Play – Learn – Repeat

In his latest film Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise must save the world from total annihilation yet again. As usual, he is completely overmatched by his enemies, an alien race set on destroying the earth that has better weapons, better technology, and brighter minds. This time around Tom Cruise’s character can’t rely on his ability to shoot a gun or leap off buildings to win. His enemies have what seems to be an insurmountable advantage — they can peer into the future, predict his next move, and counter it with ruthless efficiency.

Imagine that scenario playing out in the world of business:

  • Scenario 1: Your organization is about to launch a new product and, after months of development, a competitor launches a competing product with better features at a lower price and with better distribution a month earlier.
  • Scenario 2: Your organization decides to invest in new manufacturing capabilities that will reduce your cost of goods and improve quality, only to find that another competitor implements these capabilities six months before you.

These are not unrealistic scenarios. In fact, they are real world examples taken from clients I have worked with at Executive Perspectives. Unlike Mr. Cruise, their competitors were not aliens with a technology that allows them to see into the future — they were just men and women who somehow managed to out-think and out-execute their competitors. So the question is, how can we ensure that our leaders are not out-thought and out-executed by the competition? Mr. Cruise has the answer: Live – Die – Repeat, or as we say in the Business Simulation World:

Play – Learn – Repeat

In the movie, Cruise and his co-star, Emily Blunt, use a “magic” technology that allows them to continue to fight the same battle over and over again, applying their learning to each situation so that they can overcome the obstacles thrown in front of them and get closer to their goal. Sound familiar?

For anyone who has played a game of Angry Birds, Super Mario Brothers, or Call of Duty, this should sound quite familiar. You start off the game and quickly realize you are unable to overcome the obstacles, and then you die…repeatedly. Yet you continue to try, and through that sustained effort you begin to understand the situation more completely. You have a better sense of the cause and effect of your actions, you develop new strategies, and eventually you succeed. The best part of the process is that it doesn’t feel like work at all, it’s actually fun!

This is the same formula that we use at EP to build leadership and business capabilities at Fortune 500 organizations across the globe. Put people in realistic business settings where they need to solve problems, have them work in groups to address those issues, get real time feedback on the impact of their decisions on business metrics, understand what they did wrong, and try a different way to address the issue based on the lessons learned.

At the end of the movie Tom Cruise wins because he out-practiced the competition, allowing him to out-think and out-strategize them despite their overwhelming advantage. Your team can have the same advantage Tom Cruise had by out-practicing the competition. It doesn’t require alien technology — just EP simulations!