Partner Sites

Logo BusinessBecause - The business school voice
mobile search icon

Predict The Future By Observing The Past, Says Game Theorist

Professor Patrick McNutt, Visiting Fellow at Manchester Business School, says we can observe behaviour patterns in business to predict with a degree of probability what will happen next


Tue Feb 28 2012

Some people argue that Economics isn’t a predictive science; that you can’t model the future using data or observations from the past.

But game theorists disagree. According to game theory, it’s possible to observe the behaviour of rational players in a game (any two individuals or groups) and predict what decision they’ll make next. As long as you have sufficient information about the players’ types and you know both the rules and dimension of the game, you can model the probability of future decisions.

Whether you’re watching the interplay of two soccer teams (e.g. Manchester United versus Barcelona), two chess players (e.g. Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky) or two corporate competitors (e.g. Apple and Google) you should be able to notice “patterns like footprints in the sand” says Professor Patrick McNutt, a proponent of game theory.

A mathematician and behavioural economist, formerly Professor of Political Economy at University of Ulster, and graduate of the University of Oxford, McNutt thinks game theory is a “wonderful way to get people interested in Economics” although he acknowledges it needs to be “more intuitive and less mathematical” for a non-academic audience to understand.

McNutt divides his time between academic work and consulting. He works to identify and implement creative opportunities for you and your company or organisation, deploying economic and game theory tools, where appropriate, in a refreshing and innovative way, in order to provide you with critical insights and forward looking ideas.

A Visiting Fellow of Manchester Business School Worldwide, McNutt teaches MBA courses such as ‘Managerial Economics’ and ‘Ethics & Governance’ to business students in Manchester, Singapore and Dubai. He has published a hefty selection of academic literature including a book on how businesses can think strategically: ‘Game Embedded Strategy’.

McNutt also consults for major corporations using the principles of game theory to run executive workshops, coach managers, map competitor landscapes and even predict share price movements. He says he helps organisations and senior executives to “look in a non-lateral way into the future by looking at what decisions have been made in the past”. He has worked with many different private companies as well chairing the Irish Competition Authority and acting as a government consultant to the island of Jersey.


Professor 'Paddy' McNutt

McNutt provides numerous examples of how game theory is applied in every day life – ranging from the Behavioral Science unit of the FBI, the generic patent competition in the pharmaceutical industry and even the Google Plus and Facebook timelines that are attempting to filter people’s lives into patterns.

McNutt uses game theory to explain the outcome of a recent European soccer (football) match. When Spanish team Barcelona play non-Spanish teams the pattern is for them not to score a goal in their first 30 minutes. If you’re the manager of the opposing team you know this, but the manager of Barcelona also knows this.

The ’30 minute no goal’ pattern was broken last year when Barcelona scored against Manchester United in the 27th minute. Both sides knew the established pattern and, as predicted by game theorists, Barcelona won the match by scoring an early goal and creating a first-mover advantage.

Another example McNutt likes to cite is “the smart phone game” (video commentary on his webpage) where he argues that Apple might not necessarily win the game. Google now have EU permission to acquire Motorola in Europe and have pledged regular software updates for Google smart phones (the so-called ‘Android Alliance); Samsung, HTC and the MS-Nokia alliance are significant competitors in 2012. The dimension of the game may be in Google’s favour. The winner will be the player who obtains a sustainable competitive advantage in the smart-phone game – and that depends on winning the sub-game, that is the ecosystem, iOS v Android v MS.

So whether it’s phones, personal everyday choices, chess competitions, corporate battles, power struggles or soccer matches, behavioural economists say there’s a way to observe, explain and predict behaviour using game theory.

On 18 April 2012 Patrick McNutt spoke at a BusinessBecause MBA networking event at Google's London offices. Themed 'Google, gaming and getting ahead', the evening kicked off with a game theory talk by Professor McNutt followed by plenty of wine, canapes and discussion amongst pre-MBAs, current business students and alumni.


Compare b-school rankings from the FT, BusinessWeek and Economist on the MBA rankings table

Student Reviews

Alliance Manchester Business School




On Campus

The course structure

The course is well structured and organised effectively. Every subject in the field of international business is covered in the course module. The lectures are of excellent quality and are simple to comprehend.   ·      The lecturers are also very knowledgeable about their subjects, quite thorough, and very helpful when it comes to answering questions and giving additional information on their subject.   ·      Students can easily access the assignment, lectures, and seminar content thanks to the blackboard technology. Students also benefit greatly from the reading materials that are posted on the blackboard.




On Campus

Practical Business Experience

3 live consulting projects, Non-for-Profit consulting, Commercial Business Consulting and International Business Consulting projects within the programme, provide us with a great opportunity to exposure to the real business world.




Quality education and student support system

What I love about The University of Manchester is the fact that, alongside with the excellent education it provides, it also takes care of the well being of the students and supports them throughout the year.




Endless networking opportunities!

I would 100% recommend this university! Throughout my 4 years there I received endless guidance and support from the amazing staff; both professors and student support teams. A particular highlight was the insightful guest lectures, networking employability events and career meetings, these significantly helped in preparing me for my future career.




Fantastic University!

AMBS provides excellent teaching and outstanding facilities, both of which combine to make a great learning experience. The teaching staff make sure we have plenty of resources to aid our learning, and always make sure we are making the most of our studies. The business building itself is the most impressive on campus, and provides plenty of places in which we can work.




Great facilities and support

It is a great university that provides extra support for its students. The teachers are very helpful and willing to support you and the environment is just great. It offers good facilities, study spaces and workshops that can help in your experience as a student.




New building, innovative teaching methods

The staff is very well prepared and pays a lot of attention to the student. The building is new and full of updated facilities. Teachers propose intriguing learning methods and there are plenty of international students to learn from.




It's an amazing University!

I think that AMBS is among the most well rounded universities in the UK. The cultural diversity among the students as well as the faculty is what catches my attention the most. The campus is very new and beautiful and has all kinds of facilities.




Quality and QS World Ranking

AMBS has the diverse set of batch where the students get the opportunity to mingle with the students coming from different parts of the world. The group of faculty is also very diverse having different skill set. I'd always recommend it for studying masters in business analytics.