Non-Fiction Spotlight: Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: Organization Theory and Strategy in Westeros by Fiona Moore

First of all, I was at the Hugos There podcast again as part of a great panel discussing the 2022 Hugo finalists for Best Novella. You can listen here or watch us blabber on YouTube here.

After the Hugos is before the next Hugos, so I’m continuing my Non-Fiction Spotlight project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that come out in 2022 and are eligible for the 2023 Hugo Awards. For more about the Non-Fiction Spotlight project, go here. To check out the spotlights I already posted, go here.

For more recommendations for SFF-related non-fiction, also check out this Facebook group set up by the always excellent Farah Mendlesohn, who is a champion (and author) of SFF-related non-fiction.

Business books are not exactly what you’d expect to find in a series of spotlights about SFF-related non-fiction. However, a business book is absolutely appropriate for this series, when it shares management and business lessons from Game of Thrones.

Therefore, I am happy to welcome Dr. Fiona Moore, author of Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: Organization Theory and Strategy in Westeros to my blog today:

Management Lessons from Game of Thrones by Fiona Moore

Tell us about your book.

Management Lessons from Game of Thrones takes a look at management theory through a Westerosi lens. I use characters, organisations, and events from the television series (primarily, though there’s some references to A Song of Ice and Fire in there as well) to explain the background and concepts of organisation theory, human resource management, strategy, and mergers and acquisitions (or, in the Westerosi context, weddings and warfare). I also look at how and why Game of Thrones is such a useful tool for management education, and suggest ways in which the reader can develop their own understanding of organisations through the use of SFF stories.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m an anthropologist who wandered into a business school twenty years ago and stayed because they keep feeding her! Seriously, I did my doctorate in anthropology, but, because my area of interest centred around multinational corporations, I found it easier to get a job in a management studies department. However, while I was doing my doctorate I also started co-writing guidebooks to cult and/or SF television, which has led to a parallel career writing academic works on SF, and the two streams have finally intersected.

I also write fiction; most of my published work is about intelligent machines and people learning to live with them, though I also write Lynchian horror and a series I generally describe as “Gerry Anderson, but with lesbians.”

And I have a tortoiseshell cat who is mostly bent on world domination, though at thirteen she’s mellowed a tiny bit.

What prompted you to write/edit this book?

It was very much an unexpected journey. I’m a Game of Thrones fan, and I teach, among other things, leadership theory to masters’ students—many of whom are also Game of Thrones fans. In order to make it more interesting for them, I began using examples from Game of Thrones.

Word got around the business school and before long I was giving a cut-down version as a “taster lecture” to prospective students.

Then, encouraged by various friends in fandom, I wrote it up as a blog post series, and gave a talk at Eastercon. But people kept asking, ‘when are you going to write a textbook?” And, when academic publishers Edward Elgar approached me asking if I had any ideas for new books, I pitched this one to them and they were delighted.

Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?

In the first place, I think SFF fans in general should read it because, at the risk of sounding arrogant, it should teach you something, and in what is hopefully a fun and interesting way. That was my original aim when I started out, and I still think it’s easier to learn about, for instance, the role of the personnel function in organisations when you’re thinking about it in terms of how the Night’s Watch works, or mergers and acquisitions through the history of Winterfell. Even if you’ve got a background in management studies, this approach should give you some insights you might not have had otherwise.

More seriously, and for the Hugo voters, this approach also does the reverse, and gives us insights into Game of Thrones. The reason Game of Thrones works so well as a management teaching tool is because it was written in a context of late American capitalism, based loosely on historical societies at a time and place when businesses as we know them were starting to evolve. This book allows us to see how Game of Thrones holds a mirror up to our world, and, through allegory and fiction, tackles problems that ordinary managers face.

Do you have any cool facts or tidbits that you unearthed during your research, but that did not make it into the final book?

There was one insight into Ironborn society that I had when I was exploring the complicated issue of gender and leadership on Westeros. There are a number of societies, for instance the Inuit, which have very strict gender roles, and which handle a situation where a family has too many people of one gender and not enough of the other by re-gendering some of the kids. Or adults. In Albania, for instance, where a lot of men die in blood feuds, some of the women become what they call “sworn virgins”, who are socially male. Though in most cases that re-gendering only goes so far: ”sworn virgins” can’t marry, for instance.

And although nobody’s ever said so, that would explain Yara Greyjoy perfectly. One son is dead, the other traded off to the Starks as a hostage and considered no longer an Ironborn: so you raise the daughter in a male role. And then hit the inevitable problem when you run up against the limit of the re-gendering, and she can’t in fact inherit her father’s title.

That’s the sort of thing that anthropologists love to think about, but it was a bit harder to work into a management text!

SFF-related non-fiction is somewhat sidelined by the big genre awards, since the Nebulas have no non-fiction category and the Best Related Work Hugo category has become something of a grab bag of anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere. So why do you think SFF-related non-fiction is important?

SFF-related non-fiction is important because that’s where our insights come from. I like to read Vector and Foundation, two SFF non-fiction journals here in the UK, because I always come away seeing a familiar work in a new light, or understanding it in a way I didn’t before. If people didn’t take a step back from the genre and think about what makes it work, we wouldn’t understand it as well as we do.

Are there any other great SFF-related non-fiction works or indeed anything else (books, stories, essays, writers, magazines, films, TV shows, etc…) you’d like to recommend?

For a start, Vector and Foundation, as I mentioned above. Obverse Books do a great line in short monographs about Doctor Who and other cult television series (full disclosure, I’ve written one of them). Academics I follow include Tony Keen, who writes on popular works on classics; Dassi Elber-Aviram, who has a new book out called Fairy Tales of London, Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James; Andrew Butler, whose book on 1970s SF I find a useful reference; Amy Binns, who has written a great book on John Wyndham; and Ali Baker, who does a podcast called Fantasy Book Swap. Outside of academia but still in nonfiction, I can also recommend my frequent co-author Alan Stevens; Rob Fairclough; Andrew Pixley; and the Doctor Who focused zine Vworp! Vworp! I’m also addicted to the Octothorpe podcast, but that’s by the way.

Where can people buy your book?

You can buy direct from the publisher here , and I believe they have international shopping. Otherwise, easiest way internationally is probably Amazon. You can find it on Amazon UK at and Amazon US. If you want to order from an independent bookshop, and I would encourage you to, the ISBN is 978 1 83910 528 9.

Where can people find you?

I’m @drfionamoore on all social media, my professional website is www.fiona-moore.com, and my blog is www.adoctorofmanythings.com. There’s an essay series on my blog called Leadership Lessons from Game of Thrones (linked to on its sidebar) which is a bit of a taster for the book if you’re hesitating about buying it!

Thank you, Fiona, for stopping by and answering my questions.

Do check out Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: Organization Theory and Strategy in Westeros, which came out today.

About Management Lessons from Game of Thrones: Organization Theory and Strategy in Westeros:

This intriguing and absorbing book takes a look at aspects of Westerosi society and politics from an anthropological and organizational studies angle. It shows both how management theory influenced the world-building in the Game of Thrones franchise, and also how students, academics and managers can draw on the series to further enhance their understanding of concepts in human resource management and organization theory.

Based on a detailed knowledge of Game of Thrones but grounded in serious management research, Fiona Moore provides a tour of the organizations, leaders and followers in Westeros, giving insights into the fantasy kingdom as well as important lessons managers can use in their own careers. Providing a brief and enjoyable introduction to management and organization theory, the book then discusses how and why modern management concepts can be seen in Game of Thrones, exploring concepts such as leadership, strategy and human resource management through a unique lens.

Unconventional in its approach, this book will prove a key resource for students and scholars in areas such as business leadership, human resource management and organization studies looking for new and entertaining ways of understanding the theory behind management.

About Fiona Moore:

Fiona Moore is a two-time BSFA Award finalist, writer and academic whose work has appeared in Clarkesworld, Asimov, Cossmass Infinities, and three consecutive editions of The Best of British SF. Her publications include one novel; numerous articles in journals such as Foundation; guidebooks to Blake’s Seven, The Prisoner, Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who; three stage plays and four audio plays. When not writing, she is a Professor of Business Anthropology at Royal Holloway, University of London. She lives in Southwest England with a tortoiseshell cat which is bent on world domination. More details, and free content, can be found at www.fiona-moore.com.

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Are you publishing a work of SFF-related longform non-fiction in 2022 and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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