Earlier this year I bought a Nintendo Wii. I hadn’t bought a games console for ten or fifteen years but I’d played with one a few times at friends’ houses and they seemed like a sociable and fun way of passing the time. So on a whim I picked a second hand one up off eBay, making sure to get one with the balance board so I could kid myself that I’d wake up every morning and do an hour’s yoga on it…

Anyway, I’ve been really getting into Wii Sports Tennis of late. It’s a lot more sophisticated than I first realised and I’ve enjoyed learning to play the different shots and seeing my steady rise through the ranks.

There are several training options with the tennis and I found myself testing myself on my ability to time my swing. This is done by returning the ball, with the added difficulty of hitting a moving, and shrinking, target at the far end.

Here’s a video of someone doing that training…

I'd been getting increasingly frustrated with my inability to improve my meagre high score. And then I realised that on returning a ball into one of the corners I was often distracted by watching to see if it hit the target at the far end, when i should have been concentrating on the next ball that was already whizzing its way in my direction. Once I'd hit the ball there was absolutely nothing i could do to improve its chances of ending up in the right spot, so I told myself to ignore everything except the ball coming towards me. A simple enough feat, but I instantly started to improve.

Lesson No.1 - Once you've made a change to your business, concentrate on what's next. Obviously if you've added a new product to your range, or you've decided to treat your customers in a different way, then this all needs monitoring. But don't let that distract you from moving things forward. Don't get hung up on what you did yesterday. Surely what you do tomorrow is more important...?

As you can see from the video the target area moves from side to side. I was attempting to hit the middle of the target each time, meaning I was introducing small variations to my strokes in order to "centralise" each shot. Then it dawned on me that no matter how much it moved from side to side some part of the target area covered the very centre of the court for the vast majority of the early stages of the training. So if I concentrated on maintaining a simple, metronomic swing straight back at the server it would hit the target every time. So, instead of trying to alter my swing for each shot, I did the same thing every time. And it was good enough.

Lesson No.2 - Are you over-complicating your service, trying to modify it for each customer/order/request? Is there one simple action that you can do that will allow you to hit your targets every (or nearly every) time? There's parallels with the Pareto Principle, the Abraham Lincoln mis-quote "you can't please all of the people all of the time", and Ben Hammersley's talking at the Do Lectures about measuring the right thing. In other words, you can achieve a lot more by doing a lot less.

So, next time you feel guilty for playing computer games, just tell yourself you're doing a mini-MBA....

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