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The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist's Guide to Success in Business and Life

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Game theory means rigorous strategic thinking. It's the art of anticipating your opponent's next moves, knowing full well that your rival is trying to do the same thing to you. Though parts of game theory involve simple common sense, much is counterintuitive, and it can only be mastered by developing a new way of seeing the world. Using a diverse array of rich case studies Game theory means rigorous strategic thinking. It's the art of anticipating your opponent's next moves, knowing full well that your rival is trying to do the same thing to you. Though parts of game theory involve simple common sense, much is counterintuitive, and it can only be mastered by developing a new way of seeing the world. Using a diverse array of rich case studies—from pop culture, TV, movies, sports, politics, and history—the authors show how nearly every business and personal interaction has a game-theory component to it. Are the winners of reality-TV contests instinctive game theorists? Do big-time investors see things that most people miss? What do great poker players know that you don't? Mastering game theory will make you more successful in business and life, and this lively book is the key to that mastery.


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Game theory means rigorous strategic thinking. It's the art of anticipating your opponent's next moves, knowing full well that your rival is trying to do the same thing to you. Though parts of game theory involve simple common sense, much is counterintuitive, and it can only be mastered by developing a new way of seeing the world. Using a diverse array of rich case studies Game theory means rigorous strategic thinking. It's the art of anticipating your opponent's next moves, knowing full well that your rival is trying to do the same thing to you. Though parts of game theory involve simple common sense, much is counterintuitive, and it can only be mastered by developing a new way of seeing the world. Using a diverse array of rich case studies—from pop culture, TV, movies, sports, politics, and history—the authors show how nearly every business and personal interaction has a game-theory component to it. Are the winners of reality-TV contests instinctive game theorists? Do big-time investors see things that most people miss? What do great poker players know that you don't? Mastering game theory will make you more successful in business and life, and this lively book is the key to that mastery.

30 review for The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist's Guide to Success in Business and Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    David

    This book is an engaging, comprehensive guide to strategies, as applied to everyday life. The first part of the book focuses on standard game theory, graphical notations for various problems, and applications of the prisoners' dilemma to everyday situations. The second part of the book concentrates more on everyday and business problems, and strategies to achieve optimal solutions. Game theory is not always applicable to all of these problems, but logic and rational problem-solving and a bit of This book is an engaging, comprehensive guide to strategies, as applied to everyday life. The first part of the book focuses on standard game theory, graphical notations for various problems, and applications of the prisoners' dilemma to everyday situations. The second part of the book concentrates more on everyday and business problems, and strategies to achieve optimal solutions. Game theory is not always applicable to all of these problems, but logic and rational problem-solving and a bit of mathematics are ever-present. The book explores the voting issue in some detail. When two candidates are running against each other, the best strategy of course is to vote for your first choice. When three or more candidates are running, it is not always best to vote for your first choice, especially if you believe that your first choice has no chance of winning. For example, in the presidential election of 2000, there were three candidates, Bush, Gore, and Nader. If you preferred Nader to the others, you could vote for him, but your vote would be pretty much wasted, as he had little chance of winning. It would be best to vote for your second choice. But, what if the election was predicted to be much closer; what would the best strategy be then? Furthermore, the book explores other voting systems that would allow you to list all of your voting preferences? For example, what if you could vote on all of the candidates, listing their names in preferential order. Various vote-tallying systems could take these preferences into account, and come up with a fairer assessment of the most-preferred candidate. But here's the rub; there are numerous vote-tallying systems, each of them objective, but depending on which one is chosen, a different candidate could win. The book goes into some detail in considering the different outcomes of the 2002 presidential race, considering several of these systems. The book also describes three different systems for auctions. Although the systems differ dramatically, the optimum strategy is the same for all of the systems. The book describes various approaches for political negotiations. Examples include incentives and threats. But a threat is only good if it is credible. The book describes some historical approaches that have made threats credible. Another type of strategy is how a company can best compete with other companies, by setting prices that will maximize profitability. The book has a set of exercises to try out your newly-gained understanding. One of the exercises is to consider how to make a good first impression on a first date. You are faced with two simultaneous problems; how to prove your sincerity and quality to your date, and how best to assess the sincerity and quality of your date. In other words, what is the best strategy for signaling and screening? This book is best appreciated if you are not afraid of some simple algebra. However, many of the strategies are not at all mathematical, but simply rely on logic. I thoroughly enjoyed this book; some of the chapters were a bit repetitive, but not overly so.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Billie Pritchett

    Avinash Dixit's Art of Strategy is an informative book and a little boring. It's informative because it provides you with some basic principles for how to reason properly in situations where you have to coordinate or compete with other people, your self, or a company or something equally abstract; 'game theory' is just a fancy name for principled strategic interaction. And it's boring in the sense that it requires some understanding of mathematics, and if you're mathematically stupid like I am y Avinash Dixit's Art of Strategy is an informative book and a little boring. It's informative because it provides you with some basic principles for how to reason properly in situations where you have to coordinate or compete with other people, your self, or a company or something equally abstract; 'game theory' is just a fancy name for principled strategic interaction. And it's boring in the sense that it requires some understanding of mathematics, and if you're mathematically stupid like I am you might hate this part. The basic principles are: (1) look forward, reason backward; (2) play your dominant strategy; (3) don't play clearly dominated strategies; (4) always look for equilibrium solutions; (5) mix your plays in zero-sum situations. Principle (1) means think about the possible results of your actions in relation to who you are interacting with and try as much as possible to play your best strategy at each move according to what would result. Principle (2) means do principle (1) but always play the strategies that are better than your opponents. Supposing there is no dominant strategy with respect to principle (2) then a la principle (3) just act in some way that you would not clearly fail with your result. Principle (4) means look for situations where you and the person with whom you are interacting would mutually benefit or end up with the same result because that's most likely what result you're going to land on if you're both being reasonable with each other. Principle (5) means in situations where your win means someone else's loss and vice versa, just mix up your strategy to try to get a good result. Game theory is not an exact science. It's kind of an art and a science. There's no guarantee that you're going to interact well with people as a result of reading something like this book. That's because you don't always have complete information about the situation or the other people you're interacting with, don't know what situation you're in, and don't know what you really want, among other problems.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    There is absolutely no need to read this book if you've read Thinking Strategically. I'm not certain why they exist as two separate books. The content is almost identical, and 90% of the examples in this one were lifted from that. I have no idea why this is touted as a "sequel." It is not. It's just Thinking Strategically repackaged (but I will say that its package is prettier). The tagline says that it's a "guide to success in business and life," but it is not. It is game theory explained in an There is absolutely no need to read this book if you've read Thinking Strategically. I'm not certain why they exist as two separate books. The content is almost identical, and 90% of the examples in this one were lifted from that. I have no idea why this is touted as a "sequel." It is not. It's just Thinking Strategically repackaged (but I will say that its package is prettier). The tagline says that it's a "guide to success in business and life," but it is not. It is game theory explained in an accessible way. I love game theory. I studied economics in college, and game theory had been my favorite class. I enjoyed Thinking Strategically and looked forward to reading this one. I was disappointed. Had I not read Thinking Strategically, I probably would have found this enjoyable, but I'm giving it two stars for the false advertising.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Atila Iamarino

    Legal de ler. Os autores têm mais um livro sobre o tema, escolhi o mais recente e foi uma boa. Este é o mais atualizado e discute mais ou menos o mesmo conteúdo do Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life. Eles tratam de várias situações de disputa ou conflitos entre interesses e grupos e como resolvê-los de forma estratégica. É uma introdução legal sobre teoria dos jogos com exemplos interessantes e um resumo/explicação ao fim de cada exemplo. Gostei Legal de ler. Os autores têm mais um livro sobre o tema, escolhi o mais recente e foi uma boa. Este é o mais atualizado e discute mais ou menos o mesmo conteúdo do Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life. Eles tratam de várias situações de disputa ou conflitos entre interesses e grupos e como resolvê-los de forma estratégica. É uma introdução legal sobre teoria dos jogos com exemplos interessantes e um resumo/explicação ao fim de cada exemplo. Gostei bastante da explicação sobre como duas lojas podem combinar o preço mais alto sem conversarem, se uma delas cobrir o preço da concorrência. Assim a concorrência sabe que a melhor decisão é manter o preço mais alto e não dar desconto (pois é). Vai para o Nerdologia com certeza. O The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics foi mais legal de ler, ainda mais por exemplos mais diretos e com consequências.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ricardo Marcos

    Lots of examples that make us lose focus on what is really important from Game Theory. Lack of proper definitions. Took me 11 pages of anotations to resume the whole book. I couldn't say if this book can really guide me to success in business and life. My opinion is: - Too redundant with descriptions; - Lack of proper definition; - Confusing descriptions of theories - Confusing examples and tables; - Not clear about aspects of theories. I would not recommend this book to a beginner learning Game Theo Lots of examples that make us lose focus on what is really important from Game Theory. Lack of proper definitions. Took me 11 pages of anotations to resume the whole book. I couldn't say if this book can really guide me to success in business and life. My opinion is: - Too redundant with descriptions; - Lack of proper definition; - Confusing descriptions of theories - Confusing examples and tables; - Not clear about aspects of theories. I would not recommend this book to a beginner learning Game Theories.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ernest

    The Art of Strategy is a brilliant book about game theory written for a popular, general audience. Game theory is the study of strategic decision making and behaviour, and while it is a whole discipline of study in itself, this book written by academics in the field is not a textbook but a written for a general audience that while being accessible to a non-specialists, still manages to be a rigorous introduction into the subject, all the while being fun and engaging through the examples used and The Art of Strategy is a brilliant book about game theory written for a popular, general audience. Game theory is the study of strategic decision making and behaviour, and while it is a whole discipline of study in itself, this book written by academics in the field is not a textbook but a written for a general audience that while being accessible to a non-specialists, still manages to be a rigorous introduction into the subject, all the while being fun and engaging through the examples used and discussed. From solving problems by backwards reasoning, to making strategies credible, to analysing how best to cooperate and coordinate, each chapter of this book was fascinating to read in its discussion of a game theory topic and applications to very understandable examples. It would be a disservice to the book to try summarising its points or discussions engaged in. The concepts here are presented in a way that an average reader will be able to follow the majority of the material, although I will admit to a few moments where I failed to understand. The real-life examples used enhances the book’s readability and kept me engaged throughout. Students of economics may have already covered some of this material but only the most engaged academics or constant practitioners of strategic thinking will find nothing of worth and value in this book. Such is the power of the book that it is hard for me not to see many situations all around through the lens of game theory. I may not know how to fully strategically think through a situation, but I now see conflicts and decisions in a different light, from the mundane like organising where to go for lunch to the serious like the Israel/Palestine conflict. I now have a different framework to making decisions, one that will (hopefully) improve and enhance my life. I recommend this book to everyone. At the very least, readers will learn interesting things and be fascinated about how things can be reasoned out. Even better, it may change for the better the way you view situations and how you make decisions.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dann

    Dixit and Nalebuff provide an exceptionally good introduction to game theory without making it overly difficult. There are real-world examples, ways to practice your game-theoretic thinking, and a lot of really useful information that might actually help you in your real life. That's what I really loved about this book—after reading it, I saw that the principles could be applied anywhere (especially in Craigslist selling, which I was doing a lot of—how cool is that?). I read this book for a class Dixit and Nalebuff provide an exceptionally good introduction to game theory without making it overly difficult. There are real-world examples, ways to practice your game-theoretic thinking, and a lot of really useful information that might actually help you in your real life. That's what I really loved about this book—after reading it, I saw that the principles could be applied anywhere (especially in Craigslist selling, which I was doing a lot of—how cool is that?). I read this book for a class, but before it, I tried reading Game Theory Evolving: A Problem-Centered Introduction to Modeling Strategic Interaction, by Herbert Gintis. Couldn't do it. If you need a textbook for a game theory class, Gintis's might be the way to go. If you just want to find out more about the theory and how it's applied to really common situations, read it. It's really interesting! I'd recommend this to anyone, regardless of whether it's assigned or related to a class or not. It really does have a lot of real-world applications, and it's written very well.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    I wish I had read this book with a pen and paper, and less on the PATH train. Unfortunately, I think I failed to digest some of the more quantitative aspects of game theory. All things considered, though, this was an excellent book and review of game theory. And because payoffs are so difficult to determine, anyway, you don't really need the math as much as the thought processes and logic of strategic thinking (essentially, don't make decisions without figuring out what the other actors' interest I wish I had read this book with a pen and paper, and less on the PATH train. Unfortunately, I think I failed to digest some of the more quantitative aspects of game theory. All things considered, though, this was an excellent book and review of game theory. And because payoffs are so difficult to determine, anyway, you don't really need the math as much as the thought processes and logic of strategic thinking (essentially, don't make decisions without figuring out what the other actors' interests are). For that, this is a very good read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Wang Jiao

    It explain the basic ways of thinking in game theory, look forward, reason backward. It provided some simple mathematical modelling and calculations of some theories. But I am not that impressed, the maths is simple and intuitive, not deep enough.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sai

    Enjoyed reading this! To be clear, this book is intended for audiences completely new to game theoretic ideas. Prior to reading this book, my only experience with understanding game theory was watching A Beautiful Mind as a kid. Getting that out of the way, this book is fast paced and fun in introducing all the major concepts of game theory, from decision theories, Nash equilibriums, different types of auction and voting theories, bargaining and negotiations etc.. Most importantly, its filled wi Enjoyed reading this! To be clear, this book is intended for audiences completely new to game theoretic ideas. Prior to reading this book, my only experience with understanding game theory was watching A Beautiful Mind as a kid. Getting that out of the way, this book is fast paced and fun in introducing all the major concepts of game theory, from decision theories, Nash equilibriums, different types of auction and voting theories, bargaining and negotiations etc.. Most importantly, its filled with examples that make the explanations easier to grapple with. I like that this book does not use the whole "lets assume everyone is a rational actor" approach, since well, humans are hardly ever fully rational. I often hear criticism levelled at game theory ideas that everyone isn't a rational actor, so these theories breakdown with exceptional cases. In this book, every theory presented is provided with its share of caveats. I thought that it kept the book intellectually honest throughout, yet invigorating in the content.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hans

    If you are unfamiliar with Game Theory then this book is for you, if on the other hand you already are aware of it then it'll be a good review. Overall the reason Game Theory is so useful is because it can show possible solutions to what may initially appear to be unsolvable problems. Often times judgement is clouded by the strong emotional charge of a problem and people are unable to see a way through it. Game Theory allows one to detach from the situation and assess it with a cold rationality If you are unfamiliar with Game Theory then this book is for you, if on the other hand you already are aware of it then it'll be a good review. Overall the reason Game Theory is so useful is because it can show possible solutions to what may initially appear to be unsolvable problems. Often times judgement is clouded by the strong emotional charge of a problem and people are unable to see a way through it. Game Theory allows one to detach from the situation and assess it with a cold rationality that bases the entire decision making process on statistical probabilities by hedging one's bet as best as one can. It may not always yield the optimal outcome but it at least increases the chances of it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Zehra

    The examples might not apply to daily life directly but when you get the idea, you will have some cool tools in your hand. That GMAT question method really works on such as quantitative questions, and already comes intuitively after practise lots of time but I thought it might work with literature questions, too. If the question is a type "I-I-II; Only II;" instead of reading the entire question I just thought in that way and simply check it. It was fun and just received a pretty good result. Th The examples might not apply to daily life directly but when you get the idea, you will have some cool tools in your hand. That GMAT question method really works on such as quantitative questions, and already comes intuitively after practise lots of time but I thought it might work with literature questions, too. If the question is a type "I-I-II; Only II;" instead of reading the entire question I just thought in that way and simply check it. It was fun and just received a pretty good result. Though there are a lot of efficient game theory examples for professional life and business, life means much more than theories.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jason Yang

    This book is sort of like a layman's intro to game theory. I enjoyed some of the examples early on about situations where strategic thinking is really useful (eg., the show Survivor), but found the book to be quite dry and abstract overall. It's really difficult for me to pinpoint what I got out of it, since so many of the take home messages seemed like common sense. On the other hand, it was kind of nice to see some exercises related to pricing, etc., which I suppose are relevant to the real wo This book is sort of like a layman's intro to game theory. I enjoyed some of the examples early on about situations where strategic thinking is really useful (eg., the show Survivor), but found the book to be quite dry and abstract overall. It's really difficult for me to pinpoint what I got out of it, since so many of the take home messages seemed like common sense. On the other hand, it was kind of nice to see some exercises related to pricing, etc., which I suppose are relevant to the real world. Generally, I enjoyed this book, but I'm not sure it's something for everyone.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    A primer in game theory, but the book got rather boring and was much longer than needed.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Darius Daruvalla-riccio

    This book really fascinated me but it took a lot of mental effort to get through. The book went over the basics of game theory, gave general guidelines on how to use it and then went over its applications in the real world. This included things such as business competition, negotiations, voting and more. Contrary to most non-fiction books, I can recall and explain most of the information that is written about. This probably resulted from a mix of how much the book interested me and the amount of This book really fascinated me but it took a lot of mental effort to get through. The book went over the basics of game theory, gave general guidelines on how to use it and then went over its applications in the real world. This included things such as business competition, negotiations, voting and more. Contrary to most non-fiction books, I can recall and explain most of the information that is written about. This probably resulted from a mix of how much the book interested me and the amount of focus that it took to keep reading it. The information often went against my intuition and I had to suspend it to take it in and make sense of it. It constantly introduced new ideas while relying on the reader understanding the preceding ones. The chapters would start simply and become more complex but refer to the earlier points in the chapters. Similarly, it would refer back to points raised in the early chapters and it was important that you remembered these. As such I had to reread many passages so I could continue reading. If this book was written differently, maybe it would have required less effort to read but it can be understood as long as you focus. I'd recommend this if you already have some understanding of game theory and are willing to put in effort and reread pages. If so, its really damn interesting.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Valeriu

    This verbose version of the game theory 101 course from Yale University is by no means a light reading. Prepared on the assumption of purely rational behaviour, deep fried in twisted logic, sprinkled with mathematical details and served in a rather sophisticated English, the book appeals to casual readers, curious about the prisoners' dilemma or the Japanese auction, as well as to more knowledgeable practitioners, ready to pull out a pen and paper (or rock and scissors) to compute conditional pr This verbose version of the game theory 101 course from Yale University is by no means a light reading. Prepared on the assumption of purely rational behaviour, deep fried in twisted logic, sprinkled with mathematical details and served in a rather sophisticated English, the book appeals to casual readers, curious about the prisoners' dilemma or the Japanese auction, as well as to more knowledgeable practitioners, ready to pull out a pen and paper (or rock and scissors) to compute conditional probabilities and local minima. There is a comprehensive list of cooperative and adversarial games, presented together with relevant stories and real-life contexts, which makes this book a solid start in the field of game theory, especially for future negotiators and decision makers. However, the applicability of the strategies is constrained by our proven inability to correctly evaluate probabilities (especially of negative events) and by the limitations of the rational thought model. The material should be complemented with considerations of patterns of irrational behaviour (see Dan Ariely's work) and a good stats software. PS. Take note of the seldomly appearing typos, as Avinash and Barry might reward you with $2 for each one.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Simon Eskildsen

    If you've looked for a foray into Game Theory, this is it. It walks through a bunch of important ideas in Game Theory, from auctions to equilibrium in games. This book is filled with models that you can apply in many contexts, introduced through approachable examples—although, some chapters are easier to get through than others. Working my way through my highlights in the book is already proving rewarding, but it's definitely dense in information (but not in language). Don't read this as a befor If you've looked for a foray into Game Theory, this is it. It walks through a bunch of important ideas in Game Theory, from auctions to equilibrium in games. This book is filled with models that you can apply in many contexts, introduced through approachable examples—although, some chapters are easier to get through than others. Working my way through my highlights in the book is already proving rewarding, but it's definitely dense in information (but not in language). Don't read this as a before-sleep-pass-out-book. This is a wide-awake-and-ready-to-stop-and-think book. A good one at that.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jaime Hernandez

    I liked this book, but it was tough for me to get through at times. The authors broke down many concepts from business school strategy and economics classes in a way that was easy to understand. Also, the case studies were good at demonstrating the concepts. However, for me, the format/structure/flow was often difficult to follow. Unless you want to delve into the individual strategies, I recommend more a skimming type reading for later follow-up - at least until you get through passages that are I liked this book, but it was tough for me to get through at times. The authors broke down many concepts from business school strategy and economics classes in a way that was easy to understand. Also, the case studies were good at demonstrating the concepts. However, for me, the format/structure/flow was often difficult to follow. Unless you want to delve into the individual strategies, I recommend more a skimming type reading for later follow-up - at least until you get through passages that are difficult to follow. Overall, it is a solid read and I will keep as a ready reference.

  19. 4 out of 5

    C

    I started this book as it was a suggested reading for my current Technology Analytics MBA course. I found this book to be a helpful overview of strategy and game theory concepts. The "trips to the gym" and other thought experiments helped to drive the concepts home. This book is an introduction and overview of game theory concepts: It is not a textbook or a mathematical treatise. I found it to be a good reminder of concepts I had learned earlier and I suggest it to people who are interested in t I started this book as it was a suggested reading for my current Technology Analytics MBA course. I found this book to be a helpful overview of strategy and game theory concepts. The "trips to the gym" and other thought experiments helped to drive the concepts home. This book is an introduction and overview of game theory concepts: It is not a textbook or a mathematical treatise. I found it to be a good reminder of concepts I had learned earlier and I suggest it to people who are interested in the basics of game theory.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sriram Sankaranarayanan

    This is a wonderful read for people interested in game theory. The authors have given great examples for well known problems in game theory in a lucid manner, thus keeping the reader interested. While catering to a reader with little to no knowledge on this subject, this also has sections for people with a more formal understanding of the theory. By all means, I would suggest it as a must-read for people interested in this topic.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kamal Laungani

    The first half was enlightening and full of insights. The second half was not only unrelatable due to authors western bias but also lacked any new insights. The second half had too much focus on describing example scenarios without introducing any new concepts. If you want to know about game theory, just read the first half

  22. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    I wanted more from this book. I really wanted to like it, but could never fully come around to it. So many of the examples are simplified past any relation to real life. It was off the syllabus of a Columbia class that I never had the chance to take.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dean Marquis

    the examples they used were too specific. the. the didnit cover the Strategic Model and just lightly passed over chess. there was just one Chapter on Strategy. it didnt cover Poker as well. it should have covered that.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anton Shayakhov

    Сперва книга залетала очень легко и круто, но очень быстро все эти бесконечные примеры утомили. Признаюсь, дочитал просто из принципа, чтобы дочитать. Сама теория очень крутая, разыгрывать многоходовочки это стиль.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I listened to this book on Audible. Some of the ideas are interesting, but that said, I did not enjoy listening to the book. It was difficult to follow along with the “games” in the book. I’d like to try again with a print copy.

  26. 4 out of 5

    tetek

    quite good, but too long, it's basically the same stuff after page 200

  27. 5 out of 5

    Juichia Che

    Too much oil, not enough meat.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Özgür Takmaz

    Life is a game

  29. 4 out of 5

    Modestas Mankus

    A brilliant book for any person looking to improve their life by utilizing different strategies.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Obryan Poyser

    Nice book! Aboards several fields with clear examples

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