War Games: a new weapon to advance your business
Are you looking to move ahead of your competition? Do you need fresh insight to make important decisions while keeping your team onside? Are you facing a tricky situation and need to change the direction your ship is heading?
Make better informed decisions
Here’s a great way to make better informed decisions. It’s called War Games, and it’s one of the best tools in the Competitive Intelligence armoury.
A War Game is a military and business exercise which you carry out to test or improve your tactical expertise. Different scenarios and actions are thrown into the exercise, and teams have to react to them. These teams represent your company and your competitors. It’s a highly effective way to test your assumptions about your ever-changing competitive environment, also helping your organisation to better understand itself and move forward confidently.
How to play a War Game
Playing a War Game is rather like playing a board game such as Risk or Chess.
First, split your people into teams. Each team should represent a competitor and other external influences such as a government or regulator. One team must represent your own company. The teams acting as your competitor must become your competitor. They should study them, and think how they think. They should research them and get under their skin. Each team should map the current business situation and assess what could happen in the future.
You will need an umpire to assess each teams’ success and determine how realistic their plans are, and an independent external facilitator to avoid your company culture and viewpoints leaking into the findings.
Next, create a number of rounds to represent a period of time spanning a couple of months (if you are being tactical) or one or two years (to be more strategic).
Creating a new strategy
Once each team has an understanding of the competitor it represents, it goes away to create a growth strategy to enable it to win the game. The strategy and plans must be realistic. It’s important that each team must be able to achieve its strategy in real life.
The teams must then reconvene and present their plans. The opposing teams and judges can ask probing questions. This questioning represents the end of the 1st round. Assumptions are explained, and the teams can use a myriad of software analysis tools available to do so.
However, it is essential that the War Game is run in an old-fashioned way. This means people interacting face-to-face in the same room (with break-out rooms) using paper, flip charts, pens and Post-It notes. You need to feel what’s going on and watch the teams’ reactions to feedback and comments from the umpires and other teams.
The 2nd round consists each team going away and reviewing their plans and strategies following the 1st round’s presentations. As well as presenting its plans, each team should also attempt to predict the other teams’ thoughts and ideas and perhaps counter what the other teams are planning to do.
For each strategy and action plan, teams must detail the resources and funding needed. If they are not currently available to the competitor, they should tell the judges how they intend to get them.
Rule nothing out
The whole process can get very heated and feel very real, and the passion will bring some cracking ideas to the fore. War Games also prove to be great fun for everyone taking part.
Military and intelligence organisations play such strategic games all the time, answering questions like “What if Israel joins the bombing campaign in Syria?” or “What if Russia invades Lithuania?” You can do the same. “What if Competitor X brings out a game-changing product?” etc.
Throughout, nothing should be ruled out. Judges can throw a spanner in the works, and if it makes sense for two teams to merge, then this can happen too. You can bring “What if…” rounds into the game asking the teams to devise their actions on a scenario. The reactions and final outcomes are really powerful and give you amazing insight to what your enemy could do and feel.
Selecting the winner
Once your War Game is finished, each team writes up its findings and the umpires bring everything together. The winning team is decided by the umpires, but there is nothing wrong with opposing teams providing input too.
Ultimately, the result is that your entire organisation is the winner, with the War Game process answering your most pressing and important questions, such as:
- Given the situation you face are there any benefits of a surprise and how much do you think it will cost you?
- Do you want to focus on one strategy or test a number of alternatives?
- How about developing a company-wide culture of strategic thinking to help you develop new ideas, services and products?
- Are you sick of those immediate, let’s do it now crises?
- Do you want to find a great way to bond your team together, which does not include the pub and a karaoke machine?
Consider this valuable extension to your War Game
Another extremely useful tool – as used by the CIA – is the Red Team model. The Red Team is a group of people which has not been involved in your War Game so far. It looks at what you have decided to do and your reasoning behind it. It will then attempt to completely discredit the plan and provide reasons why the plan would not work.
This is not as daft as it may sound. Looking to discredit the plan could (and does) reveal glaring gaps in the decision makers thinking and helps counter groupthink. Red Teams can save a lot of time and resources by at least making you think about every possible scenario.
Find out more today
War Games offer you new ways to think about your businesses, competitors and your decisions – as well as getting your team onside with a complete understanding of your strategy – as a simulated experience. War Games are a great weapon to help you win in real life.
Graeme Dixon is Managing Director of Octopus Intelligence, the Global Competitive Intelligence Agency. More information can be found at www.octopusintelligence.co.uk or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.