Merging Cultures: BaFa BaFa

Cultural differences can undermine M&A, alliances, or entry into foreign markets. As such, it may be important to show students how difficult it is to comprehend and coordinate with a different culture. The BaFa BaFa exercise accomplishes this beautifully. This exercise was originally developed for the U.S. Navy to train personnel on how to interact when being exposed to new cultures (see the extended history in this Simulation & Gaming article). The web site describes it as useful in diversity training. That’s true but it is also useful for strategy courses where cultural differences are relevant. The exercise requires about 2 – 3 hours to run so it is more useful for evening or executive courses where you have larger blocks of time. Here is an overview of how the exercise unfolds:

  • Separate the class into two groups that will be trained in the two cultures (you will need two classrooms and assistance in bringing both cultures up to speed).  Continue reading

A New Flight Plan for Japan Airlines

Here is a mini-case ripped from the headlines. As the article states, “As much as JAL has focused on slashing costs, it has also sought to close the service gap with local rival All Nippon Airways – putting in new seats, revamping in-flight menus and installing electronic toilet seats in some business and first class cabins. That investment underscores JAL’s belief that customers will pay a premium for full-service flights.” You can also find a companion video from CNN here. This is great for an introductory class. Allows discussing all parts of a strategic audit including strategy, performance, resources, and competitive position. Also the right size to introduce case discussion for a group that has never done case analysis and discussion before. So how did Kazuo Inamori help change the culture at JAL: ‘nommunication’. “That is when he unleashed another secret weapon. I brought six cans of beer after these sessions or to people who were working late,” he says. After a beer or two, people opened up and told me their honest opinions.” (see the follow up story and video here)


Contributed by Aya Chacar

Airlines Try to Cut out Middlemen

This article in the economist explores the strategic moves airlines made as they entered the internet era (online reservations, etc.). Thinking that travel agents would go the way of the dinosaur, the stopped paying commissions and built their reservation web pages. However, this ultimately created powerful online reservation systems that the airlines now must pay commissions to. The article provides a road map on how NOT to use the 5 forces in developing a strategy…

Alliance: Save the Antelope!

This is a very short/funny clip depicting a man who outruns a Cheetah to save an antelope. There are lots of possible uses. Perhaps the man is the antelope’s strong alliance partner. It could demonstrate unusual (dynamic/global/human capital) capabilities. Please comment if you see other uses…

Contributed by Russ Coff

The Gap: “For kids/by kids”

This is another ONN (Onion News Network) report. The focus is on a new ad campaign by  the Gap that touts their kids clothes that are sewn by kids. Another very funny satire but it definitely gets to the point of ethics and globalization as well.

Contributed by Russ Coff

Outsourcing Childcare to India

This is an ONN (Onion News Network) report on U.S. parents outsourcing childcare to India by boxing up their kids and sending them via FedEx. Very funny but might be useful in spurring a discussion of what can be outsourced overseas.


Contributed by Russ Coff

Google’s $12.5B Acquisition of Motorola

Google’s recent $12.5B acquisition of Motorola mobility is a great “ripped from the headlines” case. Here are a series of news articles that one can distribute (not all are really needed). In order to assess Google’s prospects for creating value, one must evaluate the following key sources of uncertainty:

  • Intellectual property as a resource. Will the patents help Google beat Apple in court (or reach a favorable settlement)? The litigation is a critical part of Apple’s global strategy to limit the threat that Android poses to the iPhone.
  • Vertical integration. Apple has created a great product that works very well. Part of the reason may be that the operating system and hardware are better integrated. Can Google produce a better product that commands a higher willingness to pay?
  • Alliance partners. Will Google lose partners who are now direct rivals (to Windows or new operating systems)? Continue reading

Global Alliance Game

GlobalGameIn the Global Game exercise students are placed in groups with asymmetric resources with a task to maximize “points” produced. In order to maximize output, they need to trade resources (e.g., alliances) with other teams. The resources include raw materials (e.g., paper), technology (e.g., scissors and templates), knowledge (of the point system), and even people. They can also merge teams.

The following is a brief overview of the exercise: Continue reading

Learning Through Simulations and Exercises

I’ve been using simulations to tie together segments in my class and to give students a better experience with the process of strategy.  It is important to allocate a good chunk of time — from one to three hours — to fully debrief the sim.  This debrief includes some sharing of emotions, since simulations can result in conflict and anxiety — I’ve had teams explode and almost come to blows.  It is useful to point out to participants that although this is a simulation, part of the results are a reflection of the individual themselves, along with their particular role, and the context provided by the simulation.  Three readings that may be helpful regarding sims are (Also see Brian Boyd’s website for additional resources below under OTHER TOOLS & LINKS:

Keys, J. Bernard, Robert M. Fulmer, and Stephen A. Stumpf.  1996.  Microworlds and simuworlds: Practice fields for the learning organization, Organizational Dynamics, Spring.

Orbanes, Phil. 2002. Everything I know about business I learned from Monopoly, Harvard Business Review, March.

Stumpf, Stephen A. and Jane E. Dutton. 1990. The dynamics of learning through management simulations: Let’s dance, Journal of Management Development, 9(2) 7-15.

Contributed by Mason CarpenterMason Carpenter

Thai Chempest: International JV Negotiation Exercise

“I have the students do an international JV negotiation exercise with the case “Thai Chempest” (available through Prentice Hall’s database of cases).  One team plays the role of the U.S. company, one team is the local Thai company, and the rest of the class are individual Thai government agencies (their job is to hash out an incentive package to entice the foreign investment–not as easy as it sounds, as each gov’t agency has its own set of priorities).  This exercise takes 2 hours and the students really get into it.”

Contributed by Mason CarpenterMason Carpenter

“Where have you been” ice breaker

In classes that have a distinct international bent, I use a simple case-based exercise to kick off the first class.  The Ivey Case 9B11M107, “Where have you been: An exercise to assess your exposure to the rest of the world’s people,” is a fun way to show participants both how diverse the world is, along with how little exposure they’ve actually had to the rest of the world’s people than they previously thought.