Game of Thrones

Working in a Game of Thrones World

I’ve lost count of the times people mentioned Game of Thrones (GOT) in business related conversations. At first I thought it was odd, then annoying, and finally realised it was pervasive.

The comments/quotes I took note of include:

  • This place operates like Game of Thrones.
  • We’re working in a Game of Thrones world.
  • Everyone’s pushing their own agenda – like GOT
  • They need to be blooded (attributed to GOT but I haven’t heard it (yet)).
  • Work is now a Game of Thrones.
  • It’s like Game of Thrones.
  • I don’t want to work in a Game of Thrones.
  • Loyalty is expedient – it moves.
  • Chaos isn’t a pit – chaos is a ladder.
  • Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.

It’s the Game of Thrones – you win or die.

These were clearly paraphrased from the series but it interested me, the language and narrative around the series has been so incorporated into every day organisational language.

I asked myself the questions. Has GOT influenced business? Does it reflect business? Has it simply given a vocabulary and justifiable voice to what’s going on?

In the spirit of inquiry and understanding, I decided to watch the entire series over the holidays. This turned out to be a significant undertaking.

Firstly, I had to get past my squeamishness about gratuitous violence, and then my rising outrage at the treatment of women. I nearly abandoned the project after two episodes. But I persevered and the following are my take-aways/learnings/observations. Do they relate to big organisations? Well ………you tell me.

  • It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose – everyone dies.
  • There is no constant.
  • Individuals in power determine the style of not only their approach but as a result the way people react to them.
  • Being in charge doesn’t mean people will follow you.
  • People remember kindness and meanness, fairness and unfairness, and most will reflect that back to you when the opportunity arises.
  • Smart, strong women can make a change (Okay, I had to get that in).
  • Change needs careful attention – even when it’s in the best interests of the people.
  • Very few people think they are bad. But most think others are.
  • Everyone thinks their belief is the right one.
  • Everyone’s big picture is different, and they commit to their own.
  • Family is no protector.
  • Keeping your head down does not mean you’ll get to keep it – might as well join the game.
  • For good or bad, right or wrong, ruthlessness is an asset.
  • Sustained loyalty is a rare thing.
  • I’d rather be like the people whose values I share rather than those who might win but I despise.
  • Sometimes compromise is essential to get what you want.
  • It’s not smart to share your council. Let the other person share first.
  • Don’t get too attached to anyone, they’ll die or turn on you.

Internal politics gives your external opponents the advantage.

  • Some opponents, internal and external can be ignored, they’re a distraction and giving them attention weakens your focus and energy (There are some groups in the series I still don’t know who they are or what they want – I guess they don’t matter… or do they?).
  • Sometimes people in power are truly mad…but they’re still in power.
  • I want a Direwolf.
  • Being true to yourself comes at a cost – but then so does not.

And perhaps the biggest, and the one which definitely resonates with my experience of organisational life:

Everyone thinks it will be different this time and they’ll be the one to prevail. Ignored experience and facts, leading to ill-informed hope and misguided self-belief, are sure and certain steps to failure.

If you’ve watched GOT, what have you learned?