December 19, 2017
Author: Bianca Yang
It is hard to make judgments about certain activities until you have been in the mix. When you have been in the mix, it may be hard to distance yourself from the culture of the mix and look objectively on your impact.
I was speaking with a friend today and we happened upon the topic of consulting. He said that he had helped another friend prepare for an interview with BCG and he found it difficult to know the right answer. The case we discussed was one where your client runs a business selling a commodity. A big conglomerate has announced their plans to open a division that will compete in your business. Do you stay independent or try to become acquired by another conglomerate? The expected conclusion is that you should to be acquired so you can play on a level field with the new division. The logic is that the division could play you at a loss until you fold. So, by being acquired by a company with similar resources, you and the division can play fairly. I suppose that makes sense, but something seems wrong about this analysis. Then my friend said that if he were the owner of the independent business, and the projection was that he could be undercut on price for 20 years before folding, that he would just let himself be undercut. He wants to live a good life, and he doesn’t think on the infinite timescale of the conglomerate, so whatever. It’s great to have been able to run his business for 20 plus years. Then he brought up Nash equilibrium and the prisoner’s dilemma. My staying independent and the division not undercutting me is the cooperate-cooperate situation. My being bought out and the division undercutting me is the defect-defect situation. Any other situation is cooperate-defect. We all know that one person defecting gets them the biggest reward but that cooperation gives us both fairly good results. So why not just cooperate?
Then my friend made this comment about how the ideal situation would just be to communicate. I had made a comment about how I thought consulting was useless earlier in the conversation, so he used this as a case where consultants aren’t useless. He said that the consultancy could have two teams working with the two companies in question and facilitate communication about how to strategically divide the target audience. In this game of high-stakes scheming and politics, consultants serve as mediators. Not a bad idea, but contradicts the norm of “how business is done”. There is so much politics and hidden scheming involved in business that it’s unimaginable that two business leaders would get together to speak frankly about how they’re planning to build their empires. It’s the same in global politics. The name of the game is to not get kicked out of the game, and letting others know what you’re thinking is an easy way to make sure your opponents’ next move will hit you hard, on your weakness.
Some part of me really doesn’t like the way the game is played. Why so much deceit and politics? Why can’t we just speak openly to each other? Wouldn’t everything progress so much better if we were open about our intentions? The open-source world operates this way and research operates this way, and both worlds seem to be doing fine. Where am I missing the need for hidden plotting? Perhaps I’m just too naive.
For those who are interested in getting more perspective on business strategy, I would recommend Stratechery (blog) and Exponent.fm (podcast). Ben Thompson is a former tech strategist and maintains both the blog and podcast with high-quality analysis of business events. I’ve looked to him several times for thoughts on what’s happening in our ever-advancing world and have yet to be disappointed.
That’s all I have to say for today. Have a good week and enjoy the upcoming holidays.
I’m really indebted to my friend for being willing to share his far more intellectually spot-on perspective on various topics of interest. I’m not sure how I managed to convince him that I had perspective worth listening to, but I’m glad we keep in touch and that he’s still in the area.
I frequently find myself thinking in muddled loops. One of my other friends likes saying that my mind really gets a lot of use (你腦還真夠用）。She’s not wrong, but I wish that I could have the clarity of thought to see as my friend today does. I want to be able to think strategically, so see through deceit, to understand the paths to success, to be able to get good at things. I suppose that since I don’t have the skills I want, I’ll just have to work a little harder to get where I want in life. Here’s to hard work，乾杯。
竊聽器 裝設在我的藏身處 假裝沒發現 日常生活完全沒改 後天拿起錘子木板 把我那間房間封鎖 看這樣會怎麼發展 跟上我的不是白痴 總部也被深入 只好拆除一切重起爐竈 但這種職業纏著非常緊 終生逃不了他的觸手 身上好像有他的刺青 刺得越痛就越附
出國再回國 國際社會都被通知 小廣播傳的又可靠有快 一下就備好作戰的武器 這是我最後一次回擊 我此生第一次覺得這麼疲累 下次遇見仇人共手相讓 下屬遵守我的命令 我走後各飄各到下一個永遠
看前 做好心理準備 面對末年的慘景 懷舊充滿我的意識 勇敢是我的名聲 最後一場不能功虧一簣 前進，我的同志們！ 赤膊上陣！