Abstract for: Lessons from a long-term Beer Game dataset played by natural resource managers:reinforcing systems education across disciplines
Simple yet powerful, the Beer Game (BG) has been played by thousands of players, from students to experienced managers, introducing the fundamental principles of complex systems and system dynamics (SD). For managers in agricultural and natural resources (AGNR), where systems are inherently complex due to the biologic, geologic, economic, social, policy and climatic characteristics and where delays are just as powerful and often longer compared to corporate settings, possessing a systems-oriented mental model is purported while implemented strategies remain linear or symptom-driven. To better understand the mental models of AGNR managers, we analyzed 10 years of BG trials. We found that AGNR managers performed at least as bad, and often worse, than typical BG performances. However, we also found that younger players more readily adapted to surplus inventories, significantly reduced order rates and effective inventories compared to older players. We discuss the results in terms of the common learning disabilities, in the context of 21st century AGNR challenges, and the seminal work Limits to Growth (Meadows, D.H., et al. 1972). We conclude by describing future work in decision making research using this dataset and an encouraging call for SD education/collaboration across disciplines to better address the complex AGNR challenges.