The events depicted in the fictional land of Westeros bear uncanny resemblance to many business environments.
Watch an episode of HBO’s fantasy drama series Game of Thrones, and it’s possible to draw parallels between the inhabitants of the fictional land of Westeros, and real-life businesses and organisations in this world.
And, after four seasons of the hit show, it’s clear how rarely characters base their decisions and actions on real knowledge and collaboration.
Why, for example, did no one come to assist the “Night’s Watch” on the Wall after they’d just suffered a major attack? Was it that no-one knew what was at stake?
And why was it that the remaining members of the Stark family (plus one Snow) never managed to cross paths? None of them were even aware which of the others were still alive. There was clearly a breakdown in communication here.
While both of these examples were, of course, part of the plot and designed to keep fans of the story in suspense, they’re both situations that could be transferable to real-life organisations.
Here we’ll take a look at some more examples of the similarities between what took place in Westeros, and how these relate to present-day businesses.
Game of Thrones
Every man in Westeros creates his own fortune and will hold his cards close to his chest to help him do so. On nine out of ten occasions, the decisions of each house, alliance and of nearly every single person in each of the seven Kingdoms will be made in isolation of everyone else’s strategies.
In Game of Thrones, characters will very rarely collaborate or share information with each other. As a result, power structures will change with the wind, and good – and bad – men are killed in the most brutal ways.
Many organisations take a similar, siloed approach, where each department – and sometimes each employee – works with its own systems and assets. Such an approach means that much valuable information isn’t shared across the business and, when it is, it’s often shared manually, a process that can be inaccurate and time-consuming.
Poor information sharing can lead to work being duplicated by different employees in different departments. Unlike in Game of Thrones though, where such errors occur for selfish and manipulative reasons, the prime cause here is weakened workflows and poor data quality stemming from the lack of a central data management and sharing system.
Game of Thrones
A poor exchange of information means that no-one in Westeros seems to have a full and clear overview of the state of the continent. For example, few people knew of Mance Rayder’s wildling army and its plans to cross the Wall, and even fewer knew that the practically invincible White Wanderers had been resurrected. Similarly, hardly anyone knew that the economic situation in King’s Landing was unsustainable, or what Lord Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish was up to.
With holes such as this in their knowledge, no one can act on an informed basis.
It’s not hard to imagine the mistakes that are made when no one has a complete overview of the information within an organisation. Poor communication – both internally and externally – can lead to a lack of cohesive business strategy and lost sales.
Inefficient information systems
Game of Thrones
The means of collecting and sharing information in and around Westeros is both inefficient and unreliable, consisting largely of message-carrying ravens, lonely and vulnerable messengers on horseback, and an invisible network of spies. Such an unreliable system is bound to result in missed opportunities and a lack of overall visibility.
Most companies have an information sharing system of sorts but, as with the situation in Westeros, these can often be ineffective. Information on products, customers and suppliers can sometimes be managed in single-domain solutions, resulting in a slow and unreliable information flow.
If the wider organisation isn’t fully aware of the importance of data strategies, it won’t always prioritise data as a strategic asset. However, like the dragons of Daenerys Targaryen, the bad data in these companies will grow bigger and bigger.
Game of Thrones
Westeros is basically ruled from the Iron Throne in King’s Landing; a poor, one-way administration of the whole continent. In opposition to this, Daenerys Targaryen’s successful army of free men enjoys knowledge and freedom, to be used responsibly.
While they should in no way be compared to the reviled King Joffrey, or any other of the Lannisters, IT departments tend to own the data strategy in most organisations. This is often down to a lack of awareness from the business’s leadership team who simply don’t know that data management should be a matter for the whole company.
Constraining data stewardship to just one business unit, rather than implementing a system of central and open data governance, will impair the effect of any data strategy the company has in place.
Under-estimating distant external risks
Game of Thrones
The threats posed by dangers from afar such as the wildlings, the White Wanderers behind the Wall, and Daenerys Targaryen and her growing army across the Narrow Sea, can be under-estimated due to their physical distance.
But, while Westeros, and King’s Landing in particular, enjoys a false sense of security and comfort in its own enclosed environment, it is a risky strategy to simply ignore threats from the outside world.
Too many businesses underestimate remote competition just because it’s too far away to concern them. New technology brings competitors closer, whether we like it or not, and even organisations that have always enjoyed domestic success must recognise external risks and adapt to them.
And companies shouldn’t believe consider themselves to be secure behind their corporate “walls”. After all, what good does it do if the quality of data is high on the inside while erroneous data is drifting in from the outside, from suppliers for example?
With an operative information management system, Westeros would be a functioning and well-oiled continent, and the person with access to the knowledge, and the skills to strategically act upon it, would the one sitting on the Iron Throne.
Hopefully, the problems faced by those companies struggling with inefficient information systems and siloed strategies aren’t as life-threatening as those faced in Game of Thrones. Even so, lagging behind a competitor can be fatal to a business.
By deploying relevant solutions, organisations can ensure they have the insights that make them the most visionary, agile and effective, enabling them to win out over their competitors.
“There is a tool for every task, and a task for every tool” – Tywin Lannister
Sourced from Erasmus Holm, Stibo Systems