The Play to Win Strategy: It's All About Good Choices

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Playing To Win" by AG Lafley. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the core concept of the Play to Win strategy? What are the major misinterpretations of business strategy?

The Play to Win strategy posits that winning is the process of making tough choices that put you ahead of the competition. A winning business strategy does not mean adhering to industry best practices or publishing a vision statement, it essentially means making the decisions that put your company in a position to thrive in the marketplace.

Read on to learn more about the true meaning and misinterpretations of the Play to Win strategy.

Misconceptions About the Play to Win Strategy

Most people don’t understand why strategies succeed and why they fail, so when they are put in a position to decide on a good strategy, they have trouble.  The primary problem is that they misunderstand strategy in a variety of ways. They think:

  • Strategy is just a vision: Vision statements are good, but often there’s no real plan to back them up. There’s no point in having a vision if you don’t have a way to get there.
  • Strategy is just a plan: A detailed plan is fine, but on its own, it won’t lead to an advantage in the marketplace.
  • Long-term strategy is a waste of time: Many people think it doesn’t make sense to define strategy in the long term because the world changes so much so quickly that companies should solve the challenges in front of them rather than planning for an uncertain future. However, this makes companies reactive rather than proactive. The most successful companies are the ones that can shape these changes in the world through clear strategy. 
  • Strategy works within the status quo: A lot of companies look at the world and try to optimize their strategy to work best within the status quo. This may work, but playing the game in front of you is often less successful than coming up with your own rules. That is strategy.
  • Strategy is only adhering to best practices: Some companies think they’re doing better because they’re adhering to best practices more firmly than their competition. But again, this is reactive and isn’t a forward-looking strategy. 

The true definition of good strategy is deceptively simple: The Play to Win strategy is the process of making tough choices that put you ahead of the competition. These choices can confine you, but they can also lead to success—the key is to learn how to win rather than just how to play. 

The Play to Win Strategy: It’s All About Good Choices

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of AG Lafley's "Playing To Win" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Playing To Win summary:

  • Why the cascade strategy will help you become victorious in your chosen field of play
  • Why you should make every choice with the purpose of not just competing, but winning
  • How to develop a system of decision-making for your company

Joseph Adebisi

Joseph has had a lifelong obsession with reading and acquiring new knowledge. He reads and writes for a living, and reads some more when he is supposedly taking a break from work. The first literature he read as a kid were Shakespeare's plays. Not surprisingly, he barely understood any of it. His favorite fiction authors are Tom Clancy, Ted Bell, and John Grisham. His preferred non-fiction genres are history, philosophy, business & economics, and instructional guides.

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