How to Think Better: Workshops on Great Strategic Thinking

Unforgettable workshops that can change your business (and maybe your life)

ACS workshops on strategic thinking make you think.

They are not about trivialities or old ideas repackaged with stylish new names. They combine decades of experience in competitive strategy with serious research, game theory, social psychology, critical thinking, and more. No death by PowerPoint here: these workshops are highly interactive and experiential, with strategy simulations, business war games, and other active-learning exercises.

ACS workshops don’t only make you think; they help you think better. And outthinking the competition, of course, is the ultimate competitive advantage.

View or download this compilation of lessons from workshops on strategic thinking. Also contains links to dozens of articles for further reading.

We customize our workshops for your needs. See the “Customization and Capabilities” section further down on this page.

 Watch Mark Chussil’s speech, “Why Strategies Fail: Human Strategists and Biased Tools,” delivered December 9, 2011, to the Chief Strategy Officers Summit in New York City, sponsored by The IE Group. Please see “Citations” below for material not visible on the slides.

The quality of your strategic thinking drives the quality of your bottom line

Improve the quality of your company’s strategic thinking with ACS’ entertaining, experiential, thought-provoking, active and interactive programs. They’re ideal for corporate retreats and management development.

Ordinary thinking leads to ordinary decisions and produces ordinary results.

Great thinking leads to great decisions and produces great results.

The highest-leverage investment you can make is in the quality of your company’s strategic thinking. That’s what ACS workshops help you achieve.

We offer a variety of provocative, interactive, entertaining programs for executive education and management develop- ment. Whether it’s an exciting 30-minute keynote or an intense three-day workshop, we open eyes, challenge brains, enhance skills, and build teams.

See these sections below:

  • Brain Food: How to Get Out of the Box, Think Strategically, and Amaze Your Friends. Ideal for general business audiences and non-specialists.
  • Strategy Gone Tame: Why Smart Strategists Choose Bad Strategies. Ideal for strategists, decision-makers, and advanced audiences.
  • Winning: A Hands-On, Live-Fire Introduction to Business War Games. Ideal for strategists, decision-makers, and internal subject-matter experts.
  • Customization and capabilities. How we can customize your workshop.
  • Praise for ACS workshops. What real people have said.
  • Recent ACS workshops. A list of selected events ACS has conducted recently.

ACS workshops are not death by PowerPoint or the same old, same old. They’re highly interactive. They include case studies, lively exercises, and the same simulation technologies we use to conduct advanced business war games for Fortune 500 companies. And they’re fun! That’s why participants give our workshops superb ratings. See Praise for ACS Workshops, below.

ACS workshops work. They work because they are so engaging, and because they build on our long and successful experience with thousands of managers around the world. ACS techniques have helped companies make or save billions of dollars.

Of course, ACS workshops are non-commercial.

You can view and download a brochure about ACS’ How to Think Better workshops.

Brain Food: How to Get Out of the Box, Think Strategically, and Amaze Your Friends

Ideal for general business audiences and non-specialists. Brain Food works for people with little business experience while still being challenging for those who have been around for a while. It’s a great way to build a common culture of strategic thinking.

Brain Food is not about cheerleading, unsubstantiated magic, miracle-diet strategies, brow-beating, or some mysterious secret that can only now be revealed. It is not about uncovering an obscure factoid or prescribing a one-size-fits-all strategy. It is not a lecture.

Brain Food is about improving strategic-thinking skills, applicable every day and starting right away. It combines com-petitive dynamics, psychological research, world-class simulation technology, and learning-by-doing.

In this workshop:

  • You will see, and experience, how common errors in thinking lead to, shall we say, unintended consequences.
  • You will learn about the competitive-strategy equivalent of financial fundamentals.
  • You will combine your expertise and imagination with techniques such as competitive role-playing to gain surprising new insight into businesses you thought you knew well.
  • You will leave this thought-provoking, action-packed workshop energized with powerful new perspectives on the decisions you make.

Strategy Gone Tame: Why Smart Strategists Choose Bad Strategies

Ideal for strategists, decision-makers, and advanced audiences. Strategy Gone Tame takes a rigorous, provocative look at competitive strategy and business success. It helps those in senior positions challenge conventional wisdom and make much better strategy decisions.

People trigger crises and price wars; people buy high and then can’t sell low; people due-diligence strategies only to watch a competitor swoop in from left field. Glorious companies suffer, shrivel, and die. Surely that’s not what their strategies called for.

In Strategy Gone Tame you’ll see how human biases and flawed tools lead smart, dedicated strategists to make strategy mistakes. You’ll see why companies can get better results by upgrading their thinking than by upbraiding their personnel.

We cover topics including these:

  • How the conventional tools you’ve seen many times can cause, rather than cure, bad strategy decisions.
  • Garbage-out does not result only from garbage-in. See how precision-in can do the same thing.
  • Why do upstarts beat incumbents? How well do we predict competitors? How do we fall into groupthink, and how can we prevent it?
  • Business war games and strategy simulations produce actionable surprises. If we know our businesses so well, why does that happen? And what do those actionable surprises look like? You’ll see, because you’ll experience them.

Winning: A Hands-On, Live-Fire Introduction to Business War Games

Ideal for strategists, decision-makers, and internal subject-matter experts. Winning immerses participants in an actual business war game. It teaches the technology of war-gaming and brings your competitive-strategy skills to a new level.

Business war games sound cool. That’s because they are. Business war games are more than a way to escape the tedium of gigabyte spreadsheets and death by PowerPoint. They are a way to put your knowledge of your business to better use.

With business war games strategists can achieve surprising new insights into businesses they know well. By the way, business war games are not about war.

In Winning you will participate in an actual business war game. You will be a strategist for a company in the automobile or hotel industry (or perhaps your own industry), and with your teammates you will do your best to win. Oh, there’s one complication: other participants will strategize for your competitors, and they’ll do their best to win too.

In this workshop you will learn:

  • Why business war games work where conventional strategy development doesn’t.
  • What business war games are good for.
  • The essential elements of successful business war games.
  • How to design or select a business war game for your company.
  • What strategists — including you — have learned from business war games.

Customization and Capabilities: Making Your Workshop Yours

We have a great deal of flexibility to make your workshop fit your needs.

Audiences

We have delivered workshops on six continents to audiences from 10 to 600 people. Audiences from a single company or from many.  Audiences of senior executives, middle management, or business-school students. Audiences speaking English, audiences needing simultaneous translation.

Length

Our workshops can be adjusted to fit time slots from one hour to several days. That means you can use a workshop as an energetic, provocative event in a company meeting; you can insert a workshop in a management-development program at a corporate university; you can make a workshop an out-of-the-box experience for your department.

Aim the spotlight

Getting out of the box. Competitors. Customers. Pricing. Consensus and team-building. Conventional wisdom. Decision-making. What-if scenarios. Etc. In your workshop we can aim the spotlight on those or other top-priority objectives.

Tailored to your industry

We can customize a workshop simulation, including a business war game, for your industry. We can make that customization merely have the “look and feel” of your industry or we can even calibrate a war game so that the workshop tackles a real problem you face.

The Top Pricer Tournament

ACS has developed groundbreaking Strategy Decision Test™ technology (patent pending) that we use in a contest called the Top Pricer Tournament. You and your colleagues can test your pricing-strategy skills against hundreds of other strategists. Are you the Top Pricer? Besides being fun, the tournament sets the stage for fascinating discussion about how to think better about competition, pricing, luck, and achieving success.

Praise for ACS Workshops

ACS workshops get superb ratings. Please see our Testimonials page.

Recent ACS workshops and speeches

Please visit our News page for the latest updates, upcoming events, and registration links.

  • How and Why Business War Games Work, for the Enterprise Gamification Forum 2013 in New York City.
  • Why Strategies Fail, an ongoing part of SCIP’s webinar series. Please contact SCIP or ACS for information about webinar dates.
  • Strategy! It’s Not Bragging If You Can Do It, for the 2013 SCIP International Conference.
  • Suffering Strategy! What We Don’t Know Hurts Us, and What We Do Know Hurts Us Too, for SCIP Silicon Valley.
  • Nice start! Now what?, for the Harvard Business School’s Career Development webinar series and, in person, for the Harvard Business School Association of Oregon.
  • Pricing and Pricing War Games, for the PDMA (Product Development and Management Association). Portland, Oregon.
  • Why Strategies Fail: Human Strategists, Biased Tools, for the 2012 Chief Strategy Officer Summit, sponsored by The IE Group. San Francisco.
  • Did Our Strategy Work? A Great Question We Answer Badly, for the 2012 SCIP International Conference. Philadelphia.
  • Why Strategies Fail: Human Strategists, Biased Tools, for the 2011 Chief Strategy Officer Summit, sponsored by The IE Group. New York City.
  • Strategic Thinking and Business War Games, a three-day executive-education program for the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, India.
  • Uh-oh: How We Get Into Trouble and Why We Don’t Have To, MBA class for Empire State College (The State University of New York), online.
  • Why Strategies Fail (P.S. We expect them to succeed), for the 2011 SCIP Conference (Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals), Orlando, Florida. See Why Strategies Fail for highlights.
  • How to Become a Superstar Strategist, for The Performance Institute. Chicago.
  • How to Become a Superstar Strategist, webinar for the Enterprise Management Association.
  • Business War Games: Stress-Testing Your Strategy Before You Commit Your Career, webinar for the Strategic Planning Xchange group on LinkedIn.
  • Going Beyond Strategy As We’ve Known It. Multiple locations.
  • Marvelous Techniques: A Workshop on What Ails Competitive Strategy. The Harvard Business School Association of Oregon.
  • Numbers Gone Wild: Or, Precision In, Garbage Out. Washington, DC; workshop for the SCIP 2010 Annual Conference). See Numbers Gone Wild (the essay) for related commentary.
  • A Perfect Time for Business War-Gaming (focused on the automobile industry). Washington, DC. See Honey, We Shrunk the Industry Again for a write-up of this event.
  • Business War Gaming: How to Stress-Test Your Options Before You Commit. Kuala Lumpur.
  • Surprise! How Business War Games Shock Strategists into Beating the Competition (focused on the automobile industry). Portland, Oregon. See Honey, We Shrunk the Industry for a write-up of this event.
  • Too Bad You’re Human: Why Smart Pricers Start Price Wars, and Other Unfortunate Inclinations. Chicago.
  • Pricing Excellence: How to Know It When You See It (And How to Get It). Chicago.
  • Too Bad You’re Human, And How To Create Great Strategies Anyway. Portland, Oregon.
  • Competitive Intelligence and Business War-Gaming. Kuala Lumpur.
  • Too Bad You’re Human: Why Smart Strategists Choose Bad Strategies. Istanbul.
  • Does Your Strategy Hurt When I Do This? Curing Strategies with Business War Games. Istanbul.
  • Business War Gaming: Battling Rivals with Business and Competitive Intelligence. Dubai.
  • I Thought You Started It! Price Wars, Business War Games, and Strategy. Miami.
Citations

The slides in the “Why Strategies Fail” speech contain citations for other’s work. Because the slides are not visible in the video, here are those citations.

  • The 90% confidence quiz was inspired by a similar exercise in Decision Traps, an excellent book by Jay Russo and Paul Schoemaker.
  • Quotations from Steve Burd of Safeway and Craig Herkert of Supervalu came from an article in The Wall Street Journal of October 16, 2009.
  • Performance data from Safeway and Supervalu came from Fortune.com.
  • The quotation at the end — “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others” — is from Groucho Marx.