Course Detail

Competitive Strategy (42001)

Course Description by Faculty

  • Wollmann, Thomas
  • Content
    The course applies microeconomics—mainly the economics of industrial organization—to analyze decisions managers face in business environments. It focuses on strategic decisions that drive profits. 

    The class is interactive. Roughly one-third to one-half of each class is devoted to lecture, with the remaining (majority of) time devoted to case discussion. 

    The first half of the course takes a price theory approach to managerial decision-making. The actions of rivals are mostly assumed fixed, so we can isolate key tradeoffs that they face. The second half takes a game theory approach, in which managers’ actions directly affect their rivals’ payoffs, and vice versa. 

    Topics include pricing, positioning, patterns and determinants of cross-industry and within-industry profitability, entry and exit, vertical integration and boundaries of the firm (i.e., the “make or buy” decision), commitment, cooperation, deterrence, network effects, and multisided platforms.
  • Prerequisites

    Bus 33001 or equivalent is highly recommended. In short, the course requires an understanding of microeconomics; otherwise, you will not learn as much and struggle with the material.  

    One cannot enroll in BUSN 42001 if BUSN 20900 was taken previously.

  • Materials
    Required: Harvard Business Publishing cases, news articles, and academic research.

    Example cases from the first half of course: "Moneyball," "The Cola Wars," "Airborne Express."

    Example cases from the second half: "The Future of Ridesourcing: Uber and Lyft," "Dropbox: It Just Works," "Power Play (Nintendo)," "LinkedIn," "Ryanair: Dogfight over Europe."

    Optional but very strongly recommended textbook: Luís Cabral, Introduction to Industrial Organization, MIT Press. Either edition is fine. 

    This course will have a Canvas site.
  • Grades

    Grading will be based on class participation and case discussion (30%), the in-class midterm (25%), the in-class exam (40%), and completion of case memorandum (5%). Note that I may adjust these amounts up to three percentage points in either direction based on how aspects of the course play out.

    No auditors are allowed.

    • Mandatory attendance week 1

    • No auditors

    • No pass/fail grades

  • Syllabus
  • Autumn 2022Section: 42001-02M 1:30PM-4:30PMHarper CenterC04In-Person Only
  • Autumn 2022Section: 42001-03T 8:30AM-11:30AMHarper CenterC04In-Person Only
  • Autumn 2022Section: 42001-82M 6:00PM-9:00PMGleacher Center400In-Person Only
Description and/or course criteria last updated: August 29 2022