Hidden (and not so hidden) Candy Crush Business Lessons
So you like playing Candy Crush? So do I, what’s more, I’m totally addicted, I dream about it, sometimes when I close my eyes all I can see are colored candies floating around. I play it whenever I get any time off, in the toilet, in bed before I’m finally able to sleep, while watching tv, in my shrink’s waiting room, sometimes even when the traffic lights are red and my personal favorite, in meeting when I get bored. Creepy, scary, sad, pointless? Maybe so, but I found a reason or maybe a justification to keep feeding my addiction.
I might be trying to make sense out of something that just doesn’t make any. It could be. But after countless hours, sleepless nights and a few pissed drivers horning at me, I started to realize there might be something else in there.
I own a startup, we are trying to make it in the travel industry. We provide a service to a growing number of companies. I’ve been doing that for the past 3 years. In the beginning it was all excitement, everything was new, we had to develop the product, release it and find someone who’d be interested in buying it. Create a strategy, make a plan, talk to people, get your face out there so people slowly start to know who you are and the service you provide. The first 2 years we made 2 clients, it could barely paid our bill, and after some time clients just started popping out of nowhere. We’re still loosing money, or rather, not making any, but slowly we’re getting to the point where we might be getting onto something.
So, where does candy crush fit in this equation?
For starters it helped me with my negotiation skills. I find negotiating with someone just like having a chocolate candy there in the screen, we all know it’s there, but you have to know the right time to use it. You don’t use it when it first appears, you wait for the perfect condition to happen, like another special candy, or depending on the level you’re on, a fish candy or even a normal candy of some specific color that will explode that last piece of gum and make you win the level. In the beginning each time I needed to negotiate with a client, I jumped at the first opportunity I had to close the deal, just like when you first start playing the game you use your boost at the same moment it suddenly appears on the screen, the more you play it, you start to realize, that just like when negotiating it’s good to have that candy there waiting to be eaten, you just choose carefully when to use it. The better you get the more you wait to pop that special candy, and sometimes you don’t even end up using it.
Someone once told me that you have to have a strategy, it might not be the best strategy or not even a good one, but you need to stick to it until the end. That holds also true in candy crush. It’s very tempting to change your strategy in the middle of a game, that candy is right there, you just need to explode it, but deep down you know that this is not what you’re trying to achieve in the long run, it’s trying to cut the way, it might even work for the next few plays, but in the end you will loose. Same happens in business, we’ve been offered a few gigs that are not what we set ourselves to do, they might look like a shortcut at first, but in the end they will lead you off the road and you will fail.
Strategy and focus are very closely related. To win the mission, you need to focus on the goal. Decide on a strategy, stick to it and never loose your focus. If your goal is to free the gummy bears don’t go crushing candies that are not on top of them. Sounds obvious, but when you see that delicious candy your eyes go for it and if you’re not strong your appetite will follow. The goal in our business is to sell our product -and we just have one — it’s not our goal to create more additional products. People tend to ask you to do things you don’t do. It might be very tempting to do that, specially when you know your bank account will not be able to pay for your employees wages without some kind of help. But in the end, like matching those 4 candies in the corner with no bear under, it will only distract you from your real goal and you will loose precious time that should otherwise have been used to enhance your product, make it known in the market and finally sold to more and more clients.
When playing candy crush, just like when starting a company, it’s very easy to loose hope. You do a few bad moves and it looks like your game is over. Although that might be true most times, the game is not over until the last move is made. We spent 2 years trying to sell our product, I lost hope not once or twice, but countless times. My poor wife had to put up with my long face day in day out when I came home. Looking back, I was making bad moves, talking to the wrong people, focusing in the wrong parts of the business, even forgetting to follow the strategy, and, when you do that and all goes bad, you loose hope. But if you take some time to analyse the situation, your moves, see what you’re doing wrong and suddenly hope comes back. Re-focus, keep trying and you will get there eventually.
Sometimes you do the right moves, you’re focused, you are true to your strategy, you do all in your power to win the game, but you just not able to. And, when you thought that you had lost, in the last move that boost appears out of nowhere, 2 chocolate candies together and all you need to do is to match it and the game is finally won. You don’t get 3 stars, but you win, and in the end of the day, this is what it’s all about. Luck plays a huge role both in candy crush saga and in the real world, but you have to be there and notice it to be able to use it in your favor.
Maybe this is the most obvious lesson candy crush teaches us…the more you play it, at some point you you will win it, it’s simple statistics. Although that holds also true in business, more times than less you will end up with no more resources to keep on going. Even so, like in the game, if you get out of the game for some time, take your time to regroup and regain your forces, you can try again, and if you try enough times, refine your strategy, focus all your energy in what you want to achieve, don’t lose your hope and with a bit of luck you will one day get there!
So, as stupid as this might sound, this is what I learned from playing candy crush, just like creating a company, it’s addictive, and even if you win that impossible level, there’s always one more screen, one more battle, one more difficult situation which makes you play it again and again and again…
I’m off to play some candy crush and hopefully sleep for a few hours.