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Strategy Cyborgs

By | Guest writer

Strategy Cyborgs and Ten Gigasims

This weeks guest article, Strategy Cyborgs and Ten Gigasims, is by the world-renowned business war game authority and creator of Cyborg Strategy™ Mark Chussil. Mark is running a series of free webinars, the next of which is on 27th May.

Link here Frames, Games, and Inspiration

Strategy Cyborgs and Ten Gigasims

My Top Pricer Tournament™ has hit a milestone: It has enough entries from people around the world to run over ten billion strategy simulations. Ten gigasims. (Update: 11 gigasims.) You can learn a lot from ten gigasims. I sure have.

Over 1900 people have entered the Top Pricer Tournament. (You can, too. See below.) They made pricing decisions for generic businesses competing in the generic Ailing, Mature, and Fast Growth industries. 

The Tournament simulates all the unique combinations of strategies — each blend is a scenario, a possible future, a single sim — to see which strategies work best.

Each strategy gets tested in the same 1.9 million combinations of competitor strategies (1.9 megasims) for its industry. That number grows as more entries arrive. It’s “what if?” on the best steroids ever.

Ten stats from ten gigasims

  1. Only one person chose 46 % of the strategies selected. Two or more people chose 54%. 52 people chose one approach.
  2. Roughly 90% of the possible strategies in the Tournament have not been chosen by any human (yet).
  3. The majority of the strategies which were chosen by a single person performed below average. 
  4. But, the best-performing strategies were chosen by only one person. It makes sense: if you want to outperform your competitors, you must do something your competitors are not doing.
  5. Half of the entrants reported that they spent 10-20 minutes making their strategic decisions. A quarter spent less than 10 minutes and a quarter spent more than 20 minutes.
  6. The entrants who thought other entrants would pick strategies “not at all like mine” were wrong.
  7. Extroverts and introverts were equally effective in getting their goals.
  8. Entrants chose widely different strategies to achieve the same goals.
  9. Entrants had widely different performance even when they tried to achieve the same goals. In the Mature industry, the profit/sales ratio ranged from 6.2% to 25.3% among entrants who cared only about profitability. Those ratios are the worst and best averages across the same 1.9 megasims.
  10. It takes about 24 hours to calculate ten gigasims.

Six questions you might ask

Ten gigasims. That’s nice. It’s more than nine gigasims. But what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that the Tournament shows it’s possible to test strategy ideas thoroughly and quantitatively. Those 1.9 what-if megasims for each strategy let us separate those that sometimes get lucky from those that are smart decisions. And then there are the surprises.

Surprises? Aren’t the good strategies obvious? It sounds simple, with generic competitors and price as the only lever.

Everyone who enters the Tournament thinks their strategies will work. We know that because no one says, “I’ve got a good strategy and I’ve got a bad strategy, I think I’ll use the bad strategy.” But performance in the Tournament has varied widely (see #9 in “ten stats”, above).

We humans might think the Tournament is simple because few of us think so broadly about competitive strategy. This HBR digital article, one of six I’ve written that cite the Tournament, tells the story of my personal comeuppance in the Tournament. It fundamentally changed the way I think, teach, and consult. 

Is it artificial intelligence?

I’m working on that. For now, the Tournament contains cyborg intelligence, the collaboration of humans and computers. Humans have the ideas; computers do the arithmetic. (Contact me for information about my cyborg war game webinars and technology.)

Is there a “solution” to the Top Pricer Tournament or to real-life strategy?

If you mean “is there a strategy that will get me the results I want?”, I think the answer may be no. Companies may set unrealistic performance goals, which can lead to big trouble if they don’t know the goals are unrealistic. Moreover, competitors don’t hold still, especially if the results you want cause them not to get the results they want. One of the benefits of gigasims is that you can explore what’s reasonable to expect.

If you mean “is there a strategy that is so good I would not gain by switching to any other strategy?”, I think the answer is yes… but even if there is such a strategy, it wouldn’t guarantee that you will like the results. See the prisoner’s dilemma.

It’s fascinating stuff. Stay tuned.

Do the results apply to my business?

If you hold a monopoly or dominate your industry so thoroughly that competitors are irrelevant, no, otherwise, the thinking and concepts in the Tournament almost certainly apply.

It’s worth noting, too, that the same principles would apply if we had the Top Product Features Tournament or the Top Marketing Spender Tournament rather than the Top Pricer Tournament. The numbers would be different, but the problem and analysis would not.

Can I enter the Tournament?

Yes! You can join the executives, managers, consultants, students, and professors from six continents who have entered the Top Pricer Tournament. It’s free for individuals and some groups. All entries are confidential. You don’t have to be a pricing expert; you have to know what a price is.

And you will receive a confidential report that shows how your strategies performed. Contact me to enter.

 About Mark Chussil 

Mark conducts business war games world-wide, create Cyborg Strategy™ simulators, and teach/publish on strategic thinking. Mark is running a series of free webinars, the next of which is on 27th May. 

Frames, Games, and Inspiration – the description

Inspiration is the offspring of serendipity (something goes boing! in our heads) and judgment (“good idea!”). Just remember: Every bad strategy started life as someone’s inspirational good idea.

Creativity is free, fast, fun, enlightening, and empowering. Its goal is not consensus, although that can be a bonus. And its goal is not even awareness, although that is necessary. Its goal is insight.

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Interviewing The Role of Competitive Intelligence in Top Talent Acquisition

Ten tips towards becoming an expert interviewer

By | Guest writer
Former Boston Consulting Group Principle, Arthur Jones offers his thoughts on interviewing.
Do you need to conduct a series of bespoke interviews for a due diligence, a potential market entry or simply to get a greater understanding of your customers’ business needs? Here are ten tips towards becoming an expert interviewer.

1. Know what the output will look like before you start

This is about being clear about what the survey is designed to achieve. Understanding your objectives is crucial to success, and having a clear idea of the output is an excellent way to clarify this. It also helps in setting expectations with your client or manager and ensures the survey does not miss issues or raise more questions than it answers.

2. Do your research

The more you know before the interview the more productive it will be. If you don’t know the market intimately then research it thoroughly; the players, the products, the competitors, trends and industry developments as necessary.  Make a list of industry acronyms and terminology and keep it close. People appreciate discussing their business with someone who is knowledgeable. You will gain credibility, goodwill and be able to gain greater insight. Remember also to understand the profile of the person you are interviewing as people’s backgrounds inform their views.

3. Have a script but let the conversation flow naturally

People express themselves best when they tell the story in their own terms. What comes ‘top-of-mind’ can provide important information such as relative significance and linkages between issues. Use the script to guide the interview and ensure all the bases are covered but otherwise let people talk. The information you glean will be richer. Which leads to the next point…

4. Don’t be afraid to go ‘off-piste’

Different industries face different issues and the overarching objective is deep customer and industry understanding. If something comes up that expands or explains something that is unique to the sector or the company’s particular situation then this is important insight. Aim to produce an interview that is ‘information rich’. But by the same token…

5. Keep track of the time

A simple point. You don’t want to be coming towards the end of your time with half the survey still to complete.

6. Tidy up your notes immediately afterwards

Few people can capture all the fine detail of an interview in real time. Take time to flesh out and clarify your notes while your memory is fresh. Leave it a day and you will lose information.

7. Do the analytics as you go

If you are collecting customer satisfaction ratings or net promoter scores, do not leave it to the end to crunch the numbers. Trends may start to emerge which you will perhaps want to explore in subsequent interviews. It also will identify if there are any segments such as company size or geographical location underrepresented in your survey and give you time to address this.

8. Try not to schedule interviews back to back

If you come to the end of your time and the interviewee is willing to continue you don’t want to have to cut the interview short because you have another one scheduled. A break also keeps you fresh and allows time to tidy your notes.

9. Be sure to update your contact database

This is a simple point but easy to forget. Log all phone calls, voicemails, emails, next steps and other information.

10. Consider the interview from the interviewee’s perspective

Interviewees have their own situation and interests. Think about how you will approach asking them for what they might consider commercially sensitive information. You may be asked who will have access to the report and on what basis. They may ask to see the report or ask for information in return. Anticipate these and other questions and have answers prepared.
Understanding your market is a fundamental requirement for any successful venture and effective interviewing is an important component of that. Done properly it can also enhance and deepen relationships with key people and be an enjoyable experience for both parties. Happy interviewing!

About the writer

Arthur Jones is an independent strategy and management consultant with deep experience in strategy, organisation, operations and change management across a range of sectors. He has been conducting interviews for more than ten years.
Thank you Arthur.

Intelligence is just knowing…

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