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Do You Really Know Why?

The greatest mysteries of the world are often impenetrable

Do You Really Know Why?

Those performing the first autopsy in human history, after skilled and diligent examination of the two dozen stab wounds crisscrossing the back and torso of Julius Caesar, correctly surmised that yes, the Roman emperor had indeed died of excessive blood loss, and not from uh, well…

Dysentery?

Malaria?

A broken heart?

File this under: No duh, Brute.

Since then, despite what a generation of watching CSI has told us, figuring out the cause of death isn’t always quite so obvious. At least in the boardroom if not the morgue.

Because exactly why do some things in our world—products, initiatives, acquisitions—perish, while other things—businesses, careers, cultures—live, prosper and procreate?

You may think you know, but do you

really know? Or do you just know that you think you know you know?

You know?

For example, Lucky Dragon Casino in Las Vegas was a commercial failure. No one disputes that, especially the investors that saw their money evaporate like a blast of aerosol in the desert heat. But why? It was new. It was nice-enough looking. It was right off the freeway, within walking distance to the Strat and the Sahara-then-SLS-now-Sahara-again. It catered to Asian players with rows of mini, midi and big baccarat tables amid a sea of gold and red decorations. It had Chinese dealers, Chinese restaurants and even Chinese signage. It was as close as you could get to Macau without having to jump on a hydrofoil and cross the South China Sea.

And yet, it opened and closed in 18 months.

So again… Why?

Hold that thought for a moment and let’s look at the flip side.

Take a peek at the Eilers slot rankings this month. Do you really know why some games index at three times house average while others can’t win enough to pay for the electricity that powers their eproms? Slot companies in aggregate spend $1 billion a year in R&D, employ some of the smartest and most creative men and women you’d ever want to meet, and yet, the overwhelming majority of titles come and go without leaving much of an imprint.

How is that possible?

Because if you knew, if you could really deconstruct commercial success into a formula, a recipe that you just had to follow over and over and over, then every game would win three times house average. Which would be great if it were not also mathematically impossible.

Because if they all won at three times house average the average would be higher, and then…

Ah, forget it.

As executives, actual or aspiring, you spend a lot of your time predicting the future. You’ll never see it in a job description, but it’s the most important skill you can possess. Actually, it’s more superpower than skill. Where to invest your company’s time and resources; and just as importantly, where not to. You make bets like this every day, and the better you are at betting, the better your chances of continuous betterment.

Sometimes to look forward, it helps to look behind you. Do this: Take 15 minutes and devote thoughtful reflection on something you did a few years ago, and really—and honestly—examine the outcome. Maybe it’s a company you bought that promptly pooped your hand. Maybe it’s a job candidate you didn’t hire that went on to great heights elsewhere. Maybe it’s a marketing promotion that crushed all expectations. Maybe it’s some presentation you gave that people are still talking about.

Channel your inner M.E. and find out WTF actually happened. And don’t just take your word for it. Grab a few in-the-knowsters and pry out their perspectives, and keep going until you’ve, like Tiger Woods circling a birdie putt, looked at it from all angles.

Leave nothing to chance.

Want some fodder for such convos, beyond that unlucky dragon and the top of the slots? Here’s a short list:

  • Why continuous card shufflers, those that recycle cards back into the machine after each round, are all the rage on blackjack everywhere in the world… except North America?
  • Why, if players love electronic table games—which they no doubt do—have they up until now avoided e-poker tables like they were covered in Covid dust?
  • Why some branded slots (Monopoly, Wheel of Fortune, Crazy Rich Asians) are massive hits, while others (names redacted to protect the innocent) are massive hits with an “s” in front?
  • Why do players accept 6-to-5 blackjack and triple-zero roulette?

OK now. Talk amongst yourselves.

Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Light & Wonder. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Light & Wonder or its affiliates.