Written by Orson Scott Card
Read by Soyeon Shim, dean of the School of Human Ecology at UW–Madison
“Last year, when my new dean of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) arrived back in Arizona, he created a new position — associate dean for strategic initiative for CALS — and he asked me to serve as the inaugural occupant of this position. I happily accepted the challenge because I have long been a student of management strategies and leadership in general, and over the years I have earned a reputation among my colleagues as a strategic-minded administrator. At my first meeting with the dean, he handed me a book, entitled Ender’s Game.
For a few moments, I was at a loss as to why he would want me to read what appeared at first glance to be a children’s science fiction book. When I inquired as to its relevance, he simply said, “Read it and tell me what you think.” Well, I’d never enjoyed science fiction in general, let alone children’s science fiction; nevertheless, I reluctantly brought the book home and asked my young-adult children if they had ever heard of it. They spoke together, saying they had read it, and they loved it. I also soon thereafter discovered that Ender’s Game has been widely read by both children and adults in the years since it was first published in 1985. With this in mind, I began to read (I won’t reveal what the plot is about other than to say that it tells the story of an extremely intelligent boy named Andrew Wiggin, whose nickname is Ender, who becomes a gifted soldier in a battle against alien invaders). At first I struggled to appreciate the story, and I was saddened because children are taken from their homes to be trained as soldiers and then sent out to fight on a battlefield.
But then, toward the end of the tale, I realized that this and many other seemingly dubious tactics were all part of a unified strategy designed to win the war. And now I can tell you that, although I have read many books on strategy, none has done better than Ender’s Game at giving me a clear sense of the true nature and purpose of the concept we call The Grand Strategy, and how winning takes a special combination of innovative thinking, persistence and the capacity to bring out leadership abilities in others.”