“Strategic direction is more important today. It's about providing a framework for managers to navigate through the fog of complex chokes. No company can avoid this."

– C.K. Prahalad –

PoS Aug 2018 | NARCOS and the game beyond the game

A critical aspect of strategic thinking is the ability to determine one’s strategy in the game at hand by anticipating games in the future. It is especially important to foresee games that may be spawned by playing the game one is offered now.

Such anticipation can be a very smart move. Inability to do so can lead to disastrous consequences. It is dramatically demonstrated in the Netflix TV series NARCOS on Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord.

The State has managed to confiscate a very large body of documentary evidence on Escobar’s financial dealings, laundering money in billions of Dollars. There is enough evidence to put him away for a very long time.

Damning evidence 

All documents have been stored in a highly secure facility in the Palace of Justice that houses the Supreme Court. It is one institution that has remained outside Escobar’s reach or influence.

He knows the damning nature of the proof against him and where it is stored. He must get rid of it all.

Escobar approaches the leader of the M-19 communist guerrillas who has been waging a violent insurrection against the Government for a long time. He is known as Ivan the Terrible for the ruthless manner in which he has fought against the Government and killed many.

Earlier the leader had been captured in an encounter with drug king’s gunmen. Escobar had had several communists executed but spared Ivan’s life. He had urged him to continue the fight against the State.

Now Escobar reaches out to the guerrilla leader. In a secret meeting he attempts to persuade him to attack the Palace of Justice and destroy all the evidence. The guerrilla recognizes the extreme danger of the operation and seems reluctant. Escobar offers $2 million to carry out the strike. He sweet talks him as well pointing out how sacrifices are necessary to bring about a revolution. They strike a deal.

Ivan the Terrible leads the audacious attack and takes nearly a hundred hostages. In the ensuing battle with the Army there are many casualties including nearly half the Justices of the Supreme Court. The siege ends but not before the guerrillas have set fire to the room where all the documents are stored. A number of communists are killed but the leader escapes with a few trusted lieutenants.

Ivan is outsmarted 

After the operation, Pablo Escobar and three of his henchmen go to meet the communist leader and his close aides in their hideout. He congratulates the leader for the daring and successful attack and hands over a briefcase containing $2 million. As a mark of his appreciation he presents Ivan the sword of Simon Bolivar, the freedom fighter who won independence for Columbia.

As Escobar turns to leave, his men shoot all four communists dead. They collect the briefcase and the sword on their way out.

Failure to anticipate? 

Could the communist leader have seen it coming? They were the only witnesses against Escobar as they had carried out the daring operation he had tasked them with. Sooner or later the Police would have captured at least a few of them. Torture would have prised their lips open. Pablo Escobar had foreseen it, the guerrilla leader had not.

The ability to anticipate the game beyond the game is a crucial aspect of strategic thinking. If Ivan had been good at it he would have had Escobar and his men shot first. And kept the money.