Book review: Game-changer

“The wise win before they fight” is an essential truth says the author

Game changer
Author: David McAdams
ISBN-13: 9780393239676
Publisher: Norton/Wiley
Guideline Price: €22.99

The author quotes the Chinese statesman and military commander Zhuge Liang who said, "The wise win before they fight", saying this captures an essential truth. The wise win before they fight by recognising all the games that could be played, steering the strategic environment in their favour and then fighting with confidence in their future.

At the heart of this book is the mindset that the game can always be changed so that you enjoy a consistent strategic advantage over your competitors, and McAdams, a professor at Duke University School of Business, certainly provides an entertaining and stimulating read. He ranges over the world of business and finance, sport, medicine, military history and even crime to demonstrate his ideas.

Part one of his book presents a “game- changer’s toolkit” that involves six ways to change games under the headings of commitment, regulation, cartelisation, retaliation and relationships. Other key concepts such as the timing of moves, strategic evolution and equilibrium are also explored in detail.

The second part of the book shows how many of these key ideas can be used in practice, with a series of chapters looking at real-life dilemmas in such varied areas as the overfishing of cod, managing EBay reputation and antibiotic resistance.