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Gameplay

What are Wardley Mapping Gameplays and how to use them?

Thanks to the graphical notation, Simon could identify common, repeatable scenarios which happen in  business.

When you understand your situation, you can apply a combination of them to make your situation better.

A table of gameplays

A full gameplay table

Gameplays Reference

Focus:

Basic Operations

Focus on user needs

A key aspect of mapping is to focus the organisation on user needs rather than internal needs. Often this process enables unmet needs (opportunities) to be discovered and friction to be removed from the process of dealing with customers.

Comment:

This is a cross-reference with Doctrine. If you have not yet mastered user (or wider stakeholder) management and do not understand their needs, this is one of the first things to address.


Useful resources:

  • Alchemy - a book covering basics of marketing, which covers user needs

  • The Gervais Principle - a tongue in cheek analysis of human needs in a corporate environment.

Focus:

Basic Operations

Situational Awareness

The act of mapping tends to remove alignment issues between business, IT and other groups by providing a common language. It enables the development of a common purpose and empowers groups to take advantage of their part of the map whilst understanding the whole.

Comment:

The bigger the organization, the more important it is to understand what is exactly going on. Talking to different departments usually reveals the complexity of the situation and many hidden needs that create an impression of irrationality.

Focus:

Basic Operations

Effective & Efficient

Removal of bias and duplication within an organisation along with the use of appropriate methods for management and purchasing. Do not underestimate the potential savings possible, cost reductions of 90-95% are not uncommon.

Comment:

Many organizations often repeat the same tasks, such as risk management. This increases overall spending and leads to many half-baked solutions, none of which are as effective as they should be.


On the other hand, one must be aware that premature centralization can lead to shadow IT. Therefore, instead of blindly following this approach, it is advised to seek a balance that works.



Focus:

Basic Operations

Structure & Culture

Implementation of cell based & PST structures along with multiple cultures to deal with aptitude and attitude. Both autonomy and mastery can be enabled by these forms of structure and they avoid the silos and inertia created by traditional structures.

Comment:

It is extremely difficult to stay up to date in organizations where everyone talks to everyone. This applies to cross- and internal team communication.

Building small teams around capabilities capable of doing what is needed is essential here.

Team topologies takes this aspect of strategy to the next level.

Focus:

Basic Operations

Optimising Flow

Risk, performance, information and financial flow can be analysed and improved through mapping. This is necessary for increasing margin, removing friction and increasing speed.

Comment:

This is another strategic play that taps into Doctrine. It covers improving the overall efficiency of the organization, especially through:

  • removing bottlenecks - by automating repetitive tasks, streamlining processes or outsourcing non-core activities

  • improving coordination and communication

  • focusing on user needs (yes, this is so important it is mentioned again)

  • continous improvement

Focus:

Basic Operations

Channel Conflict

Exploiting new channels and conflict within existing channels to create favourable terms.

Comment:

You can buy many products from both a producer's website and from distributors. The producer may not intend to fully operate and promote their own e-commerce, but having a competitive potential is a useful argument in negotiations with distributors, and gives the producer an upper hand.

Focus:

User Perception

Education

Overcoming user inertia to a change through education. There are 16 different forms of inertia and many can be overcome directly with education. Don't underestimate this.

Comment:

People naturally resist change, especially when they have invested time and resources in older methods of achieve their goals. Even if your product is superior, potential customers might stick with the inferior option for a considerable time if the consider the learning curve or migration cost too high.


To overcome this resistance, it is important to educate them on why your solution is better, why it belongs to the future and why sticking to the previous option is not good for them.


In corporate environment, you might educate your stakeholders about the nature of this resistance - so they could evaluate the situation in a favourable way.


Some people would consider this to be a part of brand and marketing gameplay.

Focus:

User Perception

Brand and Marketing

(removed)

Comment:

This is exactly what you think it is: reach your target customers with the right message. This gameplay was removed in the process of refining mapping - as it overlaps with others.

Focus:

User Perception

Bundling

Hiding a disadvantageous change by bundling the change with other needs.


Comment:

Have you ever tried to understand your bank's terms and conditions? There are so many things in there that many people do not bother reading it. Similarly, software terms and conditions work in the same way.


If you are making your product more expensive or worse, you can hide it if you are introducing a whole batch of changes. Sure, it can cause backslash - but if done properly - few people will notice.


Examples:

  • A bank simplifies terms of service - and throws in a set of small fees.

  • Politicians complicating taxes - and raising them at the same time. ("We know you like low taxes - so we have got plenty of them for you").

Focus:

User Perception

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

Creating fear, uncertainty and doubt over a change in order to slow it down.

Comment:

Fear is a powerful emotion that can drive users to behave in a certain way and discourage them from taking certain actions.

 

Examples:

  • Consider the message, "Nobody got fired for buying X," where X represents a well-known, albeit costly, established product. This statement subtly implies a threat: choosing an alternative could put your job at risk.

  • Likewise, the message "Using non-original ink may damage your printer or accelerate its wear," though accurate, is intended to instill fear in users, discouraging them from purchasing cheaper replacement inks.

Focus:

User Perception

Creating Artificial Needs

Creating and elevating an artificial need through marketing and behavioural influence. Take a rock and make it a pet etc.


Comment:

Needs are never artificial, but it might be possible to satisfy them through marketing messaging. Usually, the need for high status is exploited in that way.

Focus:

User Perception

Artificial Competition

Creating two competing bodies to become the focus of competition and in effect driving oxygen out of a market.

Comment:

Two separate brands addressing the same market segment with slightly different products competing "fiercely" make it difficult for anyone else to enter the market.

Focus:

User Perception

Confusion of Choice

Preventing users from making rational decisions by overwhelming them with choice.


Comment:

Example:

  • Large grocery stores that change prices daily and issue coupons. Ordinary consumers have no reasonable means of comparing an overall price for what they need.

  • Airlines having cheap tickets but expensive "optional" services, again making comparison of real travel costs difficult.

Focus:

User Perception

Lobbying / Counterplay

Persuading Government of a favourable position.


Comment:

Nothing to be added. If you are in a position to use any approaches that will favour you, do it.

Focus:

Accelerators

Market Enablement

Encouraging the development of competition in a market


Comment:

You focus on services that encourage competition, such as common platforms, physical delivery mechanisms, and comparators. This approach builds market awareness and highlights competitors to organizations, fostering competition and accelerating the evolution of specific capabilities.

Focus:

Accelerators

Open Approaches

Encouraging competition through open source, open data, open APIs, open processes by removing barriers to adoption and encouraging a focus for competition.

Comment:

This is the 'small part of a big pie' strategy. By sharing some of your competitive advantages with others and allowing them to compete with you, you collectively build substantial market awareness. With appropriate licensing, you can also benefit from any innovations they develop.


Look at the mapping itself. It is spreading because it is open.

Focus:

Accelerators

Exploiting network effects

Techniques which increases the marginal value of something with increased number of users.

Comment:

Look at any review system. The more users adds review, the more valuable is the system.

Focus:

Accelerators

Cooperation

Working with others. Sounds easy, actually it's not.

Comment:

-

Focus:

Accelerators

Industrial policy

Government investment in a field.

Comment:

States tend to intervene in the market when they identify opportunities or threats that the free market cannot adequately address. For example, through a system of grants, China encouraged the growth of electromobility.


Using this form of play requires a lot of connections in advisory bodies that influence government.

Focus:

Deaccelerators

Exploiting existing constraints

Finding a constraint and reinforcing it through supply or demand manipulation.

Comment:

Look at oil. When the price falls, OPEC countries limit supply.

Focus:

Deaccelerators

Patents & IPR

Preventing competitors from developing a space including ring fencing a competitor.

Comment:

The threat of litigation might make your competitors reluctant to move to your market. Trademarks/Patents/Trade secrets - everything can be useful.

Focus:

Deaccelerators

Creating constraints

Supply chain manipulation with a view of creating a new constraint where none existed.

Comment:

This is seen frequently at a state level and is called 'sanctions'.


Regulations can also create constraints - for example, restricting areas where you can build houeses will make house prices skyrocket.


Some companies with strong brands also use limited series to increase the value of their products.

Focus:

Deaccelerators

Limitation of competition

Through regulatory or other means including erecting barriers to prevent or limit competitors.

Comment:

Look at banking.

The more regulations is there in the banking sector, the more difficult is to create a new bank.

So it is in the interests of banks to make regulations as complicated as possible.

Focus:

Dealing with toxicity

Disposal of liability

Overcoming the internal inertia to disposal. Your own organisation is likely to fight you even when you're trying to get rid of the toxic.

Comment:

This means accepting sunk costs and admitting earlier strategic mistake. People usually try to use softer approaches - like starving a particular business line.

Focus:

Dealing with toxicity

Sweat & Dump

Exploiting a 3rd party to take over operating the toxic asset whilst you prepare to remove yourself.

Comment:

This is a typical spiral of mergers and acquisitions. Two shrinking businesses merge, seek synergy by firing duplicated managers, fire more people, loose the ability to deliver, their profit shrinks, so they seek a new merger candidate.

Focus:

Dealing with toxicity

Pig in a poke

Creating a situation where others believe the toxic asset has long term value and disposing of it through sale before the toxicity reveals itself.

Comment:

Buyers do not understand what they are buying.


Examples:

  • UK after Brexit wanted to create their own navigation system. They invested in a company OneWeb, which had promising broadband satellites. It turned out those satellites are not fit for navigation.

  • An oil company, seeking to diversify their business and prepare for green economy, decided to buy a plastic bag producing business. Which were then, as expected, banned in EU.



Focus:

Market

Differentiation

Creating a visible difference through user needs.

Comment:

Standard marketing trick.

Focus:

Market

Pricing policy

Exploiting supply and demand effects including price elasticity, Jevons paradox and constraints including fragmentation plays.

Comment:

If you lower the cost of entry to a particular market, you can expect many new players will enter it, which will cause fragmentation. This can be the first step towards Harvesting or ILC.

Focus:

Market

Exploiting buyer / supplier power

Creating a position of strength for yourself.

Comment:

If you own a critical constraint, you can dictate pricing to your vendors and customers.

Focus:

Market

Harvesting

Allowing others to develop upon your offerings and harvesting those that are successful. Techniques for ensuring harvesting creates positive signals rather than creating an environment others avoid.

Comment:

If some of your customers are successful, you might want to start competing with them. It has risks

Focus:

Market

Standards game

Driving a market to a standard to create a cost of transition for others or remove the ability of others to differentiate.

Comment:

Heavy investment in a de facto standard that competition is not using might lock your customers and force your competitors to adapt.

It can also spectacularly backfire.

Focus:

Market

Signal distortion

Exploiting commonly used signals in the market by manipulation of analysts to create a perception of change.

Comment:

Sometimes, this can get you in jail - if you use creative accounting.

But organizations tend to do all sorts of trick to create an impression of a thriving business.

Focus:

Defensive

Threat acquisition

Buying up those companies that may threaten your market.

Comment:

If a start up is threatening your business, buy them, then close them.

Focus:

Defensive

Raising barriers to entry

Increasing expectations within a market for a range of user needs to be met in order to prevent others entering the market.

Comment:

Think what Amazon did with cloud - offering that many services means that unless you can match the investment - you can exist only in niches.

Focus:

Defensive

Procrastination

Do nothing and allowing competition to drive a system to a more evolved form.

Comment:

Wait until the uncertainty is removed from the market and it is obvious what to do.

You might need to pay attention to IP though.

Focus:

Defensive

Defensive regulation

Using Government's to create protection for your market and slow down competitors.

Comment:

This is a priviledge of a few big companies.

Focus:

Attacking

Directed investment

VC approach to a specific or identified future change.

Comment:

This is a private capital version of directed government investment. If you believe the market is moving in a particular direction and it is in your interest to accelerate that movement, you might want to create a contest or invest money in startups that align with that trend.


Some of them might be successful - but it does not matter which, because you always win.


Example: Microsoft (MSFT) invested in AI research. It does not matter which AI company will dominate as long as they create demand for computing resources. Naturally, investing in the right AI company is the cherry on top.

Focus:

Attacking

Experimentation

Use of specialists groups, hackdays and other mechanisms of experimentation.

Comment:

-

Focus:

Attacking

Creating centres of gravity

Creating a focus of talent to encourage a market focus on your organisation.

Comment:

It is good to have access to brilliant people.


Organize a place where they will be able to collaborate and exchange ideas - meetups, conferences, discord chats. Help them grow - and hire them when you need.


Focus:

Attacking

Undermining barriers to entry

Identifying a barrier to entry into a market and reducing it to encourage competition.

Comment:

If a company has a strong negotiating position over you because it controls a key constraint, such as parts or sales channels, you may need to undermine their position by removing their barriers to entry. This will make it easier for others to compete with them and weaken their power.

Focus:

Attacking

Fool's mate

Using a constraint to force industrialisation of a higher order system.

Comment:

Many businesses can't recognize what is protecting their market.


For example, banks typically do not like regulations. They consider them excessive, expensive, and painful. However, those regulations make it difficult to open new banks, thereby protecting the position of existing banks.


If you convince a bank to invest in regulatory simplification (through f.e. creating compliance-oriented solutions), their pain diminishes, and so does their market protection.


Your position as a compliance-oriented solution provider improves a lot.

Focus:

Ecosystem

Alliances

Working with other companies to drive evolution of a specific activity, practice or data set.

Comment:

Focus:

Ecosystem

Co-creation

Working with end users to drive evolution of a specific activity, practice or data set.

Comment:

Focus:

Ecosystem

Sensing Engines (ILC)

Using consumption data to detect future success.

Comment:

Focus:

Ecosystem

Tower and Moat

Dominating a future position and prevent future competitors from creating any differential.

Comment:

If you have a more advanced base capability, you can replicate any additional features they invent. The more they try to differentiate, the harder it will be for them to catch up with you, as their entire stack will be based on an outdated approach.


Check Simon's old article (CC-BY-SA) below:

Notes on map.

  • A[1] to A[2] represents the change of an activity from product to utility. Let us suppose our business has established around selling a product A[1]  whilst the new entrant has introduced the more industrialised form A[2]. As per normal there is inertia to the change caused by changing practices, business models and capital (knowledge, social etc).

  • The competitor is running an ILC model around A[2] and hence it is building an ecosystem. Along with efficiency benefits this will enable them to accurately identify (through consumption data) future successful changes such as C[1] and then industrialise such changes to additional components (e.g. C[2]). An ILC model will cause the competitor's innovation rate, efficiency and customer focus to increase simultaneously with the size of the ecosystem.

  • There is an emerging market which is less advanced in terms of provision of the activity, hence we could sell A[1] to the emerging market. However, this won't deal with the issue that A[1] is going to be replaced with the more evolved form of A[2]. Concentrating on the emerging market will simply lay the groundwork for the competitor to enter that emerging market.

  • We could try to recreate past profitability around A[1] through cost cutting but again this doesn't deal with the issue that A[1] is going to be replaced with the more evolved form of A[2]. All that cost cutting is likely to do is create a spiral of death for us.   

  • We could attempt to 'innovate' by trying to create a high risk and uncertain differential B[1] or by  acquiring a company that provides this. However the competitor can simply copy us and then aim to provide it in a more industrialised form B[2]. This is particularly dangerous as part of a tower and moat play.  

  • So what is the tower and moat? A cunning competitor will try to build a tower of revenue around A[2] and build a moat devoid of any and all potential differentials (e.g. B[2] and C[2]) that surrounds it.  Every time we try to 'innovate' (e.g. B[1]) whether through acquisition or our own efforts, then the competitor will industrialise the act and provide it for free.  The danger to us of this play is that as their ecosystem grows they exploit both it and our own efforts to bolster their moat. Once we eventually realise that the future is not A[1] or trying to sell A[1] to emerging markets but instead it's about competing around A[2] then our problem becomes that the competitor has a large ecosystem around its core revenue and there is little to no room left to differentiate. It's basically game over for us.


src: https://blog.gardeviance.org/2014/07/tower-and-moat.html

Focus:

Ecosystem

Two factor

Bringing together consumers and producers and exploiting the relationship between them.

Comment:

Focus:

Ecosystem

Co-opting

Copying competitors move and undermining any ecosystem advantage by interrupting data flows.

Comment:

Focus:

Ecosystem

Embrace & Extend

Capturing an existing ecosystem.

Comment:

Focus:

Competitor

Tech Drops

Creating a 'follow me' situation and dropping large technology changes onto the market.

Comment:

Focus:

Competitor

Fragmentation

Exploiting pricing effects, constraints and co-opting to fragment a competitor's market.

Comment:

Focus:

Competitor

Reinforcing inertia

Identifying inertia within a competitor and forcing market changes that reinforce this.

Comment:

Focus:

Competitor

Sapping

Opening up multiple fronts on a competitor to weaken their ability to react.

Comment:

Focus:

Competitor

Misdirection

Sending false signals to competitors or future competitors including investment focused on the wrong direction.

Comment:

Focus:

Competitor

Restriction

Limiting a competitors ability to adapt.

Comment:

Focus:

Competitor

Talent Raid