Test Your Systems Thinking Skills
The Beer Game illustrates how difficult it is to manage dynamic systems. It was originally developed in the late 1950s by Jay Forrester at MIT to introduce the concepts of system dynamics and computer simulation. This blog post presents a single player version of the game.
I’ve always loved books and I can still remember the moment when I first held Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline in my hands for the first time: It was shortly after we founded transentis in 1997 (the company had a different name then) when Robert – one of my co-founders – burst into the office after a business trip. Look, I found this book while browsing in the book store and thought it might be interesting to you…
In those days I hadn’t read that many business books (my first university degrees were in mathematics and theoretical physics) and I can remember my excitement when I read Peter Senge’s description of the Beer Game and his visual explanation of what was happening using causal loop diagrams!
The Fifth Discipline had a very profound influence on me then and essentially changed the direction in which I was heading personally and ultimately also that of our company.
Three or four years later I read John Sterman’s Business Dynamics during an extended stay in hospital (some people say I stayed in hospital especially long so that I could read the book cover to cover…it is a big book :-)) and this again had a very profound affect on me – suddenly I could use visual thinking and mathematics to understand how businesses do (or do not) work.
Business Dynamics contains a more detailed description of the Beer Game and I realised then already that it would be wonderful if we could use visual models and business games to help our clients find new ways to think about their business.
It took us much longer to get there than I thought it would, but today, almost two decades after first reading the Fifth Discipline and more than one decade after first reading Business Dynamics, I would like to present our version of the Beer Game.
The game is normally played with four players, but we have created a single player version of the game which is also fun and provides a number of learnings. Give it a try and see if you can reach all the targets – in one of my next blog posts I will provide a detailed analysis of the game and the underlying dynamics.
P.S: If you would prefer to play the game in a separate screen try beergame.transentis.com