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Playing to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose

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Playing to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose

Knowing the difference can mean BIG implications for your success!

Although these two sound similar at first they have a profound impact on your success.

Sports teams, departments, businesses and individuals frequently avoid short term risk – and play “not to lose” – in the hope that they will be successful long term. Frequently this is not the case!

“Playing to win” involves embracing short-term risk with the aim of better outcomes in the future.

Lets say a short-term risk carries a 20% chance of success. The majority of us would stop there. We only have a 1-in-5 chance of winning so we don’t take the risk. But here’s the thing:

“The key is to look long-term!”

However, if we considered the long term picture, if we don’t take action, and decide on the ‘safer route’, the end result may be that there may only be a 5% chance of success. Because we don’t take the long-term view we always tend to play not-to-lose in the short term and severely limit our potential for success.

There are many examples to this – the most famous being Nokia’s.

During the press conference to announce NOKIA being acquired by Microsoft, Nokia CEO ended his speech saying this “we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost”. Upon saying that, all his management team, himself included, cried.

Nokia had been a respectable company. They didn’t do anything wrong in their business, they just didn’t take the right risks.

The bottom line is this – engaging in short-term risk is a strong influencer in your long-term success.

If you’re going to play at all……play to WIN.


Originally from the UK, Ian has lived and worked in Southeast Asia for nineteen years. The last eight of those have been spent coaching and mentoring over sixty executives and business owners. Ian's specialist area is helping executives in mid-market growth firms improve their strategy and revenues, retain their key team members, improve execution and build cash.

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