I’ve been playing a lot of Risk this week. Admittedly, it’s the computer version, not the actual board game, but it accomplishes the same thing. The beauty of Risk is that it forces you to make choices, or you can’t succeed. There are a lot of other great lessons in it, too.
Here are 19 vital lessons from playing Risk that apply to your business strategy:
- Focus your efforts.
- Have a plan, and stick to it.
- Be flexible enough to react to new opportunities.
- When the new opportunities are more promising than your plan, at least consider changing plans. If not, take on only the opportunities that fit into your plan, and either neautralize or ignore the others, and be content that others might benefit from them.
- Don’t spread yourself too thin.
- Protect your borders.
- Monopolize whenever possible, even if it’s just a small niche (continent).
- Be patient, and know when to end your turn.
- How you deploy your troops at the beginning of the game has a massive influence on the rest of the game and the choices you can make.
- Having pity on a weak competitor is not smart, and can sometimes be deadly.
- Do not stick your head in the sand as a strong competitor gets stronger in a far off place. You will eventually have to face them.
- Focus your efforts.
- Play often.
- Know when to defend, and when to attack.
- Know when to take advice, and when to ignore it (cuz someone’s who’s not playing and doesn’t have anything on the line is ALWAYS willing to tell you how to do things better).
- Focus your efforts.
- Allow sacrifices for the greater good – it’s mandatory.
- Don’t play too many games in a row; give your brain a rest.
- Focus your efforts.
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Watching the NFL Draft can be a rather fascinating process, as it was this past weekend. There’s so much excitement in the thought of grabbing that amazing talent and seeing your favorite team add to their roster, not knowing if they’re going to pan out in the end. Over the past few years, the draft has become quite a complex event, with trades up, and trades down, and trades for players, etc.
Unlike the days at the playground when two captains were picked to choose who they wanted on their kickball team, today’s NFL team management can’t simply pick the best players available. There’s a lot more to consider, and each consideration is something we as entrepreneurs must also take into account on a regular basis.
Here are some quick considerations on the draft and strategy that I hope you can easily translate into your own planning:
- Consider your needs. More than anything, a team’s specific needs influences the draft pick more than anything. Sure, there might be a stud quarterback waiting to get picked up, but if you’ve already got your QB of the future, then you don’t need another one. Address other needs, or support your QB by getting him a better wide receiver. Each team goes into the draft with certain positional needs they want to meet, which narrows their picks down significantly. By focusing on your area of needs, you can easily wade through the murky waters to find the types of players/opportunities that will help out the most.
- Consider the market. This year was not a good draft for wide receivers, so you didn’t see any picked in the first round. There are plenty of teams that need a wide receiver, but since the market for them is low, there’s no need wasting a first round pick on something you can easily get in the second or third round. Knowing the market – or better, the opportunities that the current market is providing – has significant bearing on your decisions. It doesn’t make since to invest too heavily in the best choice from a sub-par group. Either go for value (later rounds) or put it off (next year’s draft).
- Consider the timing. The funny thing with the NFL Draft is that no team can get everything they need to make an immediate impact. You have to choose filling certain needs and leaving other needs still empty. It becomes a question of timing: will picking up the linebacker this year have a significant impact on the team over the next three years, or will getting that cornerback? Can I put off getting the linebacker until next year and still be ok? Again, the ability to focus and plan becomes huge in the draft. The Dolphins definitely can’t fix their team in just a single year’s draft, so they picked up lots of foundational positions they know can help over the long haul. However, the Giants, having already won a Super Bowl, attached their need for secondary defense to make their team even stronger, and it will directly, positively affect their success next year. That’s just where there team is at this point.
- Consider your reality. Speaking of the Dolphins, you gotta know when you suck and have lots to work on, or when you are only one small fix away from making great things happen. Look at the Chiefs this year: they are clearly rebuilding, so they got rid of some of their current talent (Jared Allend) and managed to pick up additional picks in the draft. The players they picked up this year will exercise huge influence on the team for years to come, but it took admitting that you’re not winning the Super Bowl in the next couple years to make that happen. We often times hang on to our strategies for too long, not willing to define reality. The sooner you can accurately pinpoint where your business is, the sooner you can pinpoint the areas you need to address to get better.
- Consider your customers. Or in this case, your customers. The Atlanta Falcons picked up Matt Ryan, a quaterback from Boston College. Some people think Ryan will be great, others not so much. But the key for the Falcons has more to do with giving their fans, who’ve had a horrible year (Michael Vick, Bobby Petrino), something to hold onto. Yes, you could probably add a nice offensive lineman here, but fans don’t get excited about the offensive line. Fans like quarterbacks, and that’s what the Falcons are giving their fans. Always consider your customers – they mean too much to your business to simply overlook. Yes, they may occassionally sway you from making smart decisions, and you have to know when and where to draw the line, but often the simplest acts of good will and open communication can do wonders.
Living the Dash comments on Apple’s ability to focus, and how it pretty much proves the fact that less is almost always more. Read the whole thing.
Here’s the quote by Steve Jobs on focus:
“Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we’ve got less than 30 major products. I don’t know if that’s ever been done before. Certainly the great consumer electronics companies of the past had thousands of products. We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”
Amazing to think that Apple only has 30 products. However, they have the manpower to give each of those products the attention and focus it needs to become great.
Start saying no – to potential clients, promotional opportunities, new products and vendors that don’t fit. Opportunities will always be knocking, but you should never just let strangers walk right in.
Similar posts on Brett’s Blog:
- Branding: A Product of Strategy
- Return on Attention
My wife and I spent our Friday night at the Meyerson in Dallas listening to Amy Grant and band play with the Dallas Pops Orchestra behind. It was nice, especially for my wife who is one of the biggest Amy Grant fans on the planet.
As things got started, the orchestra began the tuning process. You know the one: you hear a single note, then lots of single notes from different instruments, and then all sonic hell breaks loose for about 30 seconds. And then they just stop.
I had forgotten that the oboe is always the instrument that starts things off. The rest of the orchestra tunes to the oboe, apparently because oboes cannot adjust intonation like other instruments. In other words, the oboe is the standard for the rest of the orchestra to compare to. It is ground zero.
Everyone needs the occassional tune-up, but what are you tuning to? What is your standard, your ground zero? In the case of business and marketing, it’s entirely too easy and too tempting to chase projects beyond your area of strategic focus. Sometimes it’s a wise move; sometimes it’s not. However, it’s inevitable, at least to a certain degree.
The key is knowing what your oboe is, and taking time on a regular basis to tune accordingly. Is your firm dedicated to providing marketing help to small business? Check in every once in a while to be sure you’re not chasing too many large corporations. Are you a designer or writer who specializes and shines in the B2B market? Then limit what you chase in the B2C world.
Identify your oboe and schedule time for tuning. Otherwise, you’ll end up tuning to a trombone or timpani, and nobody wants that.
I haven’t written a post in almost a week, which is fairly rare for me. The fact is, I haven’t really had anything worth saying, or an urge to say it. I’ve got nothing to bring to the table. And for once, I think it’s better to say nothing than to say anything.
I am offering no value to you, the reader.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t always abide by these rules. I confess, I’ve occassionally posted some real crap over the past year just so I could just have something new up on Brett’s Blog. But I knew it was crap, and I bet you did, too. Sorry about that.
I’m hoping to provide value from here on out. Whether it’s a rant, an observation, a link to something else valuable, a stat, a question or a service, my goal is that each post has value. Obviously, you might not agree with me on what is and isn’t valuable, and we can figure that out along the way. But I have to at least personally think it’s valuable before it can be any value to you.
The principle obviously isn’t limited to blogging. Does your new product add value, or do you just need to launch something? Is your email newsletter adding value, or do you just need to get it out there cuz that’s what you do once a month? Is your time with your kids valuable to them (and you), or are you just clocking in so you feel better about yourself?
The point: Figure out how you can add value, find new ways of doing on a regular basis, and if it’s not valuable, don’t do it.
Alternative title = Branding: Not the Instigator of Strategy
John clarifies the very conundrum my feeble mind has been wrestling with the past few days: How are branding and strategy different? The answer, in short, is they are almost synonymous.
More importantly, why are some people declared as gurus in branding and others as gurus of strategies? The answer, in short, is that same person is a guru of both.
When people start to separate strategy from branding, and vice versa, you can bet the farm that someone has a bad idea of what branding is. In fact, they probably think it mostly affects the logo, the packaging and the colors and fonts used on the website. It’s a common mistake.
But if branding is “the difference,” then it’s the strategy that identifies those differences and determines how to act on them, and branding is then more a product of the strategy. It’s the result of the impressions you make.
Once you have that strategy in place, and once the impressions are being made, then your brand becomes clearer by the day. At which time you can be sure your logo, packaging and website are all aligned to communicate in a way that supports that brand.
But don’t do it the other way around. Cuz if your customers think your brand means something different than you do, then you’ve wasted a lot of time and money on all the frilly stuff.
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- The Best Branding Presentation I’ve ever seen
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I stumbled across this New Jersey marketing company’s website as I was surfing tonight. I think it is a pretty informative site that explains the company well until I clicked on this link about PR.
In case you didn’t click it, it just says “coming soon.”
Every other menu item contains a full description on the area of marketing expertise the company provides. Market research. Strategic Planning. Even Commercial Printing.
But not Public Relations.
So, do you hesitate at all in trusting these guys with your PR needs? I do. If anything, the “coming soon” tells me that PR is what they are the weakest at. In fact, my guess is they’ve just thrown it in there because it rounds out their services; it’s expected of a “full-service” marketing company.
My advice: Write something about how you approach PR fast (I mean, isn’t this kind of a PR opportunity for your company?) or don’t build the webpage.
Better advice: Just drop it altogether. If it’s not your area of expertise, let it go. My impression is you’re really good at the other stuff, so leave it at that. Find someone to refer your clients to. It will actually make you more valuable to them, not less. Providing services that you’re not an expert in is what lowers your value.
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- Getting Away From Your Bread and Butter
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It’s amazing how well stories and analogies teach us. Maybe that’s why Jesus often spoke in parables.
This gem of a post on Start Up Blog relates growing vegetables to growing a business. The similarities are astounding. A few morsels:
The market is a competitive one. We’ll need to fight off bugs, birds and insects, who want to feed on our efforts. This proves you’ve got a fertile market… one worth doing, one with yield.
We’ll learn that all vegetables are seasonal. We’ll learn that not all climates (markets) suit all vegetables. We’ll realize we get better results when we focus on a veggie we have expert knowledge with.
The effort need not be excessive, just consistent. We can grow an entire garden, or even a pumpkin in a pot will give the same benefit.
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The NFL Network and Apple both have one thing in common: they’re screwing their potential customers.
For the NFL Network, they’re only allowing their channel to be on the DISH Network, which most of us don’t have, and therefore most of us can’t watch this week’s Redskins/Bears game, or last week’s Cowboys/Packers game, or possibly the most historical game in NFL history when the Patriots take on the Giants on the last Thursday of the regular season to see if they can go 16-0.
Even though I had to hear Jerry Jones lobby for signing up for the DISH before his Cowboys took the field last Thursday, I have to think this kind of doing business is pissing more people off than it is generating new DISH customers. More importantly, it’s giving us all a sour taste of the NFL network and its new commissioner, turning them from possibly the last sports league that actually cares about its fans into the profit-hungry conglomerate that makes self-centered deals like this.
Then there’s Apple and its iPhone, sacking up with AT&T (at the time Cingular) as the only carrier of service for the new phone. Forget the fact that Apple’s discounting and apologies have taken a huge hit in the public the last few months. The fact that I’d have to possibly change carriers between now and 2011 just to get a cool phone is nothing shy of stupid. Pre-launch, Apple was on the verge of exploding. Why do they enforce these kinds of self-inflicted limiters when they didn’t need it?
In short, it’s cuz of money. More specifically, it’s cuz of money from someone other than their customers.
It’s always tempting to chase money from third-party services because you assume your loyal fans will do just about anything you ask them to. I’ve been a part of such schemes before. I’ve been in favor of them, in fact.
But they don’t work.
The simple principle is that your business should succeed because you’re offering more to your customers. Not by limiting them. Not by offering their loyalty to other “partner” companies. This is where the NFL and the iPhone is falling short, and they’ll keep falling until they change it.
I found myself shocked today as I looked on the back of a book and noticed a call to action for an AOL Keyword.
AOL Keywords used to be pretty dang important. But is it even relevant now? In a world where Google dominates and Yahoo, Ask.com, AOL and many others continue to nip at their heels, what makes your keyword so special?
Click here for an interactive version of the AOL Page View graph below at Alexa.com
I’m not dogging AOL – they pretty much invented the web culture in the very beginning, and their marketing tactics of free minutes and CDs in the mail was extremely successful. But there time has come and gone, and I really don’t see how they could ever make a significant comeback.
Do you think the same thing will ever happen to Google? Do you see a time in the next 25 years where there’s a bigger player than Google?