Having a paper fight in class can really shake things up. It also allows you to demonstrate some simple competitive dynamics principles in a very short exercise. I use this with evening, executive and BBA students — generally on the first day of class to shake things up and introduce the topic.
- Industry evolution and performance targets.
- Strategic resources & competitive advantage
- Dynamic capabilities and hyper-competition
- Competitive dynamics and game theory
- Improvisation and strategy
- Shake things up!
Process/Setup (<5 min):
- Call 2 teams (of 4) to the front. Give each 200 sheets of scratch paper.
- Give them 1 minute to strategize. I only tell them that there are two rules: 1) Do not inflict any bodily injury, and 2) Do not damage any property or equipment.
- “GO!” (Be sure to step out of the way so you are not a target)
- Stop (before any serious damage occurs – 30 seconds 😉
Debrief questions (20 min):
- Who won? In nascent industries, objectives vary & firms may seek different outcomes (hits vs. throws).
- What happened? Moves & counter-moves. Most strategies have a viable counter strategy. For example, if they hide behind a desk, the other team may do a flanking maneuver. A more extended version would have to cycle through multiple strategies.
- VRIN Resources? In this context, what might confer a competitive advantage? Resources (throwing arm, speed)?
- Are dynamic capabilities evident here (e.g., ability to execute a sequence of moves)? Alternatively, is there hyper-competition such that a sustainable advantage is not possible?
- Planning/Improvisation? How effective were initial plans? A typical plan is a division of labor between throwing and crumpling. This is often obsolete after about 4 seconds (once there are paper wads on the floor)?
Here is an article about this exercise and the lecture topics around it (click on it for the pdf):
Maggitti, PG, Coff, RW, Hatfield, DE, and Ferrier, WJ. 2012. Dynamics of Rivalry. Journal of Industrial Organization Education. 6(1): 1-10.
JR Keller introduces the exercise with a video from “Saved by the Bell” which you can find here. He uses the clip from 12:38 – 14:45 which depicts a paper fight in class tied to a lesson on the civil war.