When to use War Games in Life Sciences

How do you prepare for a new life science product launch, or respond to the arrival of a new competitor in the marketplace? Life science and pharma companies are increasingly using war games to prepare for these scenarios and others. At first glance, the juxtaposition of war games and life science may seem peculiar, but there is actually a deep logic behind this emerging practice. The marketplace, in life sciences or indeed in any industry, is a competitive field. War games structure that competition and help you gain a strategic advantage through preparation. Here’s our FAQ on this interesting new use of an ancient tool:

What are War Games?

The conduct of war is primarily made up of strategy and planning, and that’s true for running a successful business as well. War games are simply a format for running hypothetical scenarios, so that you’ll be prepared if the real thing happens. Military planners have used them throughout history. In a corporate setting, war games usually translate into role-playing workshops or online games.

What Benefits do War Games Offer?

They enable you to view your own products and strategy objectively, aligning all your stakeholders in decision-making. These exercises assist company leaders to question their assumptions, and can help everyone identify blind spots or knowledge gaps. War games also save money, according to Arjan Singh, strategy lecturer at the University of California, Irvine. He explains that these games provide a 360-degree viewpoint, in situations where the cost of being wrong is very high. Nowhere is that more true than in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.

What Strengths Do War Games Nurture?

According to David Banks, Politics Lecturer at American University School of International Service, “War games are useful intellectual aids because they force players to make decisions under pressure.” He points out that gaming requires people to think harder and to develop plans in a competitive atmosphere.

When are War Games Used?

When this evaluation tool is introduced at the beginning of the business planning cycle, it enables the development of strategies that include a broad overview of the industrial moment. War games are also used after initial strategies have been decided upon, to “pressure test” those strategies and see where they might fall short. In short, they are a go-to tool anytime a change occurs in the business environment.

How is the Learning Applied?

The most important process in war games may be the after-the-fact analysis, in which it becomes clear which elements in the strategy really turned out to matter, and what impact each party’s choices had on everyone else. War games clarify previously unseen relationships, through outcomes that trace the social power grid.

Which Industries Use War Games?

It seems obvious that these types of exercises are useful in almost any organizational setting. Aside from their longstanding use in the military, however, war games are currently most common among the scientific community. Perhaps drawn to the clear evidence proving their benefit, and accustomed to the concept of experimental trials and peer review, many branches of science currently embrace the war games model. In 2018, the journal Science stated “With the integration of simulation tools and experimental methods from a variety of social science disciplines, a science-based experimental gaming approach has the potential to transform the insights generated from gaming by creating human-derived, large-n datasets for replicable, quantitative analysis.”

At UC Berkeley, a multi-player computer game has been developed by members of the Nuclear Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, and Political Science departments. Data from the games will be analyzed afterwords to explore methods of nuclear deterrence and conflict de-escalation.

Booz Allen Hamilton offers their war games and exercises as a versatile tool to unlock creativity and prepare for the unexpected.

The stakes are high for pharmaceutical and biotech companies, as they move forward with new products. Taking advantage of the strategic benefits of war gaming can give your organization a stronger footing in the evolving life sciences marketplace.

 

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