The Most-Absurd Strategies of 2014

Behind every strategy there is competition for something: votes, power, profit, fame, etc.

Behind every strategy there is also a rationale, a reason why someone thinks it will work better than the alternatives.

People succeed (and fail) with wildly different strategies. But some strategies go further. They don’t make you think wow, that’s out of the box. They make you think yikes, you’re out of your mind.

Here is our end-of-year, politically incorrect review of absurd strategies. Remember: you don’t have to agree with us. We don’t even agree with each other, except maybe on a couple.


When in Doubt, Think

  • Strategy: don’t waste time paying attention. Who said David was the good guy? The US defense budget is about $640 billion. North Korea’s, at about $6 billion, is about 1% of the US’s. The theatre (literally) of the absurd: many US theatres refuse to air a movie because of a nasty note. Victors: any deranged, murderous, barbaric regime or terror group on earth, and any religious zealot or nutcase, armed with software. Lesson: either go back to paper files or pay attention to the people who’ve warned about e-vulnerability for years. The good news: at least we knew who was naughty and who was nice in Hollywood in time for holidays. Good news too: we’ve got plenty of lumps of coal to hand out. (See next absurdity.) (BG)
  • Strategy: avoid short-term pain at all costs. Influential politicians from coal-producing states wave the JOBS! flag to keep coal alive and to protect a shrinking number of jobs. (In 2006 there was barely 1/3 the number of coal miners that there were in 1980.) Why don’t we just pay pensions to those in the coal industry (now estimated at 174,000 people, not counting those politicians) as they lose their jobs? It’s cheaper than the alternative. (MC)
  • Strategy: block the easy solution. The Keystone XL pipeline project has become another environmental activists’ red flag and it doesn’t even involve a spotted owl or rare butterfly but the possibility of future leaks damaging the ground. The alternative is to ship the oil by rail so if there is a leak, an explosion will damage real towns not just open space. (BG)


War and Peace

  • Strategy: for a safer society, declare war. War on poverty, war on drugs, war on terror. (Oddly, no wars on ignorance, corruption, or climate change.) It seems the US is fighting wars forever, and never winning. Losing isn’t absurd, though. The absurdity is that the US’ strategy to win is to double the efforts using the same methods and more taxpayer money. We are still losing those wars. Time to double again? Or try a different strategy? (BG and MC)
  • Strategy: for peace, make absurd demands. We all know peace between the Palestinians and Israelis must happen. All except for the Palestinians and Israelis. Can’t blame the latter, as the Palestinians’ demand for East Jerusalem as their capital is equivalent to Mexico demanding half of Washington as its capital because there are many Mexicans there already. On the other hand, I don’t understand the Israelis; I would be happy to give Washington to Mexico. (BG)


Emulate Success

  • Strategy: as Arlo Guthrie said, “you can’t have a light without a dark to put it in.” Who’d have thought that the world’s loudest voice for kindness and integrity would come from an ancient organization more often associated with cloistered diktats than with humility and humanity? Kudos to Pope Francis. Or maybe it’s not that he has raced forward. Maybe the rest of us, including those we pay to work on our communities’, nations’, and world’s behalf, have slowed down. (MC)
  • Strategy: stay one quick ride ahead of the law. Uber has found a way to generate $40 billion in market value by offering a service that cities, states, and even countries are declaring illegal. Notice the non-sequitur in Uber’s statement in its defense: “Uber does not believe it is appropriate to seek to punish drivers who are trying to make a living through this service.” Wait a minute. Doesn’t that reasoning apply also people trying to make a living through theft? That’s illegal too. (MC)


It’s for Your Own Good

  • Strategy: total disarmament. Surrounded by his bodyguards, Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, wants all of us to give up our guns. He also tried to outlaw giant soft drinks because of their health risks. So, when the next criminal brandishes a gun, we should fight back by giving him a large soda. (BG)
  • Strategy: thank you for sacrificing for us. New York State banned the oil-extraction method known as fracking. But they don’t refuse to buy cheap oil fracked from other states. The absurdity here is not New York’s. The absurdity is that other states keep selling oil to New York. (BG)
  • Strategy: sit quietly, don’t do anything, and nobody will get hurt. Activists want to restrict e-cigarettes because they may lead teenagers to cigarettes. Oh, wait: there is no such evidence!Long-term health effects are still unclear,” the American Cancer Society says. With that reasoning, we should restrict, well, everything. (BG)
  • Strategy: sit quietly, don’t do anything, and let us hurt some more. In a world where people are (rightly) outraged at a few dozen preventable deaths from GM ignition switches, what about companies responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year? That’s tobacco. It’s tragic that many people are already addicted. It’s absurd that tobacco companies are presented with a fresh new cohort each year as they reach legal smoking age. Simple solution: raise the legal age by one year each year. (MC)
  • Strategy: it’s easier to add to the Gordian knot than to cut it. Obamacare’s goal, to insure the uninsured, is admirable. The absurdity is that a better solution has always been around: Declare the AMA an illegal cartel and make the FDA a subsidiary of Consumer Reports. (BG)
  • Strategy: gushing-down economics. The new hot button for the masses is income inequality. The solution? Print money and make Wall Street even richer. How does that close the gap between a Wal-Mart associate and a hedge-fund CEO? (BG)

About the author  ⁄ Mark Chussil & Ben Gilad

Mark ChussilMARK CHUSSIL is founder & CEO of Advanced Competitive Strategies, Inc., and, with Benjamin Gilad, a cofounder and partner of Sync Strategy. He has conducted business war games, built custom strategy simulators, and taught workshops on strategic thinking for dozens of Fortune 500 companies on six continents, resulting in billions of dollars made or saved.

A pioneer in quantitative business war games and a highly rated speaker, he has 35 years of experience in competitive strategy. One of his simulation technologies has won a patent; a patent is pending on another. He has written three books, chapters for five others, and numerous articles.

He has been quoted in Fast Company, Harvard Management Update, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. He received the Fellows Award from the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals society in 2013. He earned his MBA at Harvard University and his BA at Yale University.

Dr Ben GiladBENJAMIN GILAD, PhD, is founder and president of the Academy of Com­petitive Intelligence, Inc., and with Mark Chussil, a cofounder and partner of Sync Strategy. He is a former associate professor of strategy at Rutgers University’s School of Management, and a pioneer in the field of competi­tive intelligence and war gaming. He has published seven books and more than 90 articles in academic and practitioners’ publications on the topics of behavioral economics, competitive intelligence, and business war gaming.

He has been running war games for Fortune 500 companies since the 1980s and teaching a course on war gaming as part of Fuld-Gilad-Herring Acad­emy of CI which grants CIP certification in the field of CI. The Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals society awarded him its highest Meritorious Award in 1996.

He earned his PhD in economics at New York University, MBA at the University of Central Mis­souri, and BA at Tel Aviv University.

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