"Business is a game, played for fantastic stakes, and you're in competition with experts. If you want to win, you have to learn to be a master of the game." -Sidney Sheldon
I'M NOT SURE IF YOU KNEW THIS, BUT MY GUY IS OBSESSED WITH BOARD GAMES.
I’m talking obscure games, not the Monopoly you and I grew up with. He’s got a collection of 200 plus games in our Manhattan-sized apartment, and I’ve slowly chipped away at playing a decent amount of them. I’m not half bad either!
The other day, we were playing a particularly challenging game, and I realized how many parallels there were to business and how much gaming strategy strengthens entrepreneurial thinking.
So, let's dig in and talk about leveling up and winning at the game of business!
THE RULEBOOK ISN’T THE GAME
I like playing games, but I don’t particularly like learning games. The problem is, to play the games and have the fun, I have to learn the damn thing…and those rulebooks daunt me!
And, oh my gosh, isn’t that the same with pretty much anything half-challenging or new?
But! The rulebook isn’t the game! It’s just the gatekeeper and first step needed to enjoy (and win) the game.
There are so many “rulebook” equivalents in our businesses - the things we need to do to get to the stuff we really enjoy. The first steps required to get to the fun part.
Don’t judge the game by the rulebook.
HAVE A FLEXIBLE STRATEGY
With every new game we play, I always want to get right to strategy and plan the whole game out before I’m finished with the first turn. Sometimes this works for me, but most of the time I can’t plan further than a few turns ahead because the game changes as we play.
When I’m locked into a strategy, I end up missing opportunities right in front of me.
This was a lightbulb moment for me that translated to my work. Strategy is important, absolutely, but we want to adopt a flexible strategy that allows us to pivot when the game changes or doesn't go as planned. And when does it ever goes as planned?
It’s never all strategy or all luck; it’s a dance between the two.
PLAY THE HAND YOU'RE DEALT
It's so tempting when you don't have the best hand to want wait around for better cards to become available or to mentally throw in the towel and stop trying. Ditto in our businesses.
How many of us are waiting for the next "turn" to get started? How often do we blame circumstances on the cards we've been dealt?
Playing the hand we have means working with the skills and knowledge we have now, not waiting until "then" when everything is lined up perfectly.
It also means playing the life we’re currently living and honoring the hand we have, instead of pretending or wishing it's different.
This is why onesie-fit all approaches don’t work in business, they assume we’re all holding the same hand.
By the way, you can win with any hand, it's all how you play the game.
BUILD AN ENGINE THAT WORKS FOR YOU
Almost every game I’ve learned has a mechanic called an “engine.” This is a fancy sounding term for items or cards you collect during the game that enhance your abilities and allow you to optimize your actions more efficiently.
The stronger your engine gets, the more you can do in a single turn, and the more points you can collect.
If you want to win, you HAVE to focus on building your engine at the start of the game. It’s really tempting, though, to go straight for anything that gives you points.
Engine building is rarely exciting and it delays your score, so it can feel counterintuitive. But, I've learned, if you don’t set yourself up for success at the beginning of a game, you usually end up losing by a landslide at the end.
This is everything. We have to strategically build an engine at the START of anything, so we can effectively "optimize our turns". This means having the long view instead of just rushing out for a quick point grab.
DON'T FORGET TO HAVE FUN
This is an entire blog post on its own (along with the idea of gamifying our businesses), but it seems an important note to end on. Don't forget to have fun. In your business endeavors, in the passions you pursue, in life.
I'd be lying if I said things never got heated and we didn't take playing games too seriously every once in a while.
The competitiveness and self-induced pressure in game playing can suck the fun out of the room. Ditto in our entrepreneurial lives. It's great to think about "winning" but let's not forgot why we got into the game in the first place and remember to have fun. After all, isn't that the whole point?
Now it’s your turn (see what I did there?!). How can you apply game-think to your business so you level up and make it more fun? Let me know in the comments below!
Here’s to winning at the game of business and life! Wishing you your version of success!