Games Politicians Play

Just finished a great and timely article Making Sense of the Games Politicians Play (Businessweek, August 30, 2012).  It couldn’t be more appropriate now, not only with respect to the elections, but in helping confirm what I posted earlier and what is also on my docket for the near future.  But, seeing as we are traveling again for the next two weeks, it seems more than justified to post this now and develop things further on our return.

In my posts on Games People Play, I introduced the concept of both –∑ (negative sum) and +∑ (positive sum) games because most other discussions (media, texts, internet) limit their references to 0∑ (zero sum) games.  The BW article discusses a game developer, Luke Hohmann, whose product is used by both companies and at least one city currently to focus on “getting people with seemingly competing interests and vastly different viewpoints to understand tradeoffs and make hard choices.”  Outcomes of some of the game scenarios have been implemented in the city’s budget.  Hohmann’s dream is to have 200 million Americans playing a game together to fix Social Security.  This I think would be a marvelous application of crowdsourcing, MMO games, and game theory.

But back to the article.  Its thrust is moving people from a Non-cooperative game scenario to a Cooperative one, but still within a zero sum (0∑) game framework. That is, moving people from the Non-cooperative One Wins, One Loses (0∑) side to the Cooperative Breakeven (0∑) side (my terminologies).

What this triggers in my mind is the need for a short little ‘chalk-talk’ (webinar? video podcast?) illustrating these things more clearly and how they can and do apply in life across the board.  I have the content, but I am going to have to work on delivery, fast.

The overall impact is important I think.  As the article says, “The market punishes businesses that avoid tough decisions…” (D’oh!) and this includes local entities such as cities that can’t print money.  As for the Federal Government, “Congress and the president have decided that agreeing on a spending plan isn’t as high a priority as a non-cooperative game called “get reelected.” ”  (Been that way for years – Peter Principle in action).  I think the punishment is getting closer and looms larger than we think, unless we choose to change the game we play, and I mean that on personal, career, business, and political levels.


About Jim Edmonds

I am a husband, father, mentor, who once was a chemist turned physicist turned marketer turned executive turned missionary turned professor. And survived it all.
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3 Responses to Games Politicians Play

  1. Ray Martin says:

    We need leaders, not career politicians. We need people who will come to do a job and then go home. We need people who are knowledgeable about the issues, not dependent on lobbyists to tell them what to think [while greasing their palms – relection campaign donations, junket expenses, speech fees]. We need people who put the electorate and the country before themselves.. We need people [politicians and voters alike] who will stop fooling themselves that business as usual will be okay and that the devil will never come due for the lack of appropriate, and timely, action on their parts.

    I don’t see too many [of the needed kind] on the horizon.


  2. Bill Clarkson says:

    This has been the lament of the American people regarding the political system for years and years…..I remember reading the classic “Smoking and Politics” as an undergrad in the ’70’s….not much has changed!!! My continued frustration is that they are spending us into bankruptcy and the debt has just passed $16 trillion…let’s pray for politicians that have some self-control (an oxymoron perhaps?). Today’s lobbyists are more sophistocated than those in the ’60’s and ’70’s (military-industrial complex, tobacco, oil), but the end result is the same…politics means special interests.


  3. Pingback: From Hermits to Heads of State – Games People Play II | Road Signs and Blind Spots

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