Game of Thrones is back! If you’ve kept up with the series at all, you know that it’s a dog eat dog (or dragon eat direwolf) fantasy world rooted in a dangerous game of war and politics.  Every move your favorite character makes could potentially land them on the Iron Throne or on the wrong end of a sword.  We can learn a lot about business and ERP from the characters of Westeros.  The dramatic twists, strategic decision-making, and complex motivations in the Seven Kingdoms can easily be applied to modern-day business and ERP projects.  Since 7 is a sacred number in the series (7 Kingdoms, 7 major houses, 7th Season, 7 books, 7 gods… you get it), we’ll keep this list to 7 lessons from Game of Thrones that can also be applied to business and ERP.

(Spoiler Warning: the following post contains no spoilers from Season 7, though there will be light spoilers for the first 6 seasons)

1.      Know Who To Trust

 “You don’t need to make formal alliances with people you trust.” – Tywin Lannister

Knowing who to trust is a lesson that many a Westerosi has had to learn the hard way.  One of the common themes that has spanned all 6 seasons and novels thus-far is the difference between friends and enemies.  Ned Stark trusted Littlefinger, which of course led to Littlefinger with a knife to Ned’s throat murmuring into his ear, “I warned you not to trust me.”  King Robert trusted his wife, Sansa trusted Joffrey, Daenerys trusted her brother… And those examples are only from Season One! The betrayals go on and on through the seasons.

In business and ERP, the consequences of trusting the wrong person may not be as dramatic as a dagger to the throat or worse, but it can certainly be the difference maker in closing a deal or successfully implementing an ERP solution.  It’s important to choose an ERP partner that you can trust with the future and vision of your business during an ERP implementation.  When building trust within a team, it’s important that you bring proof to encourage confidence, follow through with promises, stay involved, communicate well, listen always, keep your employees engaged and challenged, while always maintaining focus and direction.  Gallup’s recent research into effective leadership found that the trait most recognized in effective leaders was trust (other words cited include honesty, integrity, and respect), proving that the best leaders build teams on the foundation of trust and respect.

2.      Lead With Humility And Unity

“Any man who must say ‘I’m the King’ is no true king.” – Tywin Lannister

Game of Thrones is full of characters who claim to be leaders, Kings, Queens, Knights, Lords and Ladies abound, and as such, provides both good and bad examples of leadership. Every leader has faced hardships that have taught them humility in their story arch.  A repeated example of decency in leadership is that the leader must fight alongside his or her forces in open combat (i.e. Jon Snow in Battle of the Bastards, Daenerys and her dragons in Slavers Bay, and Tyrion Lannister in the Battle of the Blackwater), and taking responsibility for tough leadership decisions (i.e. “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword” – Ned Stark).  This same principle is easily applied to modern business.  We’ve all heard the stories and articles about Fortune 500 CEOs answering support calls or working in reception for a day.  They place themselves on the front line of their business so that they can make better decisions.  The TV show Undercover Boss has turned this sort of sentiment into entertainment, yet it still shows that the best leaders lead with humility.

Unity is also a major recurring theme throughout the series.  In Season One, King Robert holds up five fingers and asks his wife Cersei which is the bigger number, five or one? Cersei predictably responds, “five.”  King Robert then curls all five fingers into a fist and says, “…one.  One army, a real army, united behind one leader with one purpose.”  This scene perfectly exemplifies the need for leaders, whether in Westeros, or the real world, to unite their teams behind a single purpose.  Especially in times of change and stress like ERP implementations, making sure that your entire team is focused on a singular goal – your goal.

3.      Plan Your Strategy… Or Else

“In battle, discipline beats numbers nine times of every ten.” – Jon Snow

If there’s one key take-away from the first 6 seasons of the great game, it’s that you must always have a strategic plan.   The audience has known from the first episode of Season One that Daenerys’ plan was to return to Westeros and take the Iron Throne.  Over the course of six seasons, she’s worked tirelessly towards that goal, amassed wealth, power, armies of devout followers, trusted advisors, oh and three dragons to boot.  Similarly, Petyr Baelish (aka Littlefinger), who we often love to hate, always seem to be one step ahead of the rest of Westeros.  In Season Six, we learn his true intention is securing the Iron Throne for himself with Sansa by his side.  He’s wormed his way into Sansa’s life, and become the Lord of the Vale.

In business, you must take the time to develop a long-term strategic plan.  To develop a successful strategic plan, take the time to clearly identify strengths and weaknesses, recent market trends, the latest competitive landscape, and key barriers to success.  Prioritize all initiatives based on their level of impact, as well as their ease of execution, and generate a plan that is aggressive yet realistically achievable.  The same strategy must be utilized for ERP projects.  You must have long-term goals from implementation, to training and support, on to upgrades and functionality increases in the future.  Have a plan and specific KPIs to measure success and identify barriers to success that may stand in the way.

4.      Embrace Change Because “Winter Is Coming”

“Chaos isn’t a pit.  Chaos is a ladder.  Many who try to climb it fail, and never get to try again.  The fall breaks them.  And some are given a chance to climb, but refuse.  They cling to the realm, to love, or the gods… illusions.  Only the ladder is real.  The climb is all there is.  But they’ll never know this, not until it’s too late.” – Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger)

“It’s easy to confuse ‘what is’ with ‘what ought to be,’ especially when ‘what is’ has worked in your favor.” –Tyrion Lannister

“Winter is coming.”  Those words are more than just House Stark’s motto.  It’s a major plot-point in the Game of Thrones series. In Westeros, seasons can last decades, so a hard winter can destroy those unprepared for months or years of freezing temperatures.  And at the end of Season Six, winter has finally come.

Even within the show, the threat of “winter” can often be metaphorical for some other hardship so it’s easy to draw the connection to the business world.  No matter how well you strategize, or how carefully you plan, something can always go wrong.  You need a strategy, not just for when things are going according to plan, but also when “winter” has come at long last and things go horribly wrong.  Investing in modern ERP is a great way to set your business up to adapt to changing environments and embrace disruptive innovation.

5.      Own Your Weaknesses

“Never forget what you are.  The rest of the world will not.  Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” – Tyrion Lannister

No one can be an expert on everything.  Tyrion Lannister knows this.  He acknowledges repeatedly throughout the series that he’s not much of a fighter, but he’s brilliant and he knows it.  Daenerys and her dragons are great in battle, but the Mother of Dragons recognizes that she needs to surround herself with trusted advisors if she hopes to win back the Iron Throne.  The series’ best characters have all come to terms with their own weaknesses, and form alliances with others or surround themselves with teams to help them overcome those weaknesses.

These same principles apply to business.  Luckily, with a proper ERP partner, you don’t need to be an expert on Enterprise Software, you can trust that a partner like ACC will lend you their expertise.  You can count on your ERP partner for proper consultation, implementation, and support services when needed, as well as comprehensive training so that you and your team can stay independent and self-sufficient.

6.      Play To Your Strengths

“That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.” – Tyrion Lannister

“Hodor” – Hodor

In the same way that the greatest leaders in Game of Thrones own their own weaknesses, they also play to their own strengths as well as the individual strengths of those around them.  Whether they’re commanding the Free Folk, the Unsullied, or the people of Kings Landing, these leaders take into consideration the individual strengths, preferences, and goals of each group and uses it to serve the greater goal of the team.

In business, by surrounding yourself with a team you can trust, considering their individual strengths, preferences, and goals, you’re free to put your own strengths as a leader where they best serve the greater goal of the team.  Similarly, by working with an ERP partner you can trust, you and your team can get back to focusing on growing your business while a partner like ACC focuses on setting up your ERP software solution to enable such growth.

7.      Never Stop Learning

“My brother has his sword and I have my mind, and a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” –Tyrion Lannister

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”- Jojen Reed

Game of Thrones puts a big emphasis on academia and the pursuit of knowledge.  Characters like Tyrion, Sam, and Bran gather invaluable information that influences the actions of key players in the great game.  Tyrion states repeatedly throughout the first six seasons that he’s not a fighter, but he uses his wit and extensive knowledge to stay alive.  This makes him the perfect strategic advisor to leaders like Daenerys.  Samwell Tarly is another character who is more comfortable with his nose in a book than with a sword in his hand, and has been called a craven or coward throughout the series. Yet, Sam has a profound friendship with Jon Snow, and will undoubtedly continue to affect the series by unraveling the mysteries of the realm at the Citadel.

The speed of current technological innovations has no historical precedent.  Change is a part of business now.  The only way to hedge against this uncertain future of disruptive innovation you must embrace change by becoming smarter in every level of business.  By empowering employees and creating a culture of continuous learning, your business will be armed with resilience, agility, and ultimately, potential.  ERP is no exception, with disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence and The Internet of Things gaining popularity, you must keep up with emerging technologies in order to ensure that your business stays ahead of the curve.

Good stories have the power to teach us lessons that apply outside of the realm of fiction.  Who’d have thought that Game of Thrones held so many valuable business lessons? By learning from the characters of Westeros, you can have a leg up on the competition in the great game.  That is unless they have dragons.

Contact us if you’d like to learn more about ERP solutionsERP consulting, or ACC’s flexible training options!

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