Interactive tool developed by MIT Sloan professor creates a virtual world for students to explore sustainable management of renewable resources

“Fishbanks” management flight simulation now available for free on MIT Sloan LearningEdge website in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Simplified Chinese

May 7, 2014

MIT Sloan Professor John Sterman

MIT Sloan Professor John Sterman

Imagine you are a leader in the fishing industry. You must balance competing against others in a tough industry while limiting your total catch in order to sustain the fishery for future generations. Your decisions affect your company’s bottom line and the health of ocean ecosystems. Can you earn a profitable living without decimating fish stocks?

Teachers and students around the globe can now explore this scenario in four languages—English, Spanish, Portuguese and Simplified Chinese—through Fishbanks, an interactive management flight simulation, which, along with companion teaching materials, are available online at no cost through MIT Sloan’s LearningEdge website.

Fishbanks was created by former MIT Sloan professor Dennis Meadows, PhD ’69. The English web-based version was first adapted from Meadows’s classic game in 2011 by MIT Sloan professor John Sterman to instruct the school’s MBAs about the challenges of sustainably managing common pool resources.

“Making Fishbanks available in Spanish, Portuguese, and Simplified Chinese is important because countries where these languages are spoken are prominent fishing nations strongly affected by a decline in the world’s fisheries,” says Sterman. “Fishbanks’s lessons apply to a wide range of renewable resources as well.”

Fishbanks can be played by an individual or in teams, and in a single session or over the course of a semester.

“Management simulations such as Fishbanks bring an experiential aspect to learning about complex systems,” says Sterman. “They have more impact than simply listening to a lecture or engaging in a case study discussion.”

Fishbanks offers video user guides and online instructions for students. Video teaching notes and slides introducing and debriefing all aspects of the simulation are available for educators. In the post-game debriefing, players also explore examples of successful resource management and the economic, political, and social policies needed to implement and sustain them.

Additional management simulations available in English on LearningEdge are Salt Seller, a commodity pricing simulation; Eclipsing the Competition, a solar photovoltaic industry simulation; Platform Wars, a video game industry simulation; CleanStart, a clean energy startup simulation; and, World Climate, a global climate policy simulation.

“Deep, actionable knowledge and decision-making skills develop when people have the chance to apply classroom theory in the real world with its messy complexity, time pressure, and irreversible consequences,” explains Sterman. “But project-based action learning in the field is not possible in settings where the stakes are high or the consequences of decisions unfold over years or decades. For many of the critical issues we face, simulation becomes the main way we can discover for ourselves how complex systems work and develop the management and leadership skills we need to succeed.”

Access Fishbanks in English, in Simplified Chinese, in Spanish, and in Portuguese.