Strategy, games and the mind

Can individuals working in organisations sculpt different approaches to different strategic challenges? And what role could games play in helping them translate strategy into implementation?

The world is more complex and dynamic than ever. The increased diversity of business environments, driven by the rate of technological innovation, is at odds with the way that many companies develop and deploy strategy.

To endure and remain vital, companies are recognising that a single approach to strategy and execution will not suffice, so they are cultivating the capabilities required to deal with each specific environment they face.

This entails mastering five approaches to strategy. (See Exhibit 1.) In combination, these allow companies to simultaneously over perform in their core business and develop sources of future growth.

  • Classical: The traditional approach of analysis, planning and execution, suitable for predictable, non-malleable environments.
  • Adaptive: Iterative experimentation as the basis of success under unpredictable, non-malleable conditions.
  • Visionary: Envisioning and materialising new value-creating ideas when both predicting and shaping are possible.
  • Shaping: An ecosystem- and platform-based approach for unpredictable, malleable circumstances.
  • Renewal: Swift and pragmatic transformation to ensure survival under severe resource constraints.

To develop such a contingent approach to strategy, nurturing a diverse base of talent is essential. Understanding the different brain mechanisms that underpin strategic skills can help companies better assess, source, match and deploy the right talent against specific strategic challenges. Neuroscience and gaming can provide the tools to achieve this.

Martin Reeves

Martin Reeves is a senior partner and managing director in BCG’s New York office and leads the BCG Henderson Institute, BCG’s internal strategythink tank. He is co-author of Your Strategy Needs a Strategy (HBR Press) and a prolific speaker on business strategy. Follow him on Twitter @MartinKReeves.

Frida Polli

Frida Polli is an award-winning Harvard- and MIT-trained neuroscientist turned start up founder. She completed her pre-doctoral training in neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and her postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience at MIT. Frida is now CEO and cofounder of pymetrics, a start-up that uses advances in cognitive neuroscience to create analytics-informed decision-making and performance-enhancement software for the human capital field.

Gerardo Gutiérrez-López

Gerardo Gutierrez joined The Boston Consulting Group in 2015. He is an ambassador at the BCG Henderson Institute, supporting the Strategy Lab. Gerardo has worked primarily in the Marketing, Sales and Pricing practice at BCG since he joined the firm, with a focus on the consumer goods industry.