Until not too long ago, the second half of the 1800s, all business was like playing Connect Four.
The playing field was known, strategies were simple and if you could see a couple of moves ahead you would do well. This was the realm of bakers, farmers, tailors and fishermen.
Then came along the Industrial Revolution and the game changed. Over the course of 1 or 2 generations the game changed from Connect Four to Chess. It was a completely different game.
Mom & pop shops all over the world went out of business because they could no longer compete with cheap mass-produced goods out of the big factories. Planning and predictability became the name of the new game. Resource utilisation, economies of scale, supply chain management and budgets became important tools for senior management to move us pawns across a huge chess board.
But the good news is the game is changing again. Information asymmetry is gone. Fuelled by the internet in general and social media in particular consumers know more than ever, possibly more than you do. The world around us is being commoditised as Joe Pine explains nicely in his TED Talk about the The Experience Economy. And to add insult to injury cause and effect are becomes more and more fuzzy.
The world is rapidly changing to playing Texas Hold’em Poker. No amount of willing or trying will make a game of poker predictable.
The trick of the game is to learn. In an individual game you need to learn what cards your opponents have; over the course of multiple games you need to learn what playing style your opponents have and their tells.
What kind of company are you working for? Are they trying to know and predict everything? Do they have ‘The Plan’? They are still playing chess then. There is a reason serious chess players play with a clock. Given unlimited time they would never make a move.
One of the biggest hands in poker was for $5,897,501, the difference between 1st and 2nd place in the 2006 World Series of Poker. You can see it here.
Even for this hand there was no clock. It would have been pointless anyway.
Poker players know they won’t know everything, not the cards of your opponent and the cards that still need to be drawn. What they do is figure out what the possible scenarios are and try to learn as much as possible, usually by investing (betting) money.
So? Does your company have THE plan? Or does it have a few scenarios and is it betting small while trying to learn? Which one do you think is more more likely to win at poker?