The beer game LO20698

Joey Chan (
Fri, 19 Feb 1999 04:44:09 +0800

Replying to LO20682 --

Hi, Dave,

you wrote:

>I wondered three things about the people who developed it: (1) whether
>they had any
>experience in the real world; (2) whether they knew the simulation
>wasn't realistic but did it anyway for its learning potential; or (3)
>whether they had a better handle on the real world than I do.

Personally, I found the Beer Game very successful in demonstrating the
essense of the systems thinking. Yes, I admit that the environment set in
The Fifth Discipline a bit artificial, or, as you put it, not realistic
enough. However, I think the powerfulness of the Beer Game is its
metaphorical meaning, insteads of its 'matches' with the realistic
situation. It unfold the importance of the structural-level observation.
As Senge's had pointed out(The Fifth Discipline, P.41):

"If literally thousands of players, from enormously diverse
backgrounds, all generate teh >same qualitative behavior patterns, teh
causes of the behaviormust lie beyond the >individuals. The causes of
the behavior must lie in the structure of the game itself."

In everyday's life, the large-scale fluctuation of the demand(and the
stocks and supply in other upper-level of hierarchy) is rare. However,
the scenario in Senge's book can have a wake-up call to our blindness to
the system(and our unwillingness to communicate), since we think that
the enemies are JUST out there. Therefore, I believe that the real-life
"beer-game" situation(also worse-than-the-beer-game-situation) did
happen in some occasions. As cited by Senge's example of the computer
memory chips competitions(The Fifth Discipline, P.41).

The Beer Game's aim is to demonstrate that the amplification process in
the beer distribution chain is connected with the built-in time-delays
involved in communicating from one sector to the next. The Beer Game
also has a potential to manifest itself to implicit chaos. A more
theoretical approach to the beer game is discussed in John Casti's book:
Complexification. Casti, a fellow of the Santa Fe Institute, had pointed
out that The Beer Game dynamical system contains 27 state variables,
quantities such as expected demands, inventory levels and order rates
for each of the dealers. Compared with real managerial systems, teh
model is a vast simplification; but compared with most physical systems
investigated in the world of nonlinear dynamics, the model is very
complicated. Therefore we might expect the system to display an
unusually complicated spectrum of behaviors. And Casti had told us that
we have only scratched the surface of the many fascinating lessons to be
learned about complex dynamics from the Beer Game.

So, may be I am naive to say that, Dave, you are a lucky guy, but don't
forget there's always a possibility to turn the distribution chain into
a disastrous chaos.

Hope that we can dip deeper with the Beer Game.


Joey Chan
Birdview Learning Organization Consulting, Hong Kong.


Joey Chan <>

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>