Published on: March 4, 2014by Michael Sansolo
Thanks to syndicated television, we’re all getting a real time lesson in competition and it’s a lesson no one should pass up. Even if it seems a little annoying while it happens.
The lesson comes courtesy of Arthur Chu, an insurance compliance technician, who is currently blasting his way through the television game show "Jeopardy." Chu has already won more than $200,000 answering the strange mix of questions on "Jeopardy" with a tactical approach never seen before in the game.
His approach is new, innovative, and effectively vicious. Oh yes, it is also widely hated.
Then again, innovators frequently behave in ways that upset the status quo. They are disruptive, annoying and require a completely new response. That’s why Chu is delivering a great lesson in competitive strategy for you.
First, a quick examination of what he is doing. If you’ve ever watched "Jeopardy," you know the basics of the show. Three contestants try to answer assorted questions spread across six categories, with higher dollar values given to increasingly tougher problems. Traditionally, contestants essentially followed the same pattern: they always seemed to focus on a single category of questions moving down the board from easiest to hardest.
Until Chu, that is how the game was played.
Chu hops all over the board, moving category to category in a seemingly random pattern. Except his method is anything but random. He has a carefully researched plan, wiping out the highest value questions quickly and making careful calculations on how to maximize the benefit of bonus questions or Daily Doubles. In the process he unnerves his opponents and even, at times, the usually unflappable host, Alex Trebek.
The fans/viewers seem to hate what he’s doing, even while they tune in. (Well, not this week though, due to a previously scheduled "Jeopardy" special. But Chu will be back as the reigning champion.)
Yet Chu is doing nothing illegal or against the rules of the game. Rather, all he is doing is tilting the competitive odds in his favor, by disrupting his opponents and giving himself the greatest possible chance of controlling a random game.
As one of the many articles about winning streak has pointed out, such unexpected tactics are usually hated and then widely copied, whether those tactics are the Oakland Athletics Moneyball approach to baseball, President Obama’s electoral strategies using the social web or countless other instances from love to war.
It’s all about finding a way to win by doing things differently.
No matter what business you are in, you owe it to yourself to consider Arthur Chu and his winning streak. Sure, he may not be the most popular game show contestant ever, but he is far better known, more successful and much wealthier than countless others who have stood in his place.
His unorthodox style should provide an interesting discussion around any workplace on traditional tactics and what alternatives might exist that are both fully legal and capable of throwing convention on its ear.
It should remind you of a competitive philosophy discussed here in the past from the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie. In scene after scene, Johnny Depp’s pirate captain manages to best the hero, Orlando Bloom, by unexpectedly changing the conditions of every duel.
When Bloom protests that he’d never lose a fair fight, Depp responds, “That’s hardly an incentive to fight fair.”
Arthur Chu might agree. You should too.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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