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First Mover "Advantage"

First Mover "Advantage"

For a hot decade, Silicon Valley had a few popular mantras like:

Move fast and break things

First-mover advantage

Winner takes all

All three are related but typically viewed independently. But on closer inspection, the last two are deeply entwined.

"Move fast and break things" was said by Mark Zuckerberg with its intent around feature development speed to generate user growth. It's easy to draw relations to the other terms "first-mover advantage" and "winner takes all". Particularly in the lens of Facebook. While Facebook is dominant there are other social networking platforms including Twitter, LinkedIn and Discord.

The advantage of being a first-mover is much more nuanced and context-dependent.

Being the first to queue to checkout at a store is a simple example. In games like chess, where playing white moves first, game engines say that there is a mathematical advantage. But in games like Poker, last to act has an advantage because they know what the other players have decided to do and can therefore use the information in their decision making.

This is where the complexity of a game like Poker is highlighted. Players who have to make a move first will often attempt to deceive their opponents.

A player with a strong hand may try to hide that information.
A player with a weak hand may attempt to represent a strong hand.

In situations where the are clear rules of engagement and information is widely available to all participants, a first-mover advantage is clearly present.

When a scenario has unknowns within its parameters and unevenly distributed information, the opaqueness creates opportunities for strong counter moves. The wait-and-see behaviour is incentivised by gaining knowledge.

This doesn't mean don't take action. Rather, it's don't fixate on being first to move. If you have the means to move first, do it in stealth because when you occupy the position you'll have to defend the fort. If you can't reap meaningful benefits before losing the position, there's little value.

History is written by the victors and those that survive.

Games like business and personal development are more about the process and creating sustainable systems that can keep going infinitely.

Milestones are just markers for progress and resting places.

It's not who moves first, it's who can keep moving.