Sunday, August 19, 2007

Business Is Not a Poker Game

A Harvard Law school professor thinks the world would be a better place if more people played poker. Among the many benefits he envisions from playing poker are business acumen, negotiation skills, and improved risk management.

I'm sure this all sounds very sensible in the halls of Harvard Law, but out here in the world away from Cambridge, the professor's great idea looks silly, and maybe even dangerous. Business isn't about taking someone else's chips and leaving them worse off. It's about trading for mutual benefit. Poker has more to do with swindling than trade.

Consider what happens when you buy something. If poker were the appropriate model for a business transaction, your goal would be to get something for nothing, and the seller's goal would be the same. The counter help at McDonald's would sell you fries, then triumphantly proclaim "I was bluffing. We didn't make any," and you, fool that you are for not detecting the bluff would have no recourse.

Only a person who sees business as a win-lose proposition could believe poker is a way to develop business acumen. Bluffing is a great poker strategy. It's a lousy model for customer service.

2 comments:

Nancy Morgan said...

Democrats tend to view business as a zero sum game. The rich are rich only on the backs of the poor. History has shown this is not the case. A winning strategy and a winning business model would incorporate the assumption that it is entirely possible for two people/ businesses/ organizations, to get together with both experiencing a net benefit. Business is not a pie with a limited number of pieces.What it is, is a reflection of one's basic assumptions and the action there-of. Which is why Democrats should realize they can have the greatest net affect by leaving business to market forces. Then they'll have several pies to tax.

Ben Rast said...

Ronald Reagan once said,"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

Notice that he spoke generically of "government." I think he was wise to avoid political labels, especially when they are such unreliable guides to the political beliefs and likely actions of those who wear them most conspicuously.