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Using War Games as a Technique


Using War Games as a Technique


Barry Horwitz explains how applying war games to business is a useful exercise and effective planning tool. 

“You’ve probably heard the term: ‘War games.’

Long used in a military context to plan for future conflicts, when applied in a business setting, the phrase refers to a group exercise in which participants try to anticipate the possible moves of a competitor by pretending to “play for the other side.”

I have used this technique many times, across a range of clients and industries and it is consistently effective as a planning and resource allocation tool. That’s because organizations don’t operate in a vacuum. If you make a change in your approach, pricing, product, service, etc., you can expect your competitors to react, leading you to react to their reaction, and so on.

Best of all, this can be done quite realistically without having to build sophisticated computer simulation models.

How Do Business War Games Work?

There are many possible variations, but typically, these exercises take place off-site over a few days and involve a select group of internal staff and leadership. Standard elements include…

External research.

This gives participants a basic grounding regarding competitors. For example, when working with a pharmaceutical company client to anticipate how a competitor might enter a specific drug category, we shared information with game participants about how that competitor behaved in the past when launching new drugs.”


Key points include:

  • Front-line players
  • Group presentations
  • Suggestions for doing this well

Read the full post, Business Simulations Can Map the Future, on