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5 Business Takeaways From ‘Game of Thrones’

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The wait for Game of Thrones is finally over. Backstabbing, intrigue, secrets, false alliances, fighting against invisible enemies—for some people, it’s almost like a normal week at the office.

We’re not the only ones enthralled by this mash-up of world history and mythology. All over the Internet, people are busy discussing the minutiae of Westeros’ economic situation or Jon Snow’s true parentage.

Not since Breaking Bad has a show become such a part of the zeitgeist, with allusions everywhere in popular culture. (Even Sesame Street has gotten in on the act!)

We’re also not the only ones to see parallels between Game of Thrones and business. Entire books have been written on the subject, and all the standard icons of the business press—ForbesInc., Fortune—have done their requisite articles on it. Naturally, we couldn’t resist the impulse to jump in.

Here are five things we think Game of Thrones can teach you about business:

1. Frame discussions in terms your listeners understand

The characters who are successful in Game of Thrones are the ones who are good at this. Look at how well Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf, navigates the court. If the people he’s working with don’t understand or care about the political ramifications of an issue, he can always say, “A Lannister always pays his debts” and remind them that his family is the wealthiest in Westeros.

Similarly, successful wealth managers and financial advisors are the ones who can describe financial planning and the interplay of various assets in layman’s terms.

2. Focus on what’s best for the company rather than individual stakeholders 

More than once in the show, Lord Varys is asked which faction he serves, and he always responds dutifully, “The Realm.” While one can argue about whether that’s true, it sounds good, and it is true that he doesn’t seem to have any loyalty to one particular group. He provides—and receives—information from all groups. And he continues to survive, which is no small achievement in Westeros.

Servicing your clients and focusing on what’s best for them have proven to be keys to survival.

3. Think outside the box

Yes, it’s a cliché, but characters often find ways to get what they want using nontraditional methods.

Remember when Viserys Targaryen thought he was safe enough to threaten his sister because Khal Drogo couldn’t draw a blade on him in the holy city? He insisted that the Khal “deliver the crown”—which the Khal does in an unexpected way.

Several times, other characters faced with a legal challenge demand the right to trial by combat instead, and find a way to win the battle.

In other words—look for loopholes.

4. There are no absolute good guys or bad guys

One of the most interesting aspects of Game of Thrones is its moral ambiguity. For example, House Targaryen feels that its king was unjustly killed and deprived of the throne, but House Stark and House Lannister saw Aerys as the “mad king” who needed to be killed to protect the kingdom.

When you’re tempted to think of someone else in the company as an enemy, try looking at things from their perspective instead. Applying that empathy to servicing your clients and imagining their perspectives go a long way in establishing that understanding and trust.

5. It’s good to have dragons

More than once, Daenerys Targaryen has succeeded because she has dragons—powerful and indefensible resources nobody else has. Similarly, the Lannisters used wildfire to destroy Stannis Baratheon’s invading fleet.

What’s your dragon or wildfire? What’s the one thing in your company that you control or possess that nobody else does? In other words, what is your value proposition as a financial advisor?

One final piece of advice: If you get invited to a Game of Thrones-themed wedding, run away.

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