Business War Games
How They Work
Short and productive
The vast majority of our games are one-day affairs, to minimize cost and spare the time required for managers to take
away from business. So these games are highly intense and extremely productive.
Preparations for the game involve either an in-house or an external assembly of competitive intelligence under
our specific guidelines. Outside vendors of intelligence take about 4-6 weeks. Inside collation of available
competitive information takes on average 2 weeks only. The information needs not be elaborate, highly detailed
or very specific. We don't need rims of statistics. If you have very specific information about competitors' plans,
you don't need to run a war game.
Two stage game
During the game day, teams role playing the competitors and the host "battle" it out by first, creating deeper
understanding of competitors' perspective on the market, and developing predictions of their most likely moves
using three rigorous frameworks. Second, pressure-testing various practical options against competitors'
You can see why the games are so productive: we don't waste time on hypothetical assumptions, we don't make up
hypothetical moves; we aim at realistic assessments of the competitive landscape. To see why the games are
intense, read our methodology.
All war games must answer two difficult questions:
What will competitors do?
How can my plan outsmart them?
Our proprietary methodology answers these questions with unparalleled realism
Our war games are based on three principles, tested since 1991:
to be realistic, games must be based on real market intelligence, not management guesses, statistical distributions or random number generation
the most effective method of predicting competitors' moves is actually understanding competitors through multidisciplinary role playing principles and cutting edge competitor analysis methodologies
superior strategies depend on standing out in a crowded market
In making predictions about competitive dynamics, we are the only ones capable of combining three methodologies:
Industry imbalance and
strategic early warning
Competitors Made Real™ role playing
Traditional economics models (neoclassical, game theory, decisions under uncertainty) assume industries are generally
in a state of equilibrium or strive to get there ("stable" state solutions). Our methodology follows the
Schumpeterian theory of market disequilibrium and the Kirznerian models of continuous presence of entrepreneurial
opportunities. Instead of looking for stable solutions, we look for opportunities and risks emanating from subtle
industry imbalances. While some models call for finding "blue oceans" (uncontested markets), we look for early
signs of risks and opportunities in hotly contested markets, where most of our clients compete. Industry's
attractiveness depends on continually shifting balance of power among its major players, both internal and external.
Industries are always in some imbalance, one way or another, but these imbalances are not obvious. Our war games
identify early signals of growing imbalances before competitors take advantage of them. Our strategic early warning
methodology sets the stage for the next two analyses: identifying blindspots in management thinking, and answering
the question: how would competitors fit in the new, evolving market structure? This is the most relevant examination
of the competitive landscape with which your plan must attain external consistency. This methodology is fully
described in Gilad's
book. For example, a strategic early warning analysis performed on the Pharmaceutical industry back in the early
2000s, identified Pharmaeconomics and Genomics as two areas where a specific Pharma company was most vulnerable,
and where signs pointed to greater government and patient groups' involvement, as well as a European competitors'
advances. Another war game identified a weak signal in the ready-to-eat breakfast market pointing to the growing
disequilibrium opportunity in health expectations vs more traditional revealed taste preferences, a decade before
that change became apparent to all players in that market.
Our proprietary Blindspots Analysis tests management's conventional assumptions against market imbalances revealed
through the previously analyzed changes in the market structure. A sizeable chunk of management assumptions about the
market and its major players (including buyer's preferences, competitors' capabilities, etc) maybe between 2 to 15
years old, depending on the tenure and career paths of the managers involved. Several of these deep-rooted beliefs
are implicit and untested. They lead to ignoring emerging risks and opportunities embedded in a growing industry
imbalance. Our blindspots analysis goes through three distinct steps performed by the teams themselves. In addition
to exposing the host's own blinders (so called "elephants in the room"), this analysis enables the teams to point
to competitors' blinders. The methodology is fully described in Dr. Gilad's book,
For example, in a war game in 2005, a company identified a competitor's inability to focus on green technology
due to massive commitments in a different technology. The war game allowed the company to draw a plan for superior
strategy based on real differentiation. The competitor announced an intent to get out of this field and put its
division up for sale after a year.
Competitors Made Real™
At the core of predicting competitors' moves and countermoves is our Competitors Made Real™ role playing
methodology, which borrows from strategy analysis (Porter's models), Neuroscience (cognitive processes), behavioral
analysis (decision biases) and a few basic acting "secrets" of creating a credible character. As teams take on the
character of the competitor they role play, their predictions of moves narrows down to the real moves based
on competitor's limitations, biases, blinders, drivers, creed, and internal pressures. Combined with real market
intelligence briefing, this methodology is far superior to hypothetical and restrictive mathematical assumptions.
Putting your strategy to test
Portraying competitors realistically allows management to pressure test various ideas in a mock "market battle"
situation which approximates the real market better than any hypothetical model, and where teams can share
intelligence and real experience. Here our model calls not for complex strategies that are then never followed
through, but for
Practical ideas that can improve a plan
"insulate" a launch,
defend against a new aggressive competitor,
penetrate a market by taking market share from competitors or
roll out a regional or global strategy which has a chance to win in very different markets.
We eschew fuzzy "creativity" for a superior activity-chain encompassing distinct supply chain, marketing, sales,
route-to-market, product and service offering. We steer clear of complex hypothetical events favored by Pentagon
contractors in favor of practical ideas based on superior understanding of the opponents' perspectives as favored
by the Israeli commandos who raided Idi Amin's Uganda in 1976 and freed 200 hostages. Standing out in a crowded
market is hard work, not rocket science. Superior anticipation
of market reactions gives it a significant boost.