In the first season of Game of Thrones, Syrio Forel tells Arya Stark, “The man who fears losing has already lost. Fear cuts deeper than swords.” Syrio is the first sword of Braavos, and Arya’s “Dancing Master” (read: sword fight instructor). But, we might also think of him as a keen business strategist. His mastery of sword fighting parallels your mastery of your business: to beat competing brands you must move quicker, with more agility, and without fear. Syrio disappears in the first season, but his teachings resound throughout Arya’s journey and we see it in the paths of so many of the characters. Our Westerosi friends face very high stakes to be sure (like WHITE WALKERS), but still the ones who act out of fear never win.
A Study in Fearful Management
Everyone can pretty much agree that the Lannister legacy is the worst. (Ramsay is obviously the actual worst but he’s not running a royal dynasty). There are a lot of reasons why, but I’d suggest that their entire management strategy is defensive and motivated by fear of losing power. What happens to them? Well, nothing good. Cersei does a decent job of keeping her place in the Red Keep but they make no progress toward a more stable and functional future.
The Lannister name is a business. Their brand is everything, but they don’t deliver on their promises. They don’t actually deliver anything, because they only worry about maintaining their brand name, rather than building something that speaks to their customers. To have true market power, they would need to innovate — try new strategies, experiment with who they speak to and how to speak to them. But, the Lannisters will never do this because they have no good way to test their ideas.
Testing Makes Fearless
Daenerys Targaryen, on the other hand, has mastered the art of innovative marketing based on sound testing. She starts as an outsider, and after the birth of her dragons she leads a small and weak khalasar. But she listens to people around her and collects the devoted support of Dothraki, Unsullied, Sellswords, Nights Watch, Wildlings, heck… even a Lannister! Why? Well she listens to council while maintaining the integrity of her brand. She tests messages while keeping her mission intact, and she tests strategies: Should she execute all slave owners, or compromise with the old ways? Should she use her dragons for war or not? Where should she go and when?
Because of the testing mechanisms that Daenerys has in place she can act fearlessly on the market. She can introduce innovative ideas and try new things. When they don’t work, she can change course. Now, at the end of season seven, Dany seems the most likely contender for the Iron Throne. Her strength is not that she is infallible, it’s that she understands how to take risks and innovate, then listen to the results. She promises some sort of progression forward.