Inspired by the 2010 Mitsubishi City Chase
You’ve heard entrepreneurship compared to a race – likely a running or a horse race, generic where one highly specialized skill always wins. But in real life, rx business and brand-building is actually much more like CityChase – an urban adventure race that happens in dozens of cities worldwide. Last weekend, the Big Differ was in just such a race, and offers you some insights.
Um. We didn’t win
Let’s get this straight: I’m going to talk about how to win from the position of a non-winner. As you’ll see from these results, my teammate Shawn and I came in sixth place in the Ottawa race this year.
Not bad with 400 other teams in the race, and certainly better than my previous results of 22nd, 11th, and 12th (see last year’s blog post), but not top of the field.
However, we were close enough to the top that I delude myself into thinking we could have won, which means I desperately want to figure out how the actual winners win, and maybe, someday, we can.
So, these are my 6 steps to winning – told from the position of an almost winner who is thinking about how to win. And brand-builders, how many of us aren’t in that same position in that other race: business?
The six steps to victory
Lesson 1) Take a moment to think about strategy – but just a moment.
In the CityChase, you’re given a clue sheet at the beginning of the race with 30 “ChasePoint” challenges spread out over the city, of which you have to complete ten. So at the beginning, you have to take a few moments to scan the clues, get a general feeling for where things are, and figure out where you’re going to go. Kind of like those business strategy meetings I host for clients.
Information is critical to victory, as is strategic planning, so only a fool strikes out blindly in the absence of any information.
But the trick here is the same as with corporate strategy: if you take enough time to get all the information, it’s already too late to win. Read that again. And one more time.
Bottom line: the race doesn’t go to the one who has the most information; it goes to those who can act most quickly on the information at hand.
Lesson 2) Keep moving.
In the CityChase, you can get around to your ChasePoints in two ways: by foot, or public transit. But guess what? The winners almost never wait for a bus. The top teams keep moving at all times, taking buses when they offer tactical advantage, but just as often, running to stay ahead of the buses. This means you have to have a certain level of fitness to be among the top teams. But more importantly, you have to be willing to keep going for the several hours of the race.
Bottom line: don’t forget plain old hard work.
3) Play with the team.
In the CityChase, you run as a team of two. Both members do all the challenges together, and you have to cross the finish line together, so a lone superstar doesn’t win if they don’t have a solid teammate.
You also need to be able to face a variety of challenges. This year for us, these included breakdancing, military bootcamp, whitewater yak-rafting, changing a bicycle tire, and lots of mental puzzles. This meant both Shawn and I had our chances to shine – he’s a far better athlete; I brought the race experience – but neither of us would have done as well without the other.
Bottom line: find teammates who both complement and challenge you to be better.
4) Share information relentlessly… with everyone.
I learned early on to “open source” my race. There are many secrets, surprises, and puzzles as the 800 people / 400 teams run around town doing the Chase, and every team is trying to figure out at the same information at the same time. So by swapping tips and clue details as much as possible when I get the chance, I’ve managed to save myself a lot of wrong turns over the years.
There are many teams that seem afraid to talk to other teams – lest they give someone else an advantage. There are others that lie to misdirect opponents. I get that. It’s a game after all. It’s just that as a strategy, it doesn’t seem to work.
Bottom line:, hoarding information just slows you down. Learn how to share.
5) Avoid the bottlenecks.
The biggest time wasters in the Chase are the line-ups that form around many of the Chase Points, especially in the mid-race. So the winning teams figure out quickly where these are likely to be, and if the Chasepoint is mandatory, they get there early – before the other teams get there. If it’s not, and they encounter a line or a slow-moving challenge, they move on to a different Checkpoint.
In business, the bottlenecks are the business tactics, product features, and branding habits that form in a given market – where a “crowd” of competitors are all trying to do the same thing at the same time.
Bottom line: if it’s important, get there first; if it’s not and everyone else is already there, find another way to accomplish the same goal.
6) Have fun. It’s your biggest competitive advantage.
In the CityChase, I like to be competitive, and I like to go hard. And in a lot of ways I take it more “seriously” than a lot of people do (I’m writing this aren’t I?) But as someone I love once said about soccer, it’s just a game. And if it ever loses its lustre as a fun activity, there are plenty of other games.
In business, if you aren’t creating an enjoyable environment where people can be themselves – creative, funny, and human – maybe you should think about trying something else.
Bottom line: life’s too short to not enjoy what you do.