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Another three things Game of Thrones taught businesses this week


Last week’s episode gave us three stellar business lessons.

This week, Season 4, Episode 9, of Game of Thrones, The Watchers on the Wall, was something of an epic. It pulled together a number of characters’ final appearances, spent the entire hour on what was effectively one long battle scene, and as with last week, reminded us of a few decent business lessons.

For the uninitiated, this episode centres on the defence of Castle Black, a stronghold defended by a greatly outnumbered group called “The Night’s Watch”. Castle Black is the keep for a defensive structure known as the ‘The Wall’ (in the same style as Hadrian’s and the Great of China, but far higher and set in permafrost). The aggressors in this case are a group of bandits called “Wildlings” and an army of human and mythical other characters under the command of a man named Mance.

So, what are the three business lessons we learned from Game of Thrones this week?

1. Sometimes it is ok to deceive the leadership

Partway through the attack on Castle Black, Ser Alliser, the leader of the Night’s Watch, descends the wall to lead the defence in hand-to-hand combat, leaving Janos Slynt in charge.

Slynt quickly shows himself to be ill-equipped for battle leadership, and is promptly deceived into descending the wall under the pretext of being needed below. This allows Jon Snow to take charge, lead the defence atop the wall, and prove he is able to effectively lead the Night’s Watch.

Business lesson: Back yourself. If you’re sure what you’re doing is right, even if it means deceiving someone senior, do it; similarly, when given the chance to lead, seize it.

2. (S)he who hesitates is lost

Towards the end of the episode, Jon realised Ygritte (a former lover who then shot him with arrows, but he survived) had an arrow drawn at him.

While they stared at each other and Ygritte fails to loose her shaft, she receives a fatal arrow through the back from a different young man. Had she backed herself and released the arrow, incapacitating Snow and moving on, she may have lived and the third point below would not exist.

Business lesson: When you have your opportunities, take them. There is often no place for emotion, so take the shot when you can.

3. Having a plan is better than having no plan

The final scene of the episode is of Jon Snow departing Castle Black and The Wall on a mission to find Mance, in the hope that killing him will shatter the resolve and unity of the Wildling-mythical creature army. While this appears madness, there is no way the Night’s Watch will be able to win in an attrition battle.

Not only is Snow showing leadership and engineering an opportunity, he has a plan. It may be a dangerous one for his personal safety, but if he waits until tomorrow, Castle Black and The Wall may have fallen.

Business lesson: A plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Especially when you are in a pinch and the team may be a little disheartened.

This episode showed us that when things get serious, you need to make big calls. It was overwhelmingly about decisive decision making and leadership.

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, he just couldn’t resist sharing the business lessons learned from Game of Thrones this week. He is a consultant at edgelabs.