In financial markets Options and Futures are examples of zero-sum games where, if one party loses, the other party wins, and the net change in wealth is zero.
In social circles, poker and gambling are popular examples of zero-sum games since the sum of the amounts won by some players equals the combined losses of the others.
All sports are zero-sum games. Athletics or Tennis for example, where there is always one winner and one or more losers, even sports with short term exceptions, such as ‘drawing a game’ use support metrics to convert it to a zero-sum game, such as goal difference in football.
Business is a zero-sum game, if you win a contract, tender, or quote, one of your rivals has lost out, as it must be if you want to earn money in business.
It is little wonder then that these zero-sum games, the I win; you lose approach has manifested as a core influencer in our leadership and business cultures over the past several decades.
However, as millennials lead the way to conscious capitalism… As the waves of the fourth industrial revolution digitise our lives in every way possible, creating immense future challenges, such as jobs displacement... As the need to prevent future pandemics bond the globalisation effect, yet localise supply chains… As circular economics drive change and transformation of our energy systems… As Blockchain will eventually democratize and decentralise all financial and data transactions… So too will zero-sum leadership reach its evolutionary limit… In my experience it already has.
Performance, Profit and the Power of shareholders will no longer determine success driven by short-termism. They will be replaced by the latest evolution of the three P’s: Purpose, Planet, and the Power of stakeholders… People.
Putting people at the centre of business means humanising policies and procedures, fostering collaboration and contribution, and building caring and authentic relationships across all your company’s stakeholders. Aligning your team, suppliers, customers, local communities, and shareholders in a way that not only contributes to the company’s purpose but also creates great outcomes for each of them, which includes of course, profit and equity.
As progressive business leaders focussed on growing our companies faster, stronger better, we must recognise three strategic changes are essential:
1. Short term decision making will no longer maximize shareholder value; it is now about creating a culture that can ‘scale’ with the operation and make a positive impact on its stakeholders, and in whatever small way possible, the planet.
2. Its no longer about maximising performance by focusing on the tangibles at the exception of the human in a way that motivates employees to avoid consequences; it’s about maximising Discretionary Effort by energising people and mobilising teams with collective purpose, contribution, and value.
3. Companies can no longer flourish with the traditional top-down model of power; what's required now is a leadership approach that connects people to the organisation through ‘Big Arrow Thinking’ and micro cultures.
This does ‘not’ mean taking a softly-softly approach to leadership. On the contrary it means learning how to create the right amount of leadership 'tension' within your culture and being able to adapt your leadership style the situation at hand. Nor does it mean focusing on the latest buzz of ‘it’s all about the customer experience’… It means the businesses who will create sustainability and maximise profitability as we transition out this pandemic are those who are focused on Exceptional ‘Stakeholder’ Experience.
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