In the recent blockbuster movie, “The Hunger Games” based off of the New York Times bestselling book by Suzanne Collins there are lessons to learn about strategy that can be applied to your business. At least this is all I thought about while watching the film and then later reading the book. The book and movie take place in the distant future where North America is now known as Panem. Panem is ruled by a dictator from the capital in the Rocky Mountains that dictates that the 12 surrounding districts send one girl and one boy between the ages of 12-18 to fight to death in a very large and high tech arena every year as punishment for a rebellion many years prior. This event is known as The Hunger Games. The boys and girls in each district are selected randomly at an event called “The Reaping.’ Once they are selected they are known as “Tributes.”
Now each district is known for an industry, agriculture, mining, fishing, etc. This is relevant because the “tributes” selected from each district come into the arena with a certain set of skills. For example if you are from the agricultural district you may know what plants are edible in the wild and what are not. This can be a very important survival skill in the arena. This is not all that different from advantages your business has in that you might have a cost advantage in your industry which can allow you to sell products cheaper than your competitors. Strategic Planning Lesson 1: Understand your competitive advantage.
In the book and movie prior to the games the competitors get trained in various weapons and survival skills. This gives the tributes a chance to size up the competition. This is no different than keeping tabs on your competition. Industry reports, market research, customer surveys, financials if the competitor is public, reverse engineering of products, etc. Allows you to also keep tabs on your competition on a regular basis. Strategic Planning Lesson 2: Observe the strengths and weaknesses of your competition an incorporate in your business strategy.
Some districts in the movie and book set up academies and train their young to fight and survive the games. They have a warrior culture and win more than the other districts. This is very similar to creating a culture in your company. A culture of innovation for example, in today’s world similar to what Apple and other tech companies have done provides them a tremendous advantage against their competition. Strategic Planning Lesson 3: Know how your culture can be a competitive advantage.
Another factor that is considered is the physical stature of the “tributes.” A tribute from a district that has an academy might be big and strong and know how to use weapons and fight which can lead to one competitive strategy. This is similar to many big businesses today that have a lot of resources at their disposal. A small 12 year old girl from an agricultural district like the character “Rue” is similar to a small business today. Rue in the book and movie is stealthy, nimble, and knows how to climb trees and avoid confrontation which can be another competitive strategy. This is similar to a strategy that a new small business might take entering a market with big businesses. A small business wouldn’t directly confront a much larger competitor as they would get squashed. So a good small business or “Rue” strategy is to try to be invisible and not perceived as a threat in the competitive arena. Strategic Planning Lesson 4: The size or stature of your business should also be a major factor in your business strategy.
So as in the movie you and the other tributes are on the platform and the minute count down to the start of the Hunger Games begins. You survey the environment and the competitive field. Do you know your competitive advantage? Do provide high quality products, low cost, innovative, etc.? How can you win against your competition’s strengths and weaknesses? How can your culture be a competitive advantage? Do you confront competitors directly to take valuable market share (or weapons/survival gear as in the movie)? Are you small in stature and flee into the woods and let the field dwindle until you make your move? The clock reaches zero and the horn sounds for the games to begin! Go execute your strategic plan! “May the odds be forever in your favor.”