01 Dec 2015


Multimedia Simulation Provides Real-World Reality Check


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Part Monopoly marathon, part chess championship, Harvard Business School’s new multimedia simulation “Strategic Brew” engages students in a fast-paced exercise in strategic decision- making. The goal of the simulation is to show, rather than tell, students how to strategize. Working in teams, students gain practical exposure to the choices involved in developing a product (beer), bringing it to market, and devising a competitive advantage. The exercise, incorporated into the required Strategy course, was introduced in March to all 900-plus first-year students during a two-day event in the Batten Hall hive classrooms.

“Strategic Brew” was created over a two years by Ramon Casadesus-Masanell, the Herman C. Krannert Professor of Business Administration, and Gastón Llanes, an associate professor at Catholic University of Chile’s School of Management, with help from HBS’s Educational Technology Services. It is an example of how experiential learning and technology are being incorporated into the MBA curriculum.

The School’s most complex simulation to date, “Strategic Brew” focuses on maximizing the profitability of a beer company. Students are assigned to four-member brewery teams, and four of these teams are then aggregated into an industry. Team members study data and collaborate on beer design, pricing, and packaging, as well as on decisions concerning manufacturing and marketing. After each round, reports are generated that include balance sheets, customer beer preferences, and ways in which the brewery compares to the competition. Team members then have an hour to digest the information and formulate a new strategy. At the end of eight rounds, industry winners are selected based on their overall performance.

“There’s a lot of energy in the room,” says Casadesus-Masanell. “Students get right into the simulation because they have skin in the game. They want to do well, and they work all the harder when they can see very clearly whether they are doing better or worse than the other teams.”

“The simulation enables students to think very broadly about strategy, using the same tools that they’ve seen in the [Strategy] course,” he adds. “We can have a case discussion to determine whether ideas are reasonable or not, but there’s no way for us to test them in the classroom. In the simulation, students have to make choices and then learn about the consequences of those choices.”

“We can have a case discussion to determine whether ideas are reasonable or not... In the simulation, students have to make choices and then learn about the consequences of those choices.”

Ramon Casadesus-Masanell, Herman C. Krannert Professor of Business Administration

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