The Blue Connection: tool for circular business transformation

The Blue Connection business simulation tool by Inchainge illustrates the importance of strategy and collaboration in ensuring successful transformation to a circular supply chain. Inchainge’s strategy game is aligned with the current trend in which more and more companies are making the transition from a linear business model to a circular one.

By Marysa Vos

Inchainge develops and supplies simulation tools and learning programmes related to supply chain management and supply chain finance. When companies are preparing for a transformation, it is not always enough for them to merely tell people what needs to happen/change. Besides the company’s existing simulation tools for management and finance departments, The Blue Connection enables people to experience the transformation to a circular business model.

The circular economy is the key theme in the simulation tool. “That’s a hugely interesting topic because it’s still receiving insufficient attention from a supply chain perspective,” says Egge Haak, a partner at Inchainge and Involvation. “Many companies have already started with circular sourcing, but in reality that just shifts the problem onto the supplier. Companies themselves need to become circular so that they’re no longer dependent on the Earth’s finite resources,” he states.

Accordingly, the aim of the strategy game is to transition a company from a linear supply chain to a circular one. In The Blue Connection, a team made up of sales, purchasing, supply chain and finance roles is tasked with managing and guiding a virtual company. The four roles must work together to optimize the value chain and make it circular.

Both strategic and tactical

The strategy game comprises multiple rounds, with each round representing one business year. The results depend on the decisions made by each role. “The strategic layer in the game gives the company direction and also guides each team’s tactical decision-making,” explains Haak. The simulation tool has several possible outcomes and the transformation will fail if there is a lack of collaboration and alignment. “A company can only be successful when it executes its chosen strategy consistently and implements it at a tactical level.”

Innovation adoption matrix

To indicate the complexity of the technological possibilities used while also illustrating the extent to which the use of Inchainge’s business simulation tool changes how people work, The Blue Connection has been positioned in the innovation adoption matrix. The lower a tool or technology scores, the easier it is for companies to adopt and integrate, and the versa; if a company has developed a product or service that scores highly on technological complexity and which requires substantial changes in the daily workflow, adoption will be more difficult. Furthermore, highly complex tools and technologies often still have to prove their worth in practice. A technology such as blockchain is a good example of this.

The Blue Connection in the matrix

Inchainge has utilized the same simulation engine as for its earlier simulation tools. However, The Blue Connection requires the participants to make completely new decisions that are focused on the topic of the circular economy. Above all, the game revolves around collaboration and decision-making. The business simulation tool therefore receives a low score for technological complexity. Meanwhile, the game incorporates market trends that are influencing and driving the transition to circular business models, and supports ‘learning by doing’ for the participants. This strengthens mutual understanding within the teams and between different departments, and improves the participants’ knowledge of which changes are necessary to ensure a successful transition. The simulation tool also provides insight into how the tasks need to change and encourages those changes to be made in practice. The Blue Connection business simulation tool is therefore positioned in the lower central part of the matrix.