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Napoleon's Glance

Summer 2011 EMBA Course

B7799-013: Napoleon's Glance

Block Week 1, EMBA Block Week May 9 - 13

Instructor: William Duggan

This course offers a key skill for strategy, leadership, and decision-making in business, your career, and your personal life.  Other courses teach the science of management, through analytical tools and techniques:  this course teaches the art, through strategic intuition – otherwise known as Napoleon’s glance.  


The term “Napoleon’s glance” comes from the early strategy literature.  The word “strategy” entered the English language in 1810, as military scholars rushed to study the success of Napoleon Bonaparte, who won more battles than any other general in recorded history.  Over time the study of strategy spread to other fields, especially business.  The first scholarly study of strategy, On War (1832) by Carl von Clausewitz, shows the key to Napoleon’s success as coup d’oeil, which means “glance” in French.  Today we recognize coup d’oeil as strategic intuition:  ordinary intuition is just a feeling, but strategic intuition comes from real knowledge and experience, brought together in a flash of insight to suit the situation.  It’s the “big Aha!” – or a series of little ones – that shows you the way ahead.

 This course helps you see how coup d’oeil works and how to apply it.  We learn where strategists get their strategy, where entrepreneurs get their ideas, where visionaries get their vision, where creative insights come from, how leaders know where to lead to – and how you too can prepare for, recognize, and seize on opportunities of all kinds.  Strategic intuition is a simple idea, but it’s difficult to use to full advantage in specific situations.  You will continue to learn it all your life:  this course gives you a step along that path.  You will gain insights, tools and techniques you can begin applying upon graduation – or even before, in your current job or career.    

Class sessions consist of lecture and discussion on key aspects of strategic intuition, cases that illustrate strategic intuition in action, and occasional in-class exercises and videos.  The lectures and readings come from two recent books that summarize current thinking on the subject:  Napoleon’s Glance and The Art of What Works.  Examples draw from a variety of material where the strategist’s intuition shines through.