The war analogy doesn’t work because business is not a zero sum game. A great business makes the pie bigger for everyone. And in war, you’re focused on the enemy (ie your competition) but in business you’re supposed to focus on the customer.
The sports analogy doesn’t work either. It’s all about getting in the zone – where you make decisions based on instinct, and training – instantly without thought. Great for sports where key plays happen in seconds, and the rules never change.
The best business analogy I can think of is sex – the seduction, not the act itself. And I’m thinking of seduction in the olden days like the bumper sticker says: “Remember when air was clean and sex was dirty?” Back then you couldn’t even mention – much less advertise in the newspaper – for exactly what you wanted. And then there was a tension of guys wanting sex only and always and girls not ever wanting to “give it up” – until they did. Why this analogy works is because:
It takes two to do it.
You can’t sit in your room all day inventing stuff – you have to find a customer. Otherwise you’re just making a product, not a company. Drucker said the very purpose of a business is to make a customer. Hubba Hubba.
You each want something the other has.
You want their money more than you want your own widgets, and they want what you provide more than they want their money. So business really should be a win-win (that horrible phrase). You both win in sports or war.
You don’t quite know what the other wants and can’t always believe what they say.
Sure you sell widgets, but they buy the value the widgets provide. They won’t always tell you what that value is or how much they’d really be willing to pay for it. Often because they don’t always know. Just like when you fill out an on-line dating form. Don’t the choices seem a bit arbitrary? In our abundant society so much purchasing is based on feeling and desires and the stories we tell ourselves about what’s going on rather than needs and easily specified facts. To succeed you have to tap into unspoken emotions – and they can’t just be your emotions.
Fundamentalists aren’t allowed to have sex standing up because it leads to dancing.
Dancing is a great analogy too. You each move differently, yet together you make something that’s more satisfying than you’d be able to do on your own. You’re constrained by the rhythm of the music, and the moves of your partner – but isn’t that where the excitement comes from?
First comes love, then comes marriage then comes baby in the baby carriage.
OK. So no analogy is perfect. You can get laid on the first date (so they tell me) but you rarely get married on the first date (unless you’re Brittaney Spears). The relationship between business and customer takes many forms, so I guess we’re back to the modern day sex era. There are times where a one-nighter is all either party wants. But there’s usually a lot more than that. And too many businesses refuse to call anyone back the next day.