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Thinking strategically

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THINKING STRATEGICALLY
What is Strategic Behaviour?
The following few pages provide an overview of the course, Strategic Game
Theory for Managers.
How should people behave in society? Our answer does not deal with ethics or
etiquette. Nor do we aim to compete with philosophers, preachers, or even Emily Post.
Our theme, although less lofty, affects the lives of all of us just as much as do morality and
manners. This course is about strategic behavior. All of us are strategists, whether we
like it or not. It is better to be a good strategist than a bad one, and this course aims to
help you improve your skills at discovering and using effective strategies.
Work, even social life, is a constant stream of decisions. What career to follow,
how to manage a business, whom to marry, how to bring up children, whether to stand for
election, are just some examples of such fateful choices. The common element in these
situations is that you do not act in a vacuum. Instead, you are surrounded by active
decision-makers whose choices interact with yours. This interaction has an important
effect on your thinking and actions.
To illustrate the point, think of the difference between the decisions of a logger
and those of a general. When the logger decides how to chop wood, he does not expect
the wood to fight back; his environment is neutral. But when the general tries to cut
down the enemy’s army, he must anticipate and overcome resistance to his plans. Like
the general, you must recognize that your business rivals, prospective spouse, and even
your child are intelligent and purposive people. Their aims often conflict with yours, but
they include some potential allies. Your own choice must allow for the conflict, and
utilize the coo¨peration. Such interactive decisions are called strategic and the plan of
action appropriate to them is called a strategy.
This course aims to help you think strategically, and then translate these thoughts
into action. The branch of social science that studies strategic decision-making is called
game theory. The games in this theory range from chess to child-rearing, from tennis to
takeovers, and from advertising to arms control. As the Hungarian humorist George
Mikes expressed it, “Many continentals think life is a game; the English think cricket is a
game.” We think both are right.
Playing these games requires many different kinds of skills. Basic skills, such as
shooting ability in basketball, knowledge of precedents in law, or a blank f...
-1-
THINKING STRATEGICALLY
What is Strategic Behaviour?
The following few pages provide an overview of the course, Strategic Game
Theory for Managers.
How should people behave in society? Our answer does not deal with ethics or
etiquette. Nor do we aim to compete with philosophers, preachers, or even Emily Post.
Our theme, although less lofty,affects the lives of all of us just as much as do morality and
manners. This course is about strategic behavior.All of us are strategists, whether we
like it or not. It is better to be a goodstrategist than a bad one, and this course aims to
help you improve your skills at discovering and using effective strategies.
Work, even social life, is a constant stream of decisions. What career to follow,
how to manage a business, whom to marry,how to bring up children, whether to stand for
election, are just some examples of such fateful choices. The common element in these
situations is that you do not act in a vacuum. Instead, you are surrounded by active
decision-makers whose choices interact with yours. This interaction has an important
effect on your thinking and actions.
To illustrate the point, think of the difference between the decisions of a logger
and those of a general. When the logger decides how to chop wood, he does not expect
the woodtofight back; his environment is neutral. But when the general tries to cut
down the enemy’sarmy,hemust anticipate and overcome resistance to his plans. Like
the general, you must recognize that your business rivals, prospective spouse, and even
your child are intelligent and purposive people. Their aims often conflict with yours, but
they include some potential allies. Your own choice must allow for the conflict, and
utilize the coo¨peration. Such interactive decisions are called strategic and the plan of
action appropriate to them is called a strategy.
This course aims to help you think strategically,and then translate these thoughts
into action. The branch of social science that studies strategic decision-making is called
game theory.The games in this theory range from chess to child-rearing, from tennis to
takeovers, and from advertising to arms control. As the Hungarian humorist George
Mikes expressed it, “Many continentals think life is a game; the English think cricket is a
game.” Wethink both are right.
Playing these games requires many different kinds of skills. Basic skills, such as
shooting ability in basketball, knowledge of precedents in law,orablank face in poker,
are one kind; strategic thinking is another.Strategic thinking starts with your basic skills,
and considers how best to use them. Knowing the law,you must decide the strategy for
defending your client. Knowing how well your team can pass or run, and how well the
other team can defend against each choice, your decision as the coach is whether to pass
or to run. Sometimes, as in the case of superpowers contemplating an adventure that
risks nuclear war,strategic thinking also means knowing when not to play.
Our aim is to improve your strategy I.Q. But we have not tried to provide a course
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