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Vol. 2, No. 1
(626) 791-8973

Economize and Concentrate Your Resources to Win

 © 2003 By William A. Cohen, PhD,  The Institute of Leader Arts,

Adapted from a forthcoming book with the working title  LEADING THE WAY TO TRIUMPH: 10 Essential Lessons of Competitive Strategy to be published by AMACOM 2004

Once I watched a friend play a board game called Risk® with some other acquaintances. To his utter frustration, my friend just could not win. The object of the game is to occupy every territory on a board on which a map of the world is represented, and in so doing to eliminate all other players. You do this by contesting with other players whose pieces, each representing one army, are placed on this map, each of six continents of which is subdivided into territories. At the start of the game, the territories are divided up among the players by chance so that one army occupies every territory. This determines the initial placement of armies.

Like Business, Risk® has Rules

Business has rules which we must play by. So does the game of Risk®. When it’s your turn, you accumulate additional armies depending on the number of territories you occupy at that time. If you own an entire continent, you are awarded additional armies. You can place these additional armies wherever you want in one or more of your territories.

To challenge an opponent, your territory must be adjacent to his and you must have at least two armies in the territory from which you are attacking. Contesting is done by rolling dice, so there is an element of chance involved. If you win the throw, your opponent must remove one army. If you win all the armies he has in a territory, you replace it with at least one of your armies and the territory is yours.

He Said “Bad Luck” Caused Losses, but It was Really Something Else

My friend complained bitterly about “his luck.” Eventually, he lost all of his armies and he lost several games in a row. I took him aside and pointed out that luck had very little to do with his inability to win. He just didn’t economize to mass his armies anywhere. He would fight all over the board with no apparent goal other than to contest with his adversaries to capture territories. He was relying on luck, not strategy, and so he lost. A strategist gets lucky when he or she does the right thing.

I Explain the Secret

I explained the lesson of strategy that required that he concentrate superior resources at a point or position of his selection that he felt would enable him to control a continent on the game board. That position was a decisive point because every continent he controlled meant additional armies he would be awarded when it was his turn to roll the dice.

To win he first had to decide on the continent he wanted and then to identify the decisive place on the map that he must control to win this continent. He needed also think ahead as to where he would concentrate after winning one continent. Thereafter, rather than spreading his armies around the board at random, he would concentrate as many armies as he could to go after another continent and so on. This would be helped by economizing and allowing those of his territories to be weaker where it was of lesser importance for carrying out his plan.

Implementation of the Lesson Leads to Immediate Success

After I explained this simple procedure to him, he returned to the game and applied this lesson. Not surprisingly, he immediately began to win. He concentrated his armies at decisive points. When he contested, because he had massed his armies, he contested with superior numbers against weaker numbers of armies held by his opponents. He would gain control of one continent and then move on to the next in the same fashion. With just average luck, he began winning right away, and he won repeatedly.

Good business strategists follow the same model. They mass their resources where it counts. Only after they are successful do they move on to mass their resources at the next important point. They know that they can’t concentrate and be strong everywhere.

This Woman Started with Nothing, But She Knew the Secret

Tanya York, immigrated to this country with nothing from Jamaica at the age of 17. At 33 she is a multimillion and head of her own film production company, York Entertainment. With $20 million in annual sales,Hollywood Reporter named her one of the 100 most powerful women in the entertainment industry.  In an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine she revealed the secret of how she succeeded in the highly competitive movie production business despite her lack of a business or film school education when so many with these advantages have failed: “As soon as we have something under control and are doing well, I’ll move on to setting up a new part of the business and expanding it.”1 Tanya York is saying that after massing at the point she perceives to be important and succeeding, only then does she move on to the next challenge. She doesn’t try to succeed everywhere at once. To do that, she would need to be strong everywhere. Only if had unlimited resources could she do that.

Decide on Your Objective, Then Mass Resources to Achieve It

Once you know what you want and you understand your goals and objectives clearly, you “mass,” that is, concentrate, your resources to achieve them just like Tanya York. Many consider this to be the fundamental principle of all strategy. It is a fact that no individual, no business, even no country has unlimited resources. Resources may be natural resources such as minerals, water, or oil. But resources may also be money, time, effort, or good looks. Resources are anything that can be used in some way to attain an objective.

Because resources are always limited, you must make constant trade-offs as to where resources will be used. Again, you usually cannot be strong everywhere. If you try, you will fail because at any one point, you will be weak relative to a competitor. Unless you mass your resources against a clearly defined objective so you are stronger than your competition at that point, you will have little chance of success. 

I call a potential point where you may concentrate your resources a strategic position. A strategic position can be a target market, a business, an industry, a product, or a geographical location. It doesn’t matter which.  Economize elsewhere to mass your resources where it counts at a strategic position, and you are going to win.


1 Amanda C. Kooser,, “Got ID?”  Entrepreneur Magazine (November 2002)  pp.67-68.


THE LESSON: Mass your resources where it counts. Only after you are successful should you move on to mass your resources at the next important point. You can’t concentrate and be strong everywhere.