Demand-Generation Spinner

Renshaw, J. R. and Annette Heuston, The Game Monopologs. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1957

"A spinner was developed to generate demands during the game, in order to make Monopologs more interesting and flexible and to dramatise the randomness of demands" (25).

Monopologs was developed to teach a group of players the principles and operative challenges of U.S. Air Force inventory management. The player is tasked with managing the availability of a "high-value depot-reparable spare part" called a "widget", forecasting supply and demand levels with respect to lead times for repair, procurement, and distribution (iii).

The 'spinner' template pictured here (1959) is intended to be cut out of the manual and used to generate random-numbers while playing the game. The spinner is based on a poisson-distribution--a statistical function used to express the probability of discrete events occurring over a period of time. In Monopologs, it is employed to set a dynamic demand for the widget, interrupting the player from settling into learned linear habits and present new challenges as they repeat the exercise.

"The sizes of the sections representing 0, 1, 2, etc., demands are proportional to the Poisson distribution of the fluctuation of demands around the normal level peculiar to the part in question. The dial is split in this way to minimise any possible biases in the spinner, and to make it harder for the player to estimate the probability distribution upon which the spinner is based" (27).

RAND at the time was a great exponent of "gaming" as a pedagogical technique, developing a wide variety of games dealing with specific conflict scenarios facing the United States to bureaucratic procedures such as in Monopologs. Renshaw and Heuston, authors of the Monopologs memo, emphasise the game's popularity, not only within RAND and the Air Force but also in "academic circles and industry" (v). That such logistical management games initially devised for the military found their way into civilian contexts is typical of such research at this time: the military was by and large conceptualised as a bureaucratic organisation with much the same demands and values as a large corporation.