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Competition Demystified: A Radically Simplified Approach to Business Strategy

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,031 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Since 1980, Michael Porter’s classic Competitive Strategy has provided the methodology that most big companies use for strategic analysis. But now, distinguished Columbia Business School professor Bruce Greenwald offers a bold new theory of competition—a theory that is far simpler than Porter’s and much easier for strategic planners to apply in the real world.


Hardcover, 416 pages
Published August 18th 2005 by Portfolio Hardcover (first published 2005)
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Average rating 4.35  · 
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 ·  1,031 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Viktor Nilsson
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
My perspective on business has never been management, but rather investment. Still, this book had been recommended by several respected investors, so I decided to give it a try. I was not disappointed!

The title aptly describes what this book is about: formulating a business strategy, based on the presence or absence of competitive advantages (barriers of entry into an industry - "moat" in the words of Warren Buffett). Greenwald has build a framework from Michael Porter's famous theories, but put
Sylv C
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book came highly recommended but doubt if there are any surprising insights to anyone familiar with business. In fact, I'm seriously dubious if the authors had adequately considered factors like hindsight bias in choosing their examples. Their obvious lack of in-depth knowledge in industries used as examples (such as a very superficial treatment of the competitive advantages of Intel vs Apple) is a turn-off to anyone who has spent time actually understanding these companies. I would highly ...more
Firebox Research & Strategy
Sep 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
I felt this book was more helpful in understanding the pursuit of business strategy than books like The Art of War. Perhaps I just had terrific strategy professors in grad school, but TAoW seemed too plain and bland to me, almost like I was reading something I had read or learned before. Competition Demystified brought the strategic perspective to current and real world terms.

A good read for college business students.

- Adam -
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My key take-aways for this book are:
• Strategy is outward focused; on the actions of other economic entities
• It is almost impossible to excell in strategic thinking without clarity
• Operational Efficiency is important for profitability – but it is not strategy
• The most important competitive force is «barriers to entry»

Mr. Greenwald is a professor at Columbia University in NY and have for many years been teaching the «Economics of Strategic Behavior» MBA class. I heard about this book through a
pavana Kumar Varanasi
Its a damn good book which illustrates many points which were previously unknown to me. He clearly explains a lot of concepts with real world examples.

some good points from book are:

1) Importance of fixed costs (not assets) and its relation to
competitive advantage. exmaples given are microsoft, intel etc.

2) a brand doesn't mean that it is a good economic prospect to a company.
e.g. mercedes benz inspite of having a good brand is not an economically
superior operation.

3) customer capitivity
Jobin Thomas
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend this book. But, skip the chapters starting with "co-operation".

My book review/ summary on LinkedIn:
Mourisham Jose
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Five star reading. Classic Greenwald
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We all admire Michael Porter for his wisdom regarding strategy. But how do you use his recommendations in real life? Especially if you are an outsider, you need a toolbox that is easier to use and maybe more focused. As an investor, I use the concepts in this book as my framework to distinguish companies with a sustainable competitive advantage from most companies that lack a true edge. But every manager will find Competition Demystified useful as well. “Understanding the significance of ...more
Joe Cosentino
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book because I'm currently taking Greenwald's class at Columbia Business School. I found the analysis in this book very sharp, and most of the case studies very relatable and enjoyable. The book centers around a fairly powerful premise - that the only strategic "force" (of Porter's famous 5 forces) that matters is barriers to entry. The first half of the book introduces this idea via case studies indicating the sources of barriers to entry (and thus competitive advantage) and ...more
Shraddha Pant
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I started this book shortly after reading "Understanding Michael Porter" by Joan Magretta, in which the author casts light on how to understand porters' five forces and the implications of each force in the business and the consequent strategy to devise for the businesses.

When I started the book, I was disappointed to learn that the author - Bruce C N Greenwald would try and belittle the five forces framework by Porter and given that I had recently been impressed with the depth at which Joan
Jaidev Shah
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As the cover says a radically simple way to run/buy/understand a business. I would rank this book amongst the top 5 business strategy books that I have read. The authors take the pain to explain each scenario in simple terms. Some of their statements are short but hold a huge amount of strategic meaning. I have learnt a lot from this book.
I took a while to read this book because it forced me to think of my decisions in business. I re read the first 4-5 chapters.
I think this book could be one
Yu Shimada
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a great book if you have an interest in business strategy and how businesses actually survive in a long time period. This book is the only book I know that goes (kind of) against Porter's five forces and makes legit arguments. It focuses on sustainable competitive advantages which are only two of five forces that Porter mentions. Using these two forces, Greenwald gives many examples how businesses in different industries benefit and sustain these advantages.
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book,
3.5 stars
Interesting case studies.
But a lot of the premise is if all competitors behave rationally and in a time bound manner. Well the honest truth is things are not so rational except in hindsight, and allocators of capital make a lot of decisions based on different perceived notions than maximizing allocation of capital.

there is also a big question on time. Any barrier of entry will take time to overcome and there is plenty of gold to be found between that timeframe.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
Good, insightful read, especially if you are just beginning to read up on business strategy and its implications on corporate performance. I loved how the author follow the theoretical introductions of frameworks with real cases. However, I would say that at times it can be quite boring and lengthy. It would benefit from being more structured and to the point.
Alessandro Orlandi
Nov 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: investors
I didn't love it all, but there are some chapters that are really interesting. I loved the chapter on Nintendo and the lasts chapter are really good. Generally could have been explained all in half the number of pages.
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best business books ever written. A clear and enlightening view on how companies compete and what drives competitive advantage.
Patrick Voigt
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great follow on and improvement to Michael Porter’s strategy books. A necessary read for those interested in competitive analysis.
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Recommended.

Like the explanations. Deep insights. Rich opinions and expertise's comments. Clear examples on valuation and techniques.

I am sure will reread for my investing study.
Patrick Todd
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice alternative take on competition.
Nikki Fernandez
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best business book I have ever read. Also the focal point of my favorite class at Columbia Business School. It changed the way I think about competition and business on a fundamental level. Highly recommend.
Forrest Hosten
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Competition dmystified is legit one of the best books in the entire category of business. I say this because it describes things in a very straight forward approach to strategy. Through the use of thesis and hypothesis with real world examples. This really is an incredibly simplified approach to business strategy. Bruce does a great job of creating scenarios that constantly make you question the way you're running your own companies. & makes you want to look deeper into specific parts of ...more
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
In Competition Demystified: A Radically Simplified Approach to Business Strategy, author Bruce Greenwald tries to argue that one can analyze competition in a simpler way than Porter's Five Forces. Mr. Greenwald proposes to focus only on one factor: the barrier to entry. According to Mr. Greenwald, barrier to entry is the single, most significant factor that affects competition in the marketplace. In this book, Mr. Greenwald discusses why barrier of entry is the most significant force. He also ...more
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
The author dissects the Porter’s Five Forces Model to elucidate the reasons why internal competition and threat from new entrants should be the main factors while devising strategies. He backs up his arguments with a number of case studies.

My main takeaways include:

1. Economies of scale experienced by incumbents is a major barrier to entry for new entrants. But this barrier will cease to be effective if the market is growing by double digits. Following the same logic, niche market is easier to
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is a broken review, as I read the first third, then skipped to the pages/chapters i thought interesting.

The book strikes me as non-saying. There's a lot of words and cases presented, but minimal critical/useful information presented. Many of the cases are out of date (like Apple around early 2000s which the authors conclude are "going nowhere"), but the faulty analysis proves to me that their framework is not very useful. They're trying to give insight into the business-cases presented
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Michael Porter proposed that their were five key forces to understand before formulating a business's strategy. Greenwald convincingly argues that one of those forces is by far the most important: competition within the industry.

Greenwald logically lays out a framework for assessing the competitive landscape. Grossly simplified it is this. Does the firm have a competitive advantage? If it does, the firm needs to figure how to best manage its interactions with its competitors. If it lacks a

Dec 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a great piece on competition and a must read for any serious business/security analyst or corporate strategist.

My only issue with the book is that when you try and distill/simplify you might overlook or miss important exceptions/black swans.

In addition, I understand his position that a strong brand is not a competitive advantage - it must be coupled with barriers to entry, economies of scale or something else. However, many times in highly competitive markets (restaurants, retail) many
David Skinner
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book changed the way that I think about strategy and the way to focus the strengths of our company in our competitive landscape. Successful firms recognize their competitive advantage and they leverage those advantage in the marketplace. They do not delude themselves into thinking they are good at what they are not good at, they avoid what they are bad at, and they always always always re-commit themselves to pursuing operational efficiencies. This book can be petty and academic at points, ...more
Apr 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Was let down by this book, expected much more even though some of the stuff was very well written.
WMT, KO, Pepsi, Kodak, Coors - many case studies about how companies failed or succeeded based largely on barriers to entry and competitive strategy.
For me, I expected more to be written about luck, managerial prowess, and brand value even though he touches on these topics.

But yes, it's a good book for the library and for gentle reminders of how companies make mistakes.
Brentley Campbell
Oct 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Greatly deepens one's understanding of how firms enjoy competitive advantages by explaining three categories that contribute to a moat:
1. Supply- cost advantage, frequently from prop technology or by know-how
2. Demand- switching costs, based on habit, demand that can't be stolen easily
3. Economies of Scale- larger scale, lower ratio of fixed costs to sales

It is always best to have the combination of economies of scale with a demand advantage (Coca-Cola, etc.)
Jul 04, 2016 rated it liked it
The book describes the different dimensions that identify the market conditions and the probable competition with other companies. For example, what happens when there are barries to entry, how incumbent and entrant will behave along with strategies that could benefit the business. There are plenty of examples that illustrate both sides. Good book for understanding the market condition and evaluating the market a company is in.
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Bruce Corman Norbert Greenwald is a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business and Director of Research at FirstEagle Funds. Described by the New York Times as "a guru to Wall Street's gurus," Greenwald is an authority on value investing with additional expertise in productivity and the economics of information.
“Operational effectiveness can be the single most important factor in the success, or indeed in the survival, of any business.” 0 likes
“keep in mind Einstein’s admonition that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” 0 likes
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