One of the most popular posts I’ve written for this blog was What Game of Thrones Teaches Us About Business Communications. With season four coming soon, what better time to take a new look at what we can learn from last year’s adventures in Westeros.
Share your vision
Robb Stark fails to trust his uncle Edmure with his entire battle strategy to defeat the Lannisters. Because of this, Edmure unwittingly foils Robb’s plans. To make it up to him, Edmure agrees to marry Roslin Frey and… oh god, it’s horrible. Anyway, you may think that your employees can be on a need-to-know basis, but the truth is that employees want to know how their actions contribute to the company’s overall goals. Not only does it improve morale, it also improves decision making. Edmure made his decisions based on his goal of winning a battle, because Robb failed to communicate his strategy for winning the war. This is a common problem, especially in larger companies. As Joel Trammell said in Forbes:
The situation where employees take actions that they believe are totally correct but works against the broader interests of the business have led me to my definition of a “big company.” A big company is one where otherwise perfectly competent and productive employees consistently make decisions that are opposed to the success of the company. This is because their goals are not aligned with the high-level goals of the organization. Understanding that these problems are alignment problems and not employee problems is critical to maximizing productivity.
How do you avoid the “big company” problem? Make sure that you have a clear system in place that aligns the goals of each employee with the goals of the organization as a whole. It is possible to get alignment no matter how large the organization.
Everyone from Walder Frey down to the musicians playing the “Rains of Castamere” understood what was supposed to happen at the Red Wedding. With that kind of organization and focus across your business, who knows what you could achieve? (But please, leave the Stark kids alone, haven’t they suffered enough?)
King Joffrey “Baratheon” foolishly dismisses Ser Barristan Selmy from the Kingsguard due to his advanced age. The silver fox hightails it to Essos and hooks up with Daenerys Targaryen, becoming a key member of her entourage. Much as in sword fighting, youth doesn’t necessarily trump experience in the workplace, even when it comes to technology. Today’s 40-year old was born in 1974 and was just entering the workforce at the start of the digital revolution. What they may lack in specific experience with any one technology, they can more than make up with repeated experiences in how to implement and market these new technologies both internally and externally. So really, don’t be like Joffrey. Enough said?
Forge new alliances
Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth start season three as adversaries, but after their capture by Roose Bolton’s forces, they’re able to put aside their differences to repeatedly save each other and maybe even start to fall in love (sigh). While no one expects you to develop similar feelings for your business partners, you will likely fall in love with the additional customers such alliances can bring. Whether it’s a coffee shop selling sandwiches from the deli down the street, Apple’s many successful alliances or even TDS’s own business VoIP services partnership with Polycom, you don’t have to go it alone.
Secure your data & communications
This is as true today as it was last season. The venerable Olenna Tyrell is savvy enough to send Cheese Boy (an obvious spy) away when she coaxes the terrible truth about Joffrey from poor Sansa Stark. However, the Tyrell’s plans to marry Sansa into their own family are foiled when yet another spy gets the information out of Olenna’s grandson Loras. Because it can’t be said enough, information is just as valuable as any of your businesses’ physical assets. Protect it!
In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. While today’s business world isn’t quite that harsh, you can still learn a few things from the Lannisters, Tyrells and Freys that will certainly help your business thrive.