Gateway Competitive Insights, LLC

Black Hat exercises focus on a subset of existing and/or potential competitors (or stakeholders more broadly) and explore their likely strategic moves and the rationale for them. These workshops can be thought of as pre-cursors to war games: they allow you to get into the head of your competitor to try and understand what their likely strategic objectives and actions will be. At the end of the exercise, you will no longer think “They’re irrational,” but instead realize why what they do makes sense to them.

Targeted strategic practice is crucial for improving performance, yet very difficult to create for most organizations because a controlled environment does not readily exist. Competitive Dynamics Workshops create just such an opportunity to practice your decision making to improve your performance when faced with real world situations.

Example: For a building products client with $1.5 billion in revenue at stake, we played a game that focused on price and capacity management decisions, with the added dimension of exploring mergers and partnerships. The outcome of the game led the client to stop “hoping” a small player would stop adding capacity and instead led to the client’s development of a strategy to preempt the smaller player. There were also some innovative strategic options that emerged from game (the client had not considered them previously, but when competitor teams were successful using these strategies in the game, the client began to explore how they could make the same moves in the real world).

Mock negotiation exercises

These specialized war game-like exercises focus on a particular negotiation between two counter-parties. The workshop allows clients to practice different strategic positions: overall posture, ordering of tactics, framing of positions and responding to the counter-party’s position. The first time you communicate with the other side in a negotiation should not be the first time you've rehearsed your lines: just like a skilled theatre actor, you need to practice what you say and try it several different ways before you are comfortable and ready for what is thrown at you when you are in the crucible of the negotiation.

Example: A healthcare supplier had an upcoming negotiation with a GPO (group purchasing organization that acted on behalf of multiple providers). The supplier felt like they had no options to counter the strong demands of the GPO, with millions of dollars at risk. The mock negotiation allowed the client to test three critical contractual demands from the GPO by trading off other issues of less importance to the supplier and the order and manner in which to raise these alternatives. After the workshop, the supplier reengaged with the GPO to continue the actual discussion and ended with a signed contract in which the GPO agreed to drop all three demands. The supplier went from having no options to getting the contract they were happy with.

Building competitive insight functionality

Many companies have attempted to create competitive intelligence functions, but most end up being repositories of data and fail to help decision makers make better choices. Competitive insight functions can provide you with a competitive advantage: just like a world-class chess player thinks several moves ahead of her competition, a skilled strategist should be thinking about the next few actions and reactions. Building a competitive insight function within an organization is not a one-sized-fits-all methodology, but based on work with dozens of clients, I have the right questions for you to ask and the examples to draw upon to help you create the best fit for your particular enterprise.

Competitive industry analysis

My strong economics background and years of working across industries allows us to pull from the right theoretical concepts, but more importantly, the right set of analogous competitive situations from other sectors and geographies. By listening to the particular issues you are facing, I can help you to better understand why your sector is behaving the way it currently is, and to think of creative ways of changing the rules of the game in order to create more opportunities for your organization.

Competitive Dynamics Workshops

These workshops can come in various shapes and sizes, but at the core, they are all experiential workshops that allow organizations to practice their strategic choices in a risk-free environment before facing the pressure of the real world. The most common formats for these events are war games and black hat exercises.

War games are simulations where you play the role of yourself and other stakeholders (primarily competitors) relevant for the decision. Each team makes strategic choices that are best for the organization they are role-playing, and then the choices across all teams are combined to simulate what the collective (market) outcomes would be. These war games are custom designed to make them as similar to the actual decisions and environment you will face in order to increase the learning experience. They can be used for high-level strategic direction, or more tactical implementation goals.