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Business is a high-stakes game. The way we approach this game is reflected in the language we use to describe it. Business language is full of expressions borrowed from the military and from sports. Unlike war and sports, however, business is not about winning and losing. Companies can succeed without requiring others to fail. And they can fail no matter how well they play if they play the wrong game.

The essence of business success lies in making sure you’re playing the right game. How do you know if it’s the right game? What can you do if it’s the wrong game? To help managers answer those questions, the authors have developed a framework that draws on the insights of game theory. The primary insight of game theory is the importance of focusing on others–of putting yourself in the shoes of other players and trying to play out all the reactions to their actions as far ahead as possible. By adopting this perspective, a company may, for example, discover that its chances for success are greater if it creates a win-win, rather than a win-lose, situation with other players.

In other words, companies should consider both cooperative and competitive ways to change the game. Who are the participants in the game of business? The authors introduce a schematic map that represents all the players and all the interdependencies among them. Drawing this map for your business is the first step toward changing the game. The second step is identifying all five elements of the game–players, added values, rules, tactics, and scope–and changing one or more of them. By using these tools, the authors say, companies can design a game that’s right for them.