I played Magic the Gathering when I was a kid. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a deck building game where you duel with another player as wizards with fantasy armies (nerd alert.) As an adult in my thirties, I was surprised that it was still around. I used to live in a neighborhood near a gaming store that hosted “Friday Night Magic” and I picked up the game again and played for awhile.

What makes it fun is that it’s complex. There’s no one way to beat an opponent, but many strategies to emerge victorious with lots of decisions to get there. For example, one player might play a “control” deck and use their cards to sabotage the efforts of the other player who tries to flood the battlefield with small creatures.

They’re both playing Magic, but they’re not playing the same game.

Your business is similar.

Like your competitors, you’re all playing business, but you’re not playing the same game. Each of you has mechanisms in the business that provide advantage and a path to victory. E.g. a business might sell cut-rate products and make their margin in volume while a competitor sells the same product, but reinvents it as a service and makes their margin in pricing.

These mechanisms drive success, even if they’re not intentionally implemented. In other words, if the business is making money, it has some method to do so.

In Magic, the deck you play with is custom. You’re not forced to pick a strategy, you choose it by selecting specific cards to go into your deck before you play. Decks that try to do everything, e.g. to both control and flood the battlefield, lose to decks that are optimized towards one strategy.

In the same way, whatever provides the most value in your business must be reinforced, supplemented, and aligned. And the resources, roles, and people that don’t fit in that strategy must be edited out.

Featured image is The Enchanted Garden of Messer Ansaldo by Marie Spartali Stillman (1889): A magician uses magic to survive. Used under public domain.