War Gaming in Business Decisions

war gameWar Gaming

Since late summer, I have participated in three weeks of wargames in Korea and three weeks of experimental war gaming at Fort Leavenworth, at a place that the Army calls the “battle lab”.  In Korea, we simulated an attack from North Korea, and at Fort Leavenworth, we simulated a fight with Russia in Eastern Europe.  In these experiences, I have come to realize two big benefits of war gaming:

-war gaming brings out unexpected problems that you could not predict through ordinary planning

-war gaming offers a chance to develop revolutionary solutions that you would not think up through imagination alone

-war gaming can test the limits of a supply system and find constraints or “bottle-necks”

The involvement of an enemy or competitor offers a key difference between war gaming your plans and just thinking ahead.  In war gaming, we name Russia as a “near peer” adversary, meaning someone who has about the same capabilities as you, if not more.  When we have someone role-play the decisions and actions of a real adversary, a real person who does not wish you well.

In the Army, we often call a person who role-plays the enemy in a war game as the “Red Team”.  To set-up a good red team, we have to take someone put them in the position of being the enemy and rival of the United States Army.  They are not just thinking of what the competition might do, they become the competition and they do it – in a war game.  It’s a big difference.  The red team will find your weaknesses and vulnerability.

How do you red team in practicality? Set up a simulation of whatever you are trying to plan for: a new product release, a merger, and acquisition…etc.  Then have someone from your team switch his mind set and play the completion from beginning to end.   And you can’t like this person or befriend them the whole way through.  They have to become the enemy, because only then will they really play the read team properly.   They will find your weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

In the process, hopefully, you will find a way to build barriers and carve out a defendable niche and maybe even a small monopoly.  As Peter Thiel often points out, a monopoly, no matter how small is more desirable to own than a business that has lots of competition, no matter how large.

If you want to schedule a war gaming simulation for your business, please contact me.

Mark O’Neill

Army Reserve Officer, Author and Consultant


Author: Mark O'Neill

Army Officer, Writer, Montanan, Product Manager 10 years active duty experience in the Army, switched over the Army Reserve. Information Operations and Intelligence Officer. Veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. Deployed to Korea and Honduras as well.

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