Classes D’Aveni-style are far removed from the standard strategy lecture at which a learned professor marches somberly through the big strategy ideas of others aided by a well used acetate presentation and set of handy two-by-two matrices.
“I like to do something a little different with my students,” says Professor D'Aveni. “I take some different approaches to strategy. I truly believe that, if you think hard enough, every strategy has the seeds of its own destruction embedded in it. I like to build my unique perspectives into the coursework.”
He delivers three of the most popular strategy courses at Tuck: Strategic Vision: the Challenges of Today's CEOs; Global Strategy and Implementation; and Advanced Competitive Strategy. He has taught at business schools throughout the world. Most recently, as part of his research for Strategic Capitalism, he taught at three Chinese universities.
“My courses cover things like military strategy,” he says. “We cover Carl von Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Mao Tse-Tung, and apply them to industries like disposable diapers. It sounds ridiculous, right? But disposable diapers are a great case of barriers to entry and the use of concentrated force and circumvention strategies, and it’s a great case of von Clausewitz’s ideas of encirclement. I weave these together with my unique strategy concepts, such as creative disruption of a rival’s center of gravity or its spheres of influence, and with stronghold and price-quality mapping techniques. So the students apply the concepts to business using vision visual maps to see the shape of the battle.”
D'Aveni uses the movie The Godfather (part 1) as a tool to illustrate how a regionally-organized industry struggles to deal with globalization and the strategic concepts underlying the three Godfathers: Vito (Oligopoly theory), Sonny (Clauswitzian theory) and Michael (Hypercompetition/Disruption theory). D'Aveni says the movie is a great way to illustrate many different approaches to strategic thinking.