What motivates you? What makes you stick with something through the tough times? What keeps you in the game? Is knowing that you’re participating enough? Would you celebrate fourth place in the same way you would celebrate first? Do you pat yourself on the back and say, I came, I saw, I had a go? Probably not.
Chances are, if you are in something, you are in it to win it and there is a biological reason for this. When we win, our brains release a burst of testosterone and dopamine, chemicals that makes us feel stronger, smarter, more confident and just generally really good. We feel a ‘high’ and we crave more. At the most basic biological level, winning allows you to leverage your strengths for continued success.
So what is winning?
Winning is the achievement of a predefined goal. To win is to succeed, and to succeed is to win.
This is a powerful concept, because it means that if you have the power to define the goal and the success criteria, you can increase your odds of winning, enabling that strength and confidence that in turn drive further success.
In business, this means defining not just the competitive landscape or the playing field, but also the game you will be playing. Winning is about creating an advantage that is valued by a defined group of customers against a certain group of competitors.
Businesses that are able identify and satisfy unmet customer needs in a way that has never been done before are creating a new playing field. Businesses that are able to differentiate their product or service by delivering customer value over and above their competitors are changing the rules of the game. Businesses that protect their advantage are tying their competitors’ hands behind their back, and businesses that create and leverage barriers to entry are preventing new game players.
Winning makes you stronger, but to fight your way through someone else’s game to get to that winning position is hard. So in a business sense, why wouldn’t you change the game or the playing field as much as possible to tip it in your favour? As Roger Martin encourages, to increase your chances of success you must make a unique set of choices about where you are going to play – in what customer segments, geographies, channels, products or services; but also how you are going to win – what end user needs are you satisfying and what value are you delivering to the customer.
By defining a unique playing field and creating unique set of rules, you are able to differentiate from your competition and set a winning aspiration with a higher likelihood of success. When you succeed you win, and when you win, you succeed.
So be it business or life, don’t just play to play; take control of your game and play to win.