Entrepreneurial lessons from Squid Game

Human mind is very complex, more than often we try to complicate things. Simple ideas which are good enough and do the job well are rejected. This could be in anything like a business idea, a social issue or even a creative idea a TV series.

Recently Squid Game has set the new record for viewership on Netflix, the reason behind the success  of this show and its characters can be juxtaposed with entrepreneurship as well.

The Director of the show revealed that it took 10 years to pitch the script to Netflix, they were also waiting for the right time when the audience is more open to this type of show. Although the idea was very simple: integrating children’s game into a survival, action, and element of violence. The makers were very sceptic about it till the very end, they thought either it will become a huge success or a complete failure. This is the case with many start-up founders as well. Many a times they tend to underestimate the problem they will solve with a simple idea. But if timed and executed properly this can be a game changer. During the pandemic we have witnessed how new start-ups succeeded by adapting and catering to changing consumer behaviour. This is a very important lesson for entrepreneurs being self-critical and sceptic is good, but too much of anything is bad. Timing and agility are a major success factor.

Now coming to the events of the series which depict traits that are very important for an entrepreneur.

Identifying the key strengths of all the team members

In the series there was a tug of war game in which the competitors were required to make a ten-player team and place each member according to their strengths. The winners were those who made a well-balanced team and utilised the key strengths of each member wisely.

This is very similar to an entrepreneur’s journey; success comes to those who identify the key strengths and weaknesses of their team members and utilize their skills wisely.

Building trust

In the same tug of war game there is an important message which is worth discussing and that is, building trust. Seong Gi-hun’s team uses the knowledge and experience of the old man Oh Il-nam to position themselves on both sides of the rope to strengthen their grip.

Trust goes both ways in a relationship. If you trust your team, they will trust you back, and they will, in turn, become more committed to the common goal. An entrepreneur must forge trust among the team members and himself. In this series Cho Sang-woo, asks the team members to take steps forward instead of pulling the rope. Although they expressed fear of losing the game initially, later they decided to believe in his decision and ultimately win the game.

Patience is the key

In the series there is a game of Dalgona Candy. The game requires players to carve a shape out of solidified sugar candy, the Dalgona candy, without breaking it using only a needle which they were provided. More complex the shape, more difficult it is to carve out. Seong Gi-Hun  the protagonist of the series gets a difficult shape to carve out. He sees that other players were breaking their candy, but he remained patient and came up with an innovative strategy under pressure: to simply lick the remaining portion of the candy instead of using a needle.

As an entrepreneur, more then often one may feel left out in the race. Taking decisions hastily is never rewarding, and it is not necessary that what worked for others will work in their case also. Being patient and thinking through a solution which best suits the situation is more rewarding for becoming a success story.

Success is not about who achieved it first, it is about doing things better than others.

The Glass game was based on luck. It is a smart approach to learn from other people’s mistake. As an entrepreneur one may find a lot of existing competition but being first doesn’t guarantee success. In-fact this could be a blessing in disguise as one can learn from other mistakes.

Slow and steady will not win the race every-time ; sometimes it is the nimble and flexible who wins the race.

A trending filter which is viral on social-media these days is the red light, green light game which in-fact is inspired from the Squid Game. In this game Cho Sang-woo was quick enough to assess the scenario and was able to finish the game on time, escaping from the dolls motion detection. Those who were slow eventually lose the game.

This is a very important learning for an entrepreneur, sometimes overthinking and not taking any action can be deteriorating for the start-up, one has to be nimble or agile in nature. If somethings fail, then there should be a plan B at place. Agonising  about the past is not a solution.

Overall, the central characters of the series boil down to an important learning for an entrepreneur, having empathy and using logical reasoning. Empathy is an asset for an entrepreneur, it helps from the very first step of building a start-up i.e., problem identification. We can solve a problem only when we identify one and that can be only when we have empathy for others.

Similarly using a logical reasoning approach will help an entrepreneur to understand the viability of his solution. Developing a solution which is scalable, measurable and has a certain timeline to it achievable for the team.

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