Friday, September 26, 2008

The Beer Game

Just when you are beginning to tire of bragging to your friends about how hands-on the D curriculum is, you get hit by another of their brilliant teaching methods. Here’s why it’s brilliant. It makes you, the student, feel nice about having one, possibly two, less cases to prepare for the next day and it makes you learn something – in true D style – the hard way. The Beer Game is just the latest of many. I won’t go into the ones that came before the Beer game – my D classmates have done a great job of describing their experiences with those on their blogs – but I will go into the one we had today.

Titled the Beer Game and played very appropriately on a Thursday when a lot of FYs won’t be at TNDC (2 cases for tomorrow!), this was a simulation game played as part of the marketing curriculum. The motive behind the simulation was to learn, among other things, the Bullwhip effect and other typical supply chain problems. Four beer manufacturing companies fight to keep their production process lean and their inventory holding/stock out costs mean. Add some twists and complications to all of that and you have the perfect ale for a good two hours’ worth class time! Playing with my uber-cool section D buddies more than made up for having to stay indoors on a Thursday night and miss all the fun at the Buddhist Biker!

Something I’ve noticed about all the simulation games is that they’re very much like our cases. They give you the basic premise and instructions and throw you headlong into the game. The first round is basically a sadistic-professor-taking-pleasure-in-your confusion round where you screw up big time by making all the mistakes in the book and then some more. Then comes round 2, where you are allowed to strategize a little bit and you enter the game once more, feeling like the king of the operation. But in true sadistic-professor style, round 2 comes with its own little quirks and twists. You are left fumbling for a bit, but you pick up pace soon enough to recover and make some money. Round 3 is where life is good, all rules are relaxed and you are pretty much handed victory on a silver platter – and you still screw up, albeit a lot lesser than round 1. Then you debrief with the whole class. The winner walks away with a prize, in today’s case a tall D glass.

So when exactly did the learning curve go a notch higher in this entire sequence, you ask? That is the best part of it all. You realize you have learnt something new only when you are working on the next day’s cases and you find yourself applying what you learnt on the simulation. And that, my friend, is your aha moment! Mission accomplished. Cheers!

Addendum - 9/26/2008:

I guess I spoke too soon about the simulation games. Here's something I didn't think I would be doing in business school - playing with teddy bears in an Operations class! We were trying to simulate the efficiency (or the lack of it) in the operations of a hospital. In order to allow us to see more clearly and in real time, the challenges faced by a multi-discipline hospital, our professor brought in some teddies as patients and had some of us be the doctors.

Moral of the game: Operations need not always be about factories and machines, but can be cute too and learning is a lot more fun (and memorable) when it's hands-on.


Oren said...

Ok, took me a few minutes to figure out who you are.
Great posts. Keep them coming.
Don't forget to show up tomorrow for Darden Cup.

Anonymous said...

The Beer Game was one of my favorite simulations. I wish we had a couple more rounds to try and optimize our profit. As in life, everything is a race against the clock.

MechaniGal said...

Bill, I couldn't agree with you more! In every simulation, I'm left with the feeling that if I got another go at it, I'd do better...


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