In Market: The Business of Thrones

🕐 3 min read

I’m pretty late to Game of Thrones.

I caught it off and on for a few years, but over the holidays I found myself with some time and access to the series so I dived in, in full Jon Snow-recklessness.

Game of Thrones, in case you don’t know, is an HBO Original Series that dramatizes George R.R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire. The TV series premiered on HBO in April 2011, and its sixth season ended in June 2016. The series will conclude with its eighth season in 2018.

Set in a fictional world, the series has several plot lines and a large cast. It bears more than a passing resemblance to Europe in 14th and 15th centuries, but includes fantasy elements such as magic, giants and, of course, dragons. Gotta love those dragons.

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If I could describe the series in one word, it would be textured. One minute we’re laughing at a character, the next minute he or she is dying a horrible death. Get over it, Game of Thrones says. Let’s move on to one of about 20 other main characters.

And then there’s the “Red Wedding” scene. I’ve been watching at the rate of one or two episodes a night, but the “Red Wedding” episode took me two days to get through. I won’t spoil it, but wow, talk about a game changer. Think if I Love Lucy had sent Lucy and Ricky sailing off the Empire State Building to a grisly demise.

All the intrigue, backstabbing and murder, of course, made me think about how some of these situations apply to the world of business. Who hasn’t run into a King Joffrey? In case you don’t know, Joffrey is the worst snot-nosed brat imaginable and he has ruthless armed guards who do his every infantile bidding. Yeah, we’ve all had bosses like that. Here’s a hint: Don’t give him a crossbow.

I’m not the only one who has taken notice of the business applications of lessons from Game of Thrones. A couple of British authors, Tim Phillips and Rebecca Clare, noticed too and have written a book, Game of Thrones on Business, arguing that the series can provides some answers to real world dilemmas. After all, every organization has its own challenges and battles.

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Here are some of the book’s key points:

• What Tywin Lannister, a cold, calculating and ruthless lord, has in common with Steve Jobs (neither favors the mothering style of leadership);

• Why Ned Stark (a man who would-be king, but, well, things sort of come to a head or lack thereof) should have had a scenario-planning meeting (just saying that ‘Winter is coming’ without doing anything about it is career shortening);

• What Daenerys Targaryen can teach us about servant leadership (she frees her slave–employees, and they adore her and her cool dragons);

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• How to network like Littlefinger, a character that makes Machiavelli seem as naïve as a 3-year-old.

• Why behaving like Jon Snow, a reckless man with more luck than cunning, will just antagonize your boss (being a clever little twit isn’t always endearing).

There’s more, and thinking about these things while watching Game of Thrones only adds to its texture. And, by the way, might make you a little more nervous at weddings. 

Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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