Thursday, June 11, 2009


Have you ever noticed how models of the world, start to become the "real world" and limit what you see? As any fisherman will tell you, what you catch in your net depends on the size of the mesh.

For example, game theorists play in the closed system of a four quadrant box to explain much about the outcomes of cooperation and competition. But the model totally ignores two unique and powerful states of any game - Win-win-win and Lose-lose-lose.

Lose-lose-lose is the trouble we cause for the broader community when we allow a dispute with another to get entirely out of hand. Nasty divorces, hostile take-overs, terrorist acts, wars, union disputes. It's when we drop a bomb on a "target" and take out a whole bunch of innocent villagers. It's when we use the kids as weapons in a divorce. It's when the corporate raider slashes and burns to "maximize" their returns and rationalize the two existing businesses - employees of both the predator and the prey suffer. Its when a union goes on strike for higher pay and everyone else is stood down for the duration, even though they have no quarrel with their employer. Its when we go fishing and accidentally catch/kill other species, like dolphins. We give these awful outcomes nice sounding names such as collateral damage, bycatch or unintended consequences.

But there is a better possible result. Win-win-win. When you make choices that benefit the entire community. It's the richness of a vibrant marriage where the children thrive because they are loved and respected. It's the power of Wikipedia, created by the many, for many more. It's the foresight of a Henry Ford who paid his workers more so they could afford to buy the cars they collectively created. It's the mutuality of credit unions that create a bigger pool of money from which individuals can borrow.

Here's how it works. It requires a belief in abundance. You begin by imagining how you can simultaneously serve the interests of others and your own interests. It's what we call selfish altruism. When we co-create, so that others benefit as well, the system rewards us. It enriches other aspects of our lives. It becomes contagious and more powerful.

Here's a workshop question sequence to bake a bigger cake, starting today:

1. Describe a current problem/issue/conflict that you, your family, team, community, organization or institution is facing.
2. Give an example of how you could achieve a Lose-lose-lose outcome. The issue impacts on the entire community as well as the parties in dispute.
3. Give an example of how you could achieve a Lose-lose outcome. The issue is not resolved and the parties fail to get a benefit.
4. Give a example of how you could achieve a Compromise outcome. All parties give a little to get a solution that partly meets everyone's needs.
5. Give an example of how you could achieve a Win-lose outcome. A majority or sometimes a minority gets its way. The other party gives in.
6. Give an example of how you could achieve a Win-win outcome. The solution meets everyone's needs. The decision is often a radical solution that combines interests in new ways.
7. Give an example of how you could achieve a Win-win-win outcome. The solution not only benefits the parties, but also others in the community.
8. Which of these kinds of outcomes dominates your family, team, community, organization, institution?
9. What can we now do differently to achieve the best possible result, for everyone?

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