Send out an email to your staff that they’ll all be headed to the conference room tomorrow morning to engage in some supply-chain training and you’re likely to get a tepid response, probably a few of those eye-roll emojis sent back and forth between employees via their instant messenger as well.

Send out the same email telling your staff they’ll all be headed to the conference room tomorrow to play the beer game, and you might have to find some extra chairs to fit the onslaught of staffers suddenly migrating down the hallway.

The average employee isn’t apt to be passionate about much when it comes to infrastructure, but understanding how a supply chain works makes everyone better at their own job. It also helps in identifying holes in the process that can be plugged to maximize efficiency, minimize cost, and make any business run more smoothly.

People love a good story. It is a great way to engage them in a subject that takes them out of that classroom feel of dry learning and puts them squarely in the middle of a story that just happens to also be teaching them new information.

The beer game – short for beer distribution game – is a simplified variation of a new concept for using fiction to deliver supply-chain knowledge.  By adding in the fun quality of having it be about beer, you can easily teach lessons regarding key components like collaboration, information sharing, and supply-chain management in a format that most will catch on to quickly.

The Power of Storytelling

For thousands of years, people have learned by storytelling. It’s how our ancestors passed down their entire histories before there were easily accessible methods of writing and preserving text. The power of a good story is in its ability to connect those who hear it to the message it is trying to convey – in this case the fundamentals of the workings of a supply chain and common problems that crop up. When someone feels as if they have entered the story themselves, it builds both familiarity and trust. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Adding in elements like suspense, action, and thrills makes the experience a memorable one for all parties and lets them pull out key moments from their memories when relating what they’ve learned back to their own situation. This bridges the gap between supply-chain fiction and supply-chain understanding. Think back to an after-school special or particularly issue-centric television show you saw growing up. Your impressions of the show the first time you saw it were powerful enough that here you are still able to recall it 10, 20, heck maybe 50 years later! When a story is entertaining, time itself will seem to pass by more quickly, but the lessons learned will have more of an impact and be easier to recall in the future.