Need a Strategy? Start By Playing Games

One thing that has always bothered me as a communicator — as a business manager — is when meetings start by talking about “tactics” without a mention of strategy. As soon as that happens it’s time to stop and restart the meeting.  I wrote about this before on B2B Voices when I focused on, “The Most Important Question You Can Ask.”

How do you practice developing your strategy skills?

One way to get better at strategy is to start by playing games. I don’t mean by goofing around. I mean by actually playing games.

As a father, I have to say one of the things I enjoy most with my kids is game time. And there’s nothing better than taking on my oldest in a game of strategy. Here are three games we enjoy playing.

  • Stratego: One of the great strategy board games focused on capturing your opponent’s flag. It sounds simple enough. But the trick is you don’t know what  your opponent’s piece are — the values are not facing you. Since you are not allowed to see the other player’s pieces, the game is just as much about deception as it is about being aggressive.
  • Chess: The ultimate game of thinking and strategy. My son won the chess championship for his grade last year in London  so I was especially proud of him.
  • Slay: This iPhone game is similar to Risk where you compete against other “kingdoms” for land and resources. There are no alliances to be made but you need to decide which upgrades to make, where to move, and how you will defend yourself. You can only play against the computer, so this is a great team game for me and my son.

But how do these games — and others — teach you about strategy? Here are my views:

  • Games of strategy teach you to not just think about your moves, but you need to consider the other factors that impact you. You need to take many decisions into consideration before the game begins and as it is played out.  Because of this, you need to remain agile and flexible in your thinking, knowing that your strategy may need to change along the way.
  • You need to play a lot to be good. Learning how to develop a strategy — just like playing a game — takes practice. The more you do it the better you get at not only developing it but also articulating it to others.
  • Know when to take risks and learn from your mistakes. I love when I play against my son and I can literally see the next time we play that he’s learned from his mistakes. While our work tends to be repetitive — product launches, partnership announcements, new research releases — there’s something to be said about making adjustments and trying new things.
  • You can learn from others. There’s a reason there are so many books about chess strategy — to learn and benchmark from others. Are you doing the same across other companies and communicators you emulate? We have so many case studies, blog posts and news stories talking about communication success stories that taking the time to read and learn from them should be second nature. If you need help, Mashable and PR Daily News are two excellent resources.

If you enjoyed this you may also enjoy reading:

Getting Your Degree in Business Acumen

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