Confession: I have developed a not so mild obsession with the Game of Thrones series. I’ve read all of the books (no spoilers here, promise) and recently caved to start watching the series. You can expect battles won and lost, love beautiful and forbidden, triumph and tragedy, conflict and alliances and so much more. Many want the throne and have their own reasons to claim it, but if you read a little between the lines, there are some pretty good business strategy lessons in there.
10 Business Strategy Lessons (Game of Thrones Style)
1. “Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle.” Jon Snow. – There are many paths to reach your goals. I interpret this to mean be open to and aware of other ideas, options, and different ways and means to whatever your end game is. Oh and btw, don’t put all your eggs in one basket…have a plan B, C, D. Another thing, while I totally subscribe to the focus and knock it out of the park (rinse and repeat) strategy, I would add is that there are many castles out there… no need to choose just one.
2. “Can a man choose to be brave if he is afraid?” Bran Stark to his father. “A man can only be brave when he is afraid.” Replied his father Eddard Stark. – It’s that first sign of discomfort that will either make you stand up for something, stand up to someone and take a stand. In business, recognizing that twinge of discomfort as a tool to signal that action needs to be taken is very valuable in your business toolbox. Feel the fear…and do it anyway…unless it’s a really bad idea…but that is why you trust your gut, to keep you focused and on track.
3. “Now Bran, choose. Fly or Die.” Said by a crow in Bran’s dream. – My take…just do it…or don’t. But if you don’t do it… you will never know… and if you do, you will either succeed or learn. Not bad options if you choose to Fly if you ask me. It’s the status quo if you don’t fly. Oh the thought of status quo…>>shudder<<.
4. “Know the men that follow you. Let them know you. Don’t ask them to die for a stranger.” Eddard Stark to his son Robb – If you are leading a team, are remotely influential or desire to lead, than you must connect with people on a personal level. People do business with people. People follow people. Surround yourself with people you trust and who trust you. It’s easier to ask people to go to bat for you if they know you as a human being and trust in what you say and stand for. This is team building and team motivation 101. Oh… and business, by the way, IS personal. As long as people are involved in business, it will always be personal.
5. “The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them whether the high lords play their game of thrones so long as they are left in peace.” Ser Jorah – There are some things that matter and some that do not. While customers are not to be considered lesser or “common”, at the end of the day, as long as your customers are happy, they need not be distracted with internal issues. Focus on delighting the customer, every day, all the time. Keep internal challenges, internal.
6. “There is no honor in beating a fallen foe.” Jon Snow followed with “Know your foe.” From Ser Rodrick – I don’t think we really have “enemies” in business, but we do have competition. It is important to be AWARE of your competition. Know what their strengths and weaknesses are, what they are up to, who they are wooing. Any more than that is diverting well deserved energy, attention and resources from your own business and strategy. Know your foe, but don’t spin your wheels trying to destroy them. It’s a surefire way to destroy your business in the process. If your business is or offers something of extreme value, it will happen organically. Besides, there is room for more than a couple players in this business game.
7. “Each bruise is a lesson. Each lesson makes us better.” Syrio – All those things they don’t teach you in business school. You will make mistakes in business as you do anywhere else. Some of them will be costly. Your ego may even take a hit. You may experience loss. Let me tell you, your business mistakes, will teach you more and enable you to develop better strategies more than any text book you have read, or any guru you have listened to, lecture you have heard or any piece of paper you have earned. Embrace your mistakes, learn from them and move on!
8. Lady Caetlyn had taken a prisoner and on her way back to her castle her envoy was ambushed. So what do you do? Leave your prisoner to die or possibly even go on the side of the enemy OR arm him and make him fight for you? “Arm him!” she said. – It’s a tough situation at best. But maybe if you arm your competition or even ones who you don’t think are on your side with a little bit of information, perhaps enough to either sway them to your cause or to plant seeds of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (also known as FUD), you can use it to your advantage? To that end, arm appropriately. Not everyone get’s the same info, access, and level of responsibility. That is earned, but in a pinch, you might have to take a chance!
9. “When you play the game of thrones you live or die, there is no middle ground.” Cersei – I don’t care for this character in the book (who does?), but I’m also very much a binary person. Kind of along the same lines as “DO or Do Not, there is no Try”as Yoda said. Or Mr. Miyagi’s wisdom in Karate Kid about choosing a side, but not the middle or you will get squashed like a grape. If you are going to go for it in business, go for it full on. Learn along the way but don’t give it your “some.” If it means anything to you, if you believe in it, give it your ALL.
10. “The devil is in the details, and this book has a lot of devils.” (paraphrased) From the author George R. R. Martin. – While I don’t really want to know ALL of the things that go through Mr. Martin’s mind in writing these books, I have to say the quality, the story lines, the language and intricacy of the detail is incredible and impeccable. He is writing this story in a series, much like any product that has versions, subscription that gets new features, products and services that improve. He didn’t put EVERYTHING in the first book, but what he put in was STELLAR. Make your V 1.0 awesome, but leave something for V 2.0, V 3.0 and so on and so on. You don’t have to give away EVERYTHING at the beginning. Great products and services combined with developing a loyal customer base is the best business strategy for longevity.
Like what you read? Pick up The Game of Thrones books or if you need a quick fix, watch the series. Looking forward to more from Mr. George R. R. Martin in 2015 maybe?