The Farmville folks may have bought the farm and the Angry Birds may be in free fall from the apex of their revengeful migration, for the current craze among adult smart phone/computer gamers now appears to be Candy Crush Saga. It doesn’t require the long-range planning of Farmville or the manual dexterity and “shooting eye” of Angry Birds, but it is equally addictive. (OK, I admit it, I am currently stuck on Level 33.)
With a serpentine playing path and a layout sporting features such as “lemonade lake,” Candy Crush Saga most resembles the pre-schooler’s Candy Land board game, and it is deceptively simple: Asking the player just to line up three or more of the same kind of candy―jelly bean, gum ball, etc.―in order to make the pieces move or disappear. Line up four or more and you get special tokens that have powerful effects on surrounding pieces, making it easier to wipe things off the board.
Each level requires completing a slightly different assignment, calling on the player to find new combinations, guess how moving one piece will affect the remaining positions of others, and work within either a limited number of moves or seconds to complete task. More than anything, it is a game of patterns―those you can see, those you anticipate, and those that arise quite unexpectedly as the result of a move you thought would have no bearing on them at all.
Discerning patterns from inside a busy, confusing, and often shifting landscape, with limited resources or limited time, is not only valuable in game playing, but can a bankable skill in business, too. Being able to look at a variety of different customers with very different service requests and see the underlying patterns of similarity can help a business leader determine the viability of adding a new service or expanding a department.
Being able to estimate how trends barely on the horizon might affect sales a few months out, or how adjusting the layout of a shop might improve workflow in one area without disrupting operations in another are valuable in increasing cash flow or cutting overhead costs.
Grasping the potential―for less insightful leaders, the unexpected―consequences of a business combination may head off a merger that would not work for either party, or, conversely, spur the thoughtful executive to take an action few of his or her peers would have risked, but one that ultimately yields considerable success.
While some might caution against not seeing the forest for the trees, it is also important not to miss seeing the patterns of the trees because you are overwhelmed by the forest as a whole. Good business planners take a close look, and then step back for a wider view, when making what may become game-changing decisions.