Ready to Play the Reverse War Game?

When trying to launch businesses, getting to the killer new idea, the next big thing is the hardest part, right? Perhaps. The good news is, it gets easier.

During Project Entrepreneur’s Los Angeles Summit (held November 2016), Naseem Sayani, founder of Digital Oxygen, explained how, “The Reverse War Game,” can spark innovation.

There are companies out in the world which appear as if they always knew what they were going to do and the pathway to success was, for the most part, pretty strait-forward; Netflix, Uber, Apple. These companies were birthed from ingenious ideas which have those who are just starting out thinking, “How in the world did they get there Did they know what they were going to do when they started? How can I follow suit?”

More often than not, these titans had an inkling; in retrospect, it looks simple, it looks easy, it looks like they knew all the answers when they started. However, for most, that absolutely was not the case.

At the very beginning of your start-up journey, you likely considered, “What is the thing I’m going to build? For what purpose? Creating what value?” Answering these questions means you have to decide where in the ecosystem you want to be and what part of that ecosystem you want to change.

Additionally, as an entrepreneur, you have to understand an entire value chain: from carefully woven interactions across product development, marketing, and sales, to handoffs and dependencies between supply chain and production.

In essence, innovation is hard.

So how do you get beyond the challenges? The Reverse War Game.

Typical war games predict the moves of existing players. They focus on what might happen in the current landscape. The reverse war game is different because we’re trying to imagine the moves of new players, we’re trying to envision what might happen or what could happen in a future landscape.

The game is pretty simple. Follow these three steps:

  1. Identify the core assumptions of the target industry
  2. Choose the assumption to disrupt (change it, modify it, take it away)
  3. Decide if that new model is something you can build

Afterwards, here are the three questions to spark innovation and fuel your arsenal:

  1. What are core the assumptions of my target industry?
  2. Which assumption can I disrupt?
  3. Can I launch that new business?

Here’s the reverse war game in action using Uber as the example:

Prior to Uber, if you wanted to catch a taxi in a major city, you had to stand on a corner to hail a cab; you had no knowledge of when one would come along, and you always had to have cash. This is just how it worked. Uber disrupted all three of these areas and they reimagined the assumptions of the riding experience and elements riders were annoyed by but they lived with. Now there’s no going back. The company looked under the hood, addressed the pain points that we’d become so used to and they gave us another option.

Now it’s your turn to play the reverse war game. We’re excited to learn about what you will build and how you will build it.


Learn more about Sayani’s theory on the “Reverse War Game”:  Listen to the entire workshop on episode 23 of our podcast, #theTools and be sure to subscribe.