Do you have kids? Do your kids love video games? If so, you may already be familiar with the term “min-max” and probably don’t appreciate this encroachment of gamer nonsense into your professional world.
That’s understandable, but indulge us a moment. The gamers are really onto something here, something that one should always keep in mind when doing business.
Essentially, the term describes optimization – getting the most out of your inputs. In games, this means mathematically ensuring all earned statistical benefits go toward a single unified purpose. No indulgent side projects, no willy-nilly placements hoping for the best. A player who honors min-max goals will ultimately be unstoppable, but it requires discipline and careful planning. It turns out that’s also true in business.
Back To The Real World
The idea of aimed optimization is nothing new and certainly isn’t limited to gaming. Smaller businesses have no choice but to min-max by default (ones that survive, anyway). The bigger an organization gets, however, the more people and project diversity obscure the larger picture. In these cases, a top-down min-max approach can be quite beneficial, not just for the organization as a whole but for individual initiatives as well.
Set A Goal
You can’t optimize toward a goal if you don’t have one. So that’s your first step, and it’s a big one. You have to decide ahead of time what kind of space you want to occupy in your industry, how you want to occupy it, and to what degree. A goal as simple as “make the most money” won’t do you much good because it does not lend itself to operable avenues of attack. Your pursuit is best served by specificity.
Remember, you can’t throw a dart until you have a target. Setting your goal is arguably more important (and difficult) than actively pursuing that goal. Of course, the journey you take will alter your trajectory somewhat, but a solid endgame gives you a map to follow when things get murky, which they inevitably will.
Focus Focus Focus
Once you know what you’re after, it’s time to min-max. The general idea is to always know how any decision – maybe an allocation of funds, an expansion, a new venture – serves the original goal. How will this help? If it doesn’t help at all, that’s an indication you should let it pass you by. Decisions all aimed at the same specific goal can often synergize and become more beneficial than the sum of their parts over time.
So for instance, a local bakery wants to be known for having the best croissants in town. It would not be good min-maxing for them to invest in new equipment to make donuts, even if they stumble across a great deal on such equipment. They should remain focused on perfecting their croissant situation.
A different bakery across town buys that donut equipment instead. And sure enough, they make great donuts. But their croissants are pretty bad. Meanwhile, your bakery instead invested in a class on savory croissant techniques, thus following their croissant goal to include lunch items their competitor's donuts can’t touch. And just like that, this bakery min-maxed its way to success!
So yes, we started with video games and ended with a fake bakery. Nevertheless, the min-max mentality is a valuable tool for staying on target, guiding tough decisions, and avoiding potential waste. Maybe the gamers know what they’re doing after all. Just this once.