Lessons from Letterpress

Letterpress gameplay image

Letterpress was all the rage this past week. I admit, I was pretty addicted myself. The game mechanics are solid and the app is very well designed - no surprise seeing as it’s coming from Loren Brichter. But I also found that the strategy needed to win games was pretty instructive and can be applied to a more general business context.

The Ground Game

Most games are won and lost in the ground game. It’s not about the longest word, or most superb vocabulary. It’s about protecting your turf and taking small win after small win when they’re there for the taking. A splashy 8 letter word might elicit some brief fanfare, but your gains could be lost in an instant if they aren’t well protected.

This applies just as well to business. Opportunities will arise that may seem big - they’re loud and flashy and may make you feel great. But if they aren’t aligned with your mission, they won’t be defensible. The eigh-letter word in this context is a vanity metric - something you chase and chase but ultimately doesn’t mean much for your success in the long run.

Don’t Lose Sight

While the ground game is crucial, be careful to not let it box in your thinking. You need to keep your eye out for the big opportunities, the knockout punches. The end goal is to win the game - not to simply to stake out ever more territory in incremental improvements. So while your day to day execution may need to be focused on those incremental areas, you still need to have the vision to see when a big play can pay off big time.

The Apple Strategy

In many ways, this represents the Apple strategy. They pursue, relentlessly, the small wins that eventually add up to a dominant product. Each release – at least in hardware – will shave some weight, add some speed, improve the camera, improve the battery. Any single one of these features won’t win the game, yet taken together they’re hard to compete against. But again, they’re also willing to make the big play when the time is right. And this is what makes them truly dominant.

Considering that, it’s funny to me that Letterpress is iOS only.

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