The Game
2 min read

The Game

The games we play at work affect how much we can get done, and how authentic we can be.
The Game

Great basketball players never admit that a defender has slowed them down. They instead say things like the shots just weren’t falling. This isn’t true, but that’s the game. You don’t say the thing that is really going on, because if you do it gives away some of your power. If a great offensive player were to actually say that a particular defender is the hardest person to score on, they have drawn attention to a weakness and opened up the door for the tape of that game to be a way for opponents to study their weaknesses. They can’t have that happen.

The above video is a rare event, and he only admitted it decades after. If you aren't a fan of basketball, one of the people he mentions is sitting at the desk with him. It shouldn't be a surprise that this happens in sports, which is defined primarily by cut-throat competition. If I admit a weakness, I could lose out on millions of dollars.

In business there are games to play as well. For example, when an executive acts dedicated to the mission of the company and works 85 hours a week, this is accepted. Everyone knows the truth is more complex than this, they are dedicated to providing for their family and they enjoy the respect and challenge of work and want more money or respect. They are dedicated to the mission of the company because it is a proxy for these other things. The mission of the company is to survive, the goal of the executive is to survive. The executive will not necessarily work for the same company forever. Pointing any of this out, that’s against the rules of the game. You don't draw attention to the game.

Any workplaces that is defined by internal competition will have an increase in the game. Competition for publications leads academics leads to operate with strange team dynamics, stack-ranking leads to inter-team competition. Its all game.

There are places that don’t play the game. These places are defined by strong teamwork. If the primary cause of the game is fierce competition, and the antidote is healthy teamwork.

Individuals believe that the team winning will be enough for them to win as well, so they share information easily and work together. It's hard to find these places, as the game gets passed on like a dominant gene. If a single person at a small company starts playing the game it spreads, because that person does not give away information or focus on anything other than their own survival. That's the game.

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