How to Think Better: Workshops on Strategic Thinking from ACS

Unforgettable workshops that can change your business, and maybe your life

ACS workshops on competitive strategy and strategic thinking make you think.

They are not about trivialities or old ideas repackaged with stylish new names. They combine four 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 interactive and experiential, with strategy simulations, business war games, and other active-learning exercises.

Update for companies with teams spread across multiple locations, including home:

ACS can adapt its thought-provoking workshops on strategic thinking, and even its powerful business war games, to work even if corporate teams do not come physically together. As an extra benefit, remote war-gaming and learning can tap the perspectives and expertise of people located anywhere. Contact us to discuss options.

Thinking better: The ultimate competitive advantage

ACS workshops don’t only make you think; they help you think better. Out-thinking 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.

View or download this sample program for a two-day workshop on business war games and strategic thinking.

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 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 development. 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:

  • A Simple Decision: Taking Strategic Thinking to the Next Level. Ideal for general business audiences.
  • 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.

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.

A Simple Decision: Taking Strategic Thinking to the Next Level

Ideal for general business audiences. Ideal for strategists who want to create competitive advantage for their companies (and themselves) by out-thinking the competition. A thoughtful, thought-provoking, highly interactive workshop, A Simple Decision improves strategic thinking by having participants think strategically.

Unconscious thinking cannot be strategic thinking. Strategic thinking requires noticing and managing how you think. It requires new perspectives, creativity, and wondering why a smart person would do things that seem not-smart. It requires paying attention.

Every company wants to make better strategy decisions. What causes better strategy decisions is better strategic thinking.

Oh, and strategic thinking is satisfying and fun.

A Simple Decision is fun, but not frivolous. It is deep, but not heavy. In this interactive, thought-provoking workshop you will learn to see your competitors, your customers, your organization, and yourself, through new eyes. That is the ultimate competitive advantage.

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 competitive 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 unintended and unpleasant consequences.
  • You will learn about principles of competition, 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 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 disruption 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-Simulated-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 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. See “Why I Run Business War Games and Strategic-Thinking Workshops the Way I Do.”


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


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 that we use in a contest called the Top Pricer Tournament™. You and your colleagues can test your pricing-strategy skills against thousands 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 great 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.

  • Computers and Strategy: A Match Made in Artificial Heaven. An in-person workshop for the 2019 SCIP Conference, a webinar for the Association for Strategic Planning and for SCIP, and more on the way.
  • Numerous workshops for companies and universities. Please contact ACS for details.
  • Using Business War Games to Think Strategically. Workshop for PwC, Sri Lanka, September 2017.
  • With All This Intelligence, Why Do Strategies Fail? Keynote for Ibramerc 2015 conference, Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 2015.
  • How to Use Intelligence to Make Smart Strategy Decisions. Workshop for Ibramerc 2015 conference, Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 2015.
  • Nice Start! Now What? Presented at 2014 Harvard Business School reunions (description under “invited speakers“), Cambridge, Massachusetts, September, 2014.
  • Lucky or Smart: Did Your Strategy Win or Did Their Strategy Lose? Webinar for SCIP Michigan chapter, July 2014. (For description, see the Harvard Business School webinar program below.)
  • Why Strategies Fail. Workshop for the Association for Strategic Planning, Long Beach, California, May 2014.
  • Incorporating Business Games into Your Recruitment Approach. Keynote for ERE Recruiting Conference and Expo 2014, San Diego, California, April 2014.
  • Finding Strategic Thinkers. Human Resource Management Association, Portland, Oregon, April 2014.
  • Billion-Dollar Surprises: How and Why Business War Games Pay Off. Webinar for SLA, April 2014 and July 2014.
  • Lucky or Smart: Did Your Strategy Win or Did Their Strategy Lose? Webinar (description here) for Harvard Business School Alumni Webinar series, March 2014.
  • Why Strategies Fail. Webinar for SCIP, hosted by Cambridge Healthtech (Massachusetts), Mercyhurst University (Pennsylvania), and ING Direct in Toronto. October 2013.
  • You’re Got the Data. Now What? Keynote for SCIP and SLA’s “Discovering the Aha Moment”, Austin, Texas, November 2013.
  • How and Why Business War Games Work, for the Enterprise Gamification Forum 2013 in New York City.
  • 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.

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
  • The quotation at the end — “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others” — is from Groucho Marx.