Sherlock Holmes and Strategy: A Scandal In Bohemia and Two Ways You Can Improve Your Strategic Think


Irene Adler (BBC Sherlock Scandal in Belgravia Promo Photo)

In the story, A Scandal In Bohemia, Sherlock encounters a problem that requires him to use a unique strategy. Irene Adler doesn't want to give up a photo of herself and the king of Bohemia. The king thinks that this photo, if made public, will ruin his chances with the king of Scandinavia's daughter. The king has already tried to rob the woman twice to retrieve the photograph, but because of the resourcefulness of Irene, he ends up short handed each time. He hires Sherlock to retrieve the photo.

What is strategy exactly? Merriam Webster's dictionary defines it as, "the art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal". We use strategy on a daily basis. When you wake up in the morning, you may ask yourself, "What do I need to accomplish today?". After you figure out what you need to do, regardless of what that is, you start planning, probably sequentially, what you need to do in order to accomplish those tasks. Depending on the complexity of the tasks, you may need to get help accomplishing your goals. In a lot of ways, you are a master of strategy because you have been strategizing and planning for years. From applying for a job to playing a video game, strategy is something we use often. But some strategies may not be as obvious to us, as was the case with the king of Bohemia. What are some things we can do to improve our strategies?

Explore Your Options

Holmes has determined that the photograph isn't with a banker, lawyer or love interest, so the photo must be in the apartment of Irene. Holmes knows that he can get Irene to actually show him where the photograph is hidden, but he first needs to find a way into the apartment. How is he to do this? There are only so many ways that any one person can get into a building. Here are his options.

  • Option 1: Sneak into her apartment

  • Option 2: Knock and ask to come in

  • Option 3: Indirectly find a way in

Explore Your Options

One of the most challenging things about strategies is being able to anticipate the flow of affairs or future outcomes. We can't see into the future so what can we do to ensure things go our way? Holmes plans a very elaborate show to ensure that he is let into the apartment. He pays some people to start a fight right in front and near Irene, just outside her apartment. Her attention is drawn. Holmes walks into the fray to "protect" from the scuffle. Holmes is presumably knocked to the ground from a hard blow. The men that started the fight scurry off. Afterwards, some people amongst the crowd of onlookers suggest they bring the limp, bleeding man into her house to recover.

His strategy is powerful. By stepping into her way under the guise of protection, he makes her feel she owes him something indirectly. Additionally, the naturalness and speed of events, give her little to no time to evaluate if it's a good idea to let a complete stranger into her home. The events unfurl like a scene in a play.

The big takeaway from this is if you want to improve your strategies, you first need to explore the options that you have. I listed three things that Holmes could have done to get into her apartment. Had he chosen to sneak into it, he would have had to devise a way to arrive when no one was there. He would also have to use his lock picking & burglar skills. Considering that the king of Bohemia had already tried this technique, it may not have been the best option to employ. Had Holmes chosen to knock and try to gain admittance, what methods could tempt her to let him inside?

  • Hello, I am with Scotland Yard and we are investigating a string of murders in the area. Can I come inside?

  • I am selling some new product that you may be interested in. Can I come inside and show you? <