In April 2010, Mars, one of the world’s largest privately owned businesses, embarked on a breakthrough initiative. For the next year, Jessica Eliasi, then the director of Competitive Intelligence at Mars Chocolate, travelled the world running “competitive simulation” games with local market teams from Russia to Mexico to Turkey to England.
These simulations were not some computer-based hypothetical games. They were intense, intelligence-based, role-playing immersion workshops that got leaders to see the market from a different and unfamiliar perspectives.
Such games have become more popular among leading edge corporations. But Jessica’s approach was still unique. While large consulting firms push expensive “war games” at the leadership level, Jessica ran cheap and quick local games based on local market dynamics. She then fed the results as market intelligence input into a senior leadership competitive game. The workshops brought the “voice of the markets” to Mars’ leadership’s doorstep.
By connecting the dots across a series of markets, brands and competitors, Jessica identified the key global insights that provided both risks and opportunities for the global firm. She brought her on-the-ground experiences to life through a “game” that was played with the business unit’s top management team, pressure-testing some closely held beliefs. The insights and the workshops have since influenced how Mars assesses risks and opportunities and develops strategy.