Nearbound Weekend 06/22: Steal This Framework For Strategic Alliances

Nearbound Weekend 06/22: Steal This Framework For Strategic Alliances

Ella Richmond 3 min

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The playing to win framework

It was my first day at Drift. I was reporting to the Founder & CTO, Elias Torres.

Elias is one in a million, perhaps one in a billion.

Have you ever met a CTO who didn’t have a laptop at the office? That’s Elias.

“I build teams, products follow,” he used to say.

My first day started with a barrage of WhatsApp messages basically saying I had until Friday and my first Executive Leadership Team meeting to figure out where we place our partner bets.

But something told me this was more than just another meeting. I had a feeling I was expected to be right!

Thankfully, Elias had shown me Playing To Win: How Strategy Really Works.

In a very brief summary, Playing To Win has three distinct parts:

  1. Strategic Choice Making
  2. Reverse Engineering
  3. Strategic Testing 

The first part, Strategic Choice Making, details five steps of cascading choices to not just call your shot, but to call the right shot.

  • What is the winning aspiration?
  • Where will you play?
  • How will you win?
  • What capabilities must be in place?
  • What management systems are required?

I worked 24/7 to turn the entire book into a template in my first week:

Strategic Alliances
Strategic choice making.

It’s not just about what you say yes to. It’s also about what you say no to. As a forcing function, it’s a dang challenging exercise.

I highly recommend doing this with your most trusted partner before doing this with your leadership team as an exercise.

Breaking it down a tad more:

What is our winning aspiration?

  • Don’t think about money. Everyone is playing for money in business. Start with people. What does it mean to win with your customers and partners?
  • What is the competitive nature? Who are you winning over?

Where will we play?

  • Market, Segment, Vertical, Horizontal, Geo, Size. (Don’t make the mistake of choosing your current field of play for ease. It can be, but this is not a descriptive exercise; it’s a prescriptive one.) What people are you playing with?
  • Channels or Methods. What field are you playing in? 

How will we win in chosen markets?

  • Simply put, how to win on the field. 

What capabilities must we have?

  • The activities you must excel at. The more reinforcing the capabilities are of other capabilities, the better the advantage. 

What management systems do we need?

  • Guardrails, rules, processes, and measures that demonstrate how well the strategy is working. 

These five questions are the bedrock for the Playing To Win strategy. They’re not a crystal ball, and getting them right certainly takes more than a ten-minute reading (more like ten sessions), but let’s put it this way: Can you afford not to have these questions answered before choosing which ecosystem you are going to win in?

The right choice can shift markets. The wrong choice can tank your company.

Be bold, but be thorough. Measure twice, cut once.

Frame your strategic choices to generate possibilities.

Start with a strategic problem. You should have multiple strategic problems to work through—and remember, this is about the market, not about you or revenue.

What are the choices to focus on to solve that strategic problem?

Reverse engineer your strategies.

Read the full guide on strategic alliances, Partner Up and Play to Win.


—Jared Fuller (Chief Ecosystem Officer at Reveal and


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Ella Richmond 3 min

Nearbound Weekend 06/22: Steal This Framework For Strategic Alliances

The root of strategic alliances is strategy. Strategy is choice. If you are playing to win, you must understand what strategy actually means: Not all choices are equal.

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