- Standard of Business
- Producing Real Value
- The Harming of Others
- Directed Passion and Hard Work
- The Handshake
- Misdirection and Deception
- Partnerships of Trust
- Amorality of Money
- Money: A Means, Not an End
- The Great Liege Lord: Greed
- Human Relationships, Not Numbers
- Losing with Honor
- The Trap of Zero-Sum Thinking
- Align or Die!
- Creating Shared Stakeholder Value
- Capitalism: The Powers of Good and Evil
- Guarding Growth
When I was a senior in high school, one of several extracurricular activities I enjoyed was drama, not that I was a particularly good actor. Still, I enjoyed the theater and not only acted, but also did technical work and directing.
For us, one-act plays were a great way to gain experience in the casting, practicing, staging and all other aspects of putting on a play without taking on the responsibility of a full production. Our drama club did it every year.
[Aside: For one such evening of one-act plays I directed some silly “British” sitting room comedy about some people who were in a hotel that was on fire. It was just as odd as it sounds.]
Not wanting to give more away about the play than is needful, the basic premise is “what would happen if for everything one learned, some number of (possibly very important) things would be forgotten?” It’s a very interesting idea, and the audience is treated to the antics of people trying to deal with an ever decreasing natural resource: their memories and knowledge.
[A] mathematical representation of a situation in which a participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains ) of the utility of the other participant(s).
In other words, the rewards/benefits are fixed. Consider a pie that is to be shared in a family. If I eat a piece, no one else can have that piece of pie. The pie’s size is fixed and it’s the only pie in existence. If I consume it, it’s gone.
While its application is useful in game theory, I’ve seen this concept also applied in many business settings. In my opinion, it’s one of the driving forces behind many of the war metaphors for business.
|Executive #1||There’s only so much market share to go around. If the competitor takes it, we can’t have it. This means war!|
|Executive #2||Is it really that extreme? What about looking for ways to grow the overall market for what we have to sell?|
Now, there are certainly those who will feel my approach to this is sophomoric, simple and naive, and I will admit there may be some limited cases where this applies. But, I don’t believe it applies universally.
The economies and markets of the world are amazing things. In fact, they at times almost appear to take on a life of their own, and I believe this is due to the creative use of creative ideas.
I believe human potential and effort has a multiplying effect on the aforementioned pie. The pie isn’t static; it grows. There’s not just one pie, but many, with new pies appearing all of the time. Certainly, we may not get the exact piece of pie we initially want or the pie we initially wanted may have disappeared, but there’s enough to go around—especially if we aren’t greedy.
There’s a fallacy in zero-sum thinking, and it’s very damaging. Zero-sum thinking causes us to be closed, fearful and secretive. These traits are in direct opposition to the human connections needed in this new economy.
Zero-sum thinking teaches us to:
- Distrust when we should collaborate
- Hide when we should share
- Fear when we should care
In case it isn’t clear, I’m opposed to zero-sum thinking. I’m opposed to its natural consequences.
Let’s always try to look at situations with the belief that they’re not zero-sum games. If that’s too much to ask, at least start with the expectation things are not zero-sum until proven otherwise.
Changed thinking will change behavior. Changed behavior will change results. And, in this case, changed results will benefit everyone.
If nothing else, at least every second of every day won’t be a competition, a battle, a war.
This article is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0.