Barry Nalebuff Profile

  • An economics professor at the Yale University School of Management, Nalebuff is one of the world's most foremost experts on Game Theory.

  • Nalebuff was the first person to introduce game theory into popular business literature with his now-classic book Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life.

  • Nalebuff co-founded and grew Honest Tea, a bottled organic tea business into a $100 million dollar brand.
  • Barry Nalebuff is the co-founder of Honest Tea and one of the nation’s leading experts in Game Theory. As a professor at the Yale University School of Management, he shows his students how to apply economic theory and negotiation strategies to business as well as their everyday interactions.

    Nalebuff is the author of several influential business books including Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life, the first popular book on game theory, and one used in classrooms worldwide. His most recent book, Mission in a Bottle, tells the story of Honest Tea in a graphic format and lays out strategic advice for entrepreneurs.

    While his experience growing Honest Tea from five thermoses to $100 million in sales has made him a popular speaker in entrepreneurial circles, Nalebuff’s systematic approaches to creativity and problem-solving are also highly sought-out by corporations looking to jumpstart innovation within large established organizations.

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        • Milton Steinbach Professor of Management

      Barry Nalebuff is an expert on game theory and has written extensively on its application to business strategy. He is the coauthor of five books: Thinking Strategically and The Art of Strategy are two popular books on game theory with over 300,000 copies in print. In Co-opetition, Nalebuff looks beyond zero-sum games to emphasize the potential for cooperating as well as competing. In Why Not?, he and Ian Ayres provide a framework for problem solving and ingenuity. His book, Lifecycle Investing, provides a new strategy for retirement investing. A graduate of MIT, a Rhodes Scholar, and Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, Nalebuff earned his doctorate at Oxford University.

      In addition to his academic work, he has extensive experience consulting with multinational firms, from American Express, GE, and McKinsey to Google and Rio Tinto. He is advising the NBA in their negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association and serves on the board of Nationwide Insurance. In 1998, Barry together with one of his former students, Seth Goldman, cofounded Honest Tea, a company that sells ready-to-drink iced tea that truly tastes like tea. It is one of Inc. Magazine’s fastest growing companies and has grown (organically) from $0 to $70 million in sales. In 2011, Coca-Cola purchased the company.

      Nalebuff lectures and gives executive forums and training programs throughout the U.S., as well as internationally, designed to teach people how to think strategically. He began his public speaking career early when, while still in high school, he surreptitiously won Yale′s sophomore oratory contest, much to the consternation of one particular Yale professor. “After that experience, a Yale degree wasn′t an option, although Yale finally let me in as a professor,” says Nalebuff.

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      Comments regarding Barry Nalebuff′s presentation at St. Cloud University (event booked by Speakers Platform):

        1) Two minutes after he started talking, I knew this was going to be the best Winter Institute ever! (from a faculty person now on phased retirement but who has been at the university for 30+ years).

        2) Where did you get him? How did you find this speaker? Is he still here? I want to visit more with him. (from the University President).

        3) I learned so much from him-I like the way he thinks (Provost).

        4) I wish I had him as my professor. He is an extremely talented educator.

        5) Three high school classes came to the morning events of the Winter Institute, and each of their teachers left with a positive, upbeat attitude toward this event in no small part to the new insights that Barry imparted to them.

        6) I was very impressed with his ability to seamlessly take off from the presentation of Costas Azariadis that was based on endogenous growth theory and seamlessly follow the topic.

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    Books by Barry Nalebuff:

      The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist′s Guide to Success in Business and Life

      The authors who brought you the bestseller in game theory, Thinking Strategically, now provide the long-awaited sequel.

      Game theory means rigorous strategic thinking. It′s the art of anticipating your opponent′s next moves, knowing full well that your rival is trying to do the same thing to you. Though parts of game theory involve simple common sense, much is counterintuitive, and it can only be mastered by developing a new way of seeing the world.

      Using a diverse array of rich case studies—from pop culture, TV, movies, sports, politics, and history—the authors show how nearly every business and personal interaction has a game-theory component to it. Are the winners of reality-TV contests instinctive game theorists? Do big-time investors see things that most people miss? What do great poker players know that you don′t? Mastering game theory will make you more successful in business and life, and this lively book is the key to that mastery.

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      Thinking Strategically
      Most books on game theory either focus on specialized applications (cardplaying, business, nuclear war) or bore with mathematics and jargon. Free of formulas and argot, this refreshing exception distills the principles, concepts, tools and techniques–brinkmanship, bargaining, unconditional moves, vicious circles, etc.–with an astonishing diversity of illustrative examples drawn from political campaigns, baseball, neighborhood dynamics of segregation, the military draft, speed limits, childrearing and so forth. In helping strategists anticipate rivals′ responses and win the game, economics professors Dixit and Nalebuff (who teach game theory at Princeton and Yale, respectively) provide managers, negotiators, athletes, parents and other game-players with a formidable weapon.

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      Why Not?
      The notion that innovation can be “routinized” is a perennial theme of business theorists. This engaging primer is more insightful than the usual free-associational, brainstorming protocols.

      Economist Nalebuff and law professor Ayres insist that “innovation is a skill that can be taught,” and distill it into a few rules of thumb, like “where else would it work?” (putting airline data recorders into cars, for example) and “would flipping it work?”, which involves gonzo conceptual inversions like students raising their hands to not be called on or “reverse 900 numbers” where telemarketers pay people to accept calls.

      Leavened with a little economics, game theory, psychology and contract law, the authors′ framework furnishes useful heuristics to analyze a host of problems from auto theft to campaign finance reform. The result is an interesting compendium of market-oriented socioeconomic fixes, some intriguing (having HMOs sell their members life insurance as an incentive to keep them alive), and a few improbable (offering Palestinians stock in Israeli companies in exchange for a peace settlement).

      Their system does not, alas, always live up to its billing as an assembly line for business innovations. Many of the ideas they showcase are culled from other sources, and many, like having video renters rewind before-not after-they watch the tape, amount to trivial wrinkles on established practice.

      The dream of reducing creativity to a set of automatic procedures, shorn of expertise, trial-and-error, eureka moments and plain old hardthinking remains elusive, but the authors seem to know it when they see it.

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