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Value Creation Blog

We Don’t Live In A Zero Sum World

Posted by Josh Patrick

zeroA few weeks ago I wrote a post on why I believe it’s important to go for win/win or nothing.  Win/win is where you get what you need and I get what I need.  We both walk away happy.  There are other options and the result is often not very pretty:

  • Win/Lose - I get what I want and you don’t.  When this happens I always have to worry about what sort of revenge you might be planning for me.
  • Lose/Win - You get what you want and I don’t get what I want.  This might just a problem for you.  You’re going to have to spend a lot of time wondering whether I’m going to sue you or I just might go for plain old revenge.
  • Lose/Lose - It’s hard to believe that anyone would want to do this, but it happens more often than we think.  This is where compromise lives.  It’s when we both decide we would be better off if we both don’t get what we want instead of looking for a 3rd alternative.

Are you a zero sum person?

If you allow win/lose or lose/win to exist in your life you just might be a zero sum person.  Zero sum people think there is only so much in the world.  Zero sum people believe that resources dwindle and I have to get mine before they run out.  They believe that markets are only so big and that there isn’t enough business for all.  They take all of the business they can get just because they believe there might never be another customer that walks in their door or signs a contract with them.

Zero sum people are not bad people.  They just have a belief system that forces them to see the world as one with diminishing opportunity.  In my opinion this comes from a headset that sees the world in a way that evidence shows is false.

If this belief were true, it would have been impossible for billions of people to join the middle class over the last fifty years.  If you and I look at the facts we will see that this is patently not true.  In fact, billions of people have joined the middle class and it looks like billions more will in the next fifty years.

But if everyone can win won’t we ruin everything?

This is the belief of some environmentalists and some in our own country who think we have to “police” the rest of the world.  Both camps come from a zero sum belief system.  They believe there isn’t enough and as a result we either have to deprive ourselves (lose/win) or we have to forcibly take what we want (win/lose). 

Both models in my opinion are faulty.  Technology has saved us over and over for the past two hundred years.  It looks like it just might do so again.  At the same time, we have to be aware there are bad people in the world and we have to mindful of where we live and take care of our environment.  Both can be accomplished with a mindset of expanding opportunity and prosperity. 

Expanding our belief system is the opposite of zero sum.

The only way we really can believe there is a world of expanding opportunity is to always go for win/win or don’t play.  It’s a choice.  You can decide to not participate with those who don’t work towards win/win.  You don’t have to associate, work, or do business with those who want to take advantage of you.  You don’t have to compromise to move forward.  If you spend time looking at the core values of what you both want, you can move forward.

If you decide that you really do live in an expanding world, being a little magnanimous in how you work will play to your advantage.  You’re likely to be able to get what you want and need and not have to take the last crumb off the table.  The choice is yours.  Which path will you choose to follow?

I’ve written a special report on relationship and roles in your business.  I think if we understand what roles we play and how those roles control the relationships with have with our business it helps us move forward to be in expanding what we can and might even want to do.  To get this report, click on the button below.


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Topics: for business owners, business relationship management, roles

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