How a Game Can Teach You Strategy

To give strategists a chance to not only understand but also experience the five approaches to strategy hands on, we developed a strategy game for the iPad. Users are invited to run the simplest of businesses, a lemonade stand, in each of the boroughs of New York City. Each borough represents one of the five business environments of the strategy palette:

  • Staten Island – classical
  • Brooklyn – adaptive
  • Queens – visionary
  • Manhattan – shaping
  • Bronx – renewal


Behind the curtains of the game lies a simulation engine which is able to create the environments that require very different approaches for competitive success. We used a so called multi-armed bandit (MAB) problem, which is able to richly model the economics of decisions under uncertainty and the trade-offs between exploiting known options versus exploring lesser know ones. The model allows us to simulate the three axes of the strategy palette: unpredictability is modeled by uncertainty in the shifts in payout distributions over time. Malleability is modeled as payouts’ shifting in response to repeated investments. Harshness is modeled as a cost imposed on shifting between options against an overall resource constraint. In this way classical, adaptive, visionary, shaping, and renewal environments can all be modeled realistically. And as users progress through different levels within each borough, competitors become more agile and information is obscured by cloud cover, making the game progressively more challenging.

In the first version of the “Your Strategy Needs a Strategy” game, which is now available on the App Store, you go head-to-head in choosing and executing the right approach to strategy with an opponent who shares the name of BCG’s founder, Bruce Henderson. Future planned features include tracking of high scores for each borough as well as overall via a leader board, competition between two and more players, and industry-specific gaming experiences.