The final scene from season 4, episode 8, of Game of Thrones, The Mountain and the Viper, provided three great lessons for anyone involved in any type of business. While these should not be new to anyone, they are good reminders.
It appears Tyrion (son of the most powerful man in the realm) is soon to have his head separated from his shoulders due to opting for a ‘trial by combat’ when accused of regicide.
For the uninitiated, trial by combat is a Westeros (the realm) ritual where someone charged with a serious crime can have their guilt, or innocence, tested in a battle to the death, where they outsource the fighting to another party, similar to the role of a second in Western duelling.
Should their ‘Champion’ win the fight, it is deemed that the accused is innocent in the eyes of the Gods and Men (Westeros pre-dates sexual equality).
Don’t stake everything on someone else’s performance
In this case, Tyrion’s champion, Oberyn, known as “The Red Viper”, has his head crushed by a man known as “The Mountain”, thereby losing the combat and condemning Tyrion to death.
Business lesson:If you’re going to outsource an important function, make sure your chosen provider can deliver as needed. Make sure they have the same motivations as you.
Don’t interrupt your enemy when they are making a mistake
The Mountain defeated the Viper after having received some critical injuries, by not letting on that he was still a threat. While the Mountain appeared vanquished and inert on his back, he allowed Oberyn to parade about the ring like the cock of the walk.
When Oberyn got too close, the Mountain had a chance to make a decisive move against a distracted competitor.
The resulting violent, and ultimately lethal, attack on Oberyn allowed him to crush (literally) his competitor, even though he appeared defeated himself moments earlier.
Had he shown signs of life before this, he may not have been treated so casually by Oberyn.
Business lesson:Use mistakes to your advantage.
Always confirm the kill
Sometimes, there is no time or place for emotion, or revenge as a driver.
When you have the chance to get the result you want, it is best to do it.
Not confirming the kill when he had the chance cost Oberyn the option of having an open casket.
Business lesson:Never make assumptions. Regardless of what you think you know, always confirm the facts.
If you have been watching Game of Thrones, you will be aware hindsight may prove the above to be complete nonsense as the plot develops.
But, since we don’t know what is coming (if you have read the books, don’t comment), as is the case with business, these seem like fair appraisals of the situation as it stands.
Questions, comments, thoughts, retorts?
Dominic Collins is a public affairs professional, specialising in stakeholder engagement, position development, communications and advocacy. A highly effective written and oral communicator who normally writes more serious pieces but, just couldn’t resist sharing the business lessons learned from Game of Thrones this week. He is a consultant at edgelabs.