoon Randömia sessions would involve a full-day engagement. GROVEWELL's facilitators are based in the Northeast U.S. For details, contact Dr. Cornelius Grove at +1-718-492-1896 or cornelius@grovewell.com.


Grovewell's Partners on their Objectives in Creating Randömia

In developing Randömia Balloon Factory, our mission was to create a simulation that is realistic, transparent, enjoyable, and simple while attaining a powerful “ah-ha!” experience for participants.

Producing a powerful “ah-ha!” experience requires realism in the simulation, transparency about what caused the simulated cross-cultural problem, and what therefore could have been done to prevent it. Without realism and transparency, it’s difficult to help participants grasp how, the next time they are in a genuine cross-cultural encounter, they can apply what they learned in the training room.

We believe that a simulation exercise also needs to provide enjoyment. If the instructions ask people to do things that they find ridiculous or tedious, enjoyment will be muted. We wanted to create a simulation that erected no barriers to enjoyment, thus allowing people to “throw themselves into role” with little or no self-consciousness.

Finally, simplicity (including brevity) is indispensable if a simulation is going to be transparent and produce memorable “ah-ha!” moments. Simplicity means that participants are not mentally preoccupied with details. We have three reasons for believing that Randömia Balloon Factory’s distinguishing characteristic is its simplicity:

  • In terms of tangible pieces, this simulation requires only two that are indispensable for its completion: balloons and name tags (which you purchase for each delivery of Randömia).
  • One of its two groups is given as "private information" only seven cultural rules to enact; only two of these rules require constant enactment.
  • The other group receives no private information at all except to solve the business problem. Thus, they do whatever they’d actually do in “real-life.”