Are you old – or young – enough to recall playing Battleship as a child? In this game, you place a set of ‘battleships’ on a grid hidden to your opponent. She then fires random shots via Cartesian coordinates in the hope of ‘hitting’ one of your secret targets. You then reciprocate. The game starts with random firing and lots of ‘misses’. And then once you get a ‘hit’ you focus your fire to completely obliterate your opponent.

At Archetypical, when we are developing games and simulations, the Battle of Jutland is not an obvious first port of call. But maybe we can adapt the concept and think about how the game of ‘Battleship’ can apply in business. Here are two ideas.

Diary Battleship

I was trying to organize a meeting with a client the other day, and after a couple of exchanges, we realised we were basically playing ‘reverse battleship’ with each other and our diaries: firing random shots (ie suggesting dates for a meeting) and hoping for a ‘miss’. That got me thinking – maybe a cooperative approach would be better.

The obvious answer is to make your diary public. But I know many people in large organizations where this is the norm. They tell me it is a nightmare: colleagues – in Battleship they are called ‘opponents’ – espy a 20 minute vacancy and immediately fire something in. And even senior leaders find it hard to say no, despite the tips I published here .

I’m sure there is a systems/IT solution but maybe the real answer is respect and culture, as this article suggests. If the object of ‘Diary Battleship’ is to miss and find the gap between ships/meetings, then don’t deliberately aim for the space where there are two ships/meetings close together. After all, you will splash everyone on board and create waves which will upset the crew. Look instead for seriously clear blue ocean which allows plenty of time for people to prepare and plan … and then follow-up.

Cooperative Battleships

Licensed under CC BY-SA

In Cooperative Battleship applied to the corporate world, we make our position known and clear (‘my ships are here, here, and here….’). With clarity comes understanding and discussion. How do we work together to achieve X? Is there a shared agenda? Or not?

The problem is that too often, the others’ agenda is hidden, so we are reduced to firing shots at random in the hope of hitting something. Sure, your overall goals may be different but real partnership only works when there is a shared agenda. And to have a shared agenda, you need to share your agenda. Why not have some cooperative play?

Strong process-oriented strategic advisers check in at the beginning of a discussion: What do you want to get from this meeting? What would you consider success? How does this meeting help you achieve your goals? etc. Maybe we should all do this more often.

Perhaps the original concept of Battleship applies in a purely corporate, competitive, cut-throat world – ‘Corporate Battleship’ if you will. But in the world of being a strategic adviser and business partnering, maybe it is better to play Cooperative Battleship, rather than Corporate Battleship.

What are your applications of Cooperative Battleship to the corporate world?

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