Game-Changer: Game Theory And The Art Of Transforming Strategic Situations By David McAdams

My company has this weekly newsletter where they send out summaries of books they recommend in business-related subjects you find interesting (e.g. leadership, self-improvement, career advancement etc). A couple months ago, McAdams’ ‘Game Changer’ caught my eye.

I studied economics in university and one of my favourite theories was Game Theory, in particular the Prisoner’s Dilemma so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this fiction. I won’t go into the specifics of what Game Theory is here but this youtube video pretty much summarises what Game Theory is, and the problems associated with it because you are making some broad sweeping assumptions about people (e.g. people will always uphold the agreement, people are rational agents, all parties involved are on an equal footing etc).

And subsequently, because McAdams is basing his entire book on the hypothesis the principles of Game Theory can be applied to day to day life and in a manner that allows the reader to have the strategic advantage, he has also had to make grand, sweeping statements about the power of Game Theory. I struggled to find a link between the multiple examples he was using and how applications of Game Theory could have improved the situation. And I think McAdams did too, since he used a lot of examples but failed to connect the same example throughout one idea, making his chapters feel disjointed, like he was jumping form one idea to the next. There also never seemed to be one core idea that he comes back to, only the continual insistence that Game Theory is a Game Changer.

In all fairness, Game Theory is an interesting economic principle that helps to give a broader perspective to a person’s way of thinking, because it’s basically advocating for co-operation and seeking an alternative solution other than the outcomes immediately laid out in front of you. But it’s very difficult to apply in real life because, as stated previously, you are assuming everyone involved is capable of making rational decisions and is on an equal footing with the same common goal in mind.

This is a short review because I abandoned the read. I feel terrible since it was given to me as a gift and probably paid for a full retail price but trying to digest the thing gave me a headache because the ideas felt so disjointed, like reading tax legislation. It’s a pity, I was really looking forward to this.


On Another Note

I think it’s trying to be like ‘Freakonomics’, where two professors were able to gently  take the reader by the hand and lead them down the path of economic enlightenment but the writers chose economic principles that were less restrictive as opposed to McAdams who I felt was beating me over the head with his heavy-handed exclamations.


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