Bradley McCandless
Bradley McCandless

Bradley McCandless, MPP Class of 2022, writes about the Competitive Strategy Game, an interactive experience that puts economic theory into practice and made Strategic Behavior and Regulation of Firms with Professor Katherine Baird his favorite class.

My favorite class gave me the opportunity to take down my classmates while also making money.

Let me back up a few steps to explain what I mean.

During Spring Quarter of my first year, I was able to take Strategic Behavior and Regulation of Firms with Professor Katherine Baird. I was drawn to the class after reading Tim Wu’s book, The Curse of Bigness, about the history of antitrust regulation in the United States and had the opportunity to build on that knowledge through a variety of assignments. The class was designed to teach students about how firms operate in imperfectly competitive markets by examining mergers and acquisitions, market regulatory models, and how firms exert market power (among other topics).

Beyond enjoying the wide swath of case studies and applied economics in the class, what really stood out to me was the intentionality with which Professor Baird designed the course. Perhaps this was best exemplified through the exercise she dubbed our “Competitive Strategy Game.” The Game was a multi-week endeavor in which students split into teams to manage different “companies” that were allocated equal amounts of capital at the start. Each company would use their initial capital to invest in different markets with limited information about the markets themselves—and no information about the other firms. The ultimate goal was to make more money than your classmates by using concepts taught in class, our understanding of market behaviors, and econometric concepts learned during the Core Curriculum.

To this day, the Competitive Strategy Game has been my most impactful learning experience at Harris—while also perfectly embodying the entrepreneurial and academic spirit of Harris. The game taught complex economic and game theory concepts in the form of an interactive experience that gave students the opportunity to apply their econometrics knowledge in a new way. We saw how the graphs and equations in PowerPoint slides and problem sets played out when strategic decisions were made to further each group’s self-interest. Beyond being an effective learning experience,the game was fun! My group and I met twice a week to devise pricing strategies that would cause imaginary financial wreckage to our classmates or make risky investments that could sink or carry our portfolios.

So when the winners at the end of the quarter (spoiler: my group of cutthroat economists and I won), I felt a pang of disappointment that there wouldn’t be another week of interactive learning on the docket. However, I knew I was newly armed with crucial knowledge of strategic behavior in the markets. The class showcased the collateral effects of firms’ profit-seeking behaviors and of weak market regulatory structures on both market participants and consumers in ways that an economics textbook never could. For me, Professor Baird has set the bar when it comes to seeking my next learning experience—but I know I won’t have to look far at Harris.

If you enjoyed reading this post, check out our alum, Sabrina de la Vega’s blog: My Favorite Class: Exercising Leadership in the 21st Century with Caroline Johnson