The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Winning the game

When considering the situation, they are in, the first approach will easily be to see it through a lens of good or bad. Another lens people will frequently use, is linked to winning or losing. Sometimes they will have a sense of needing to win and on other occasions, they will want to avoid losing.

Actually, they hardly can be separated from one another. When someone finds himself with an expectation to win, he probably will experience it to be balanced by a multitude of situations in which anxiety and desire to avoid losing take over. It’s a reaction that stays in the human survival instinct. Which explains the existence of the approach and makes it a useful one. That is until such situations have become sufficiently familiar to assess them through another perspective.

The rules of a game are there to provide boundaries as well as guidelines. They help understand how the game can be played and what will be common to those participating in the game. In an organization, culture takes that role. The existing culture provides support as well as boundaries to all those who joined the organization. It tells people what people like them do when they are together.

What isn’t described is the purpose of the rules nor the context of the game. That is where strategy comes in. Strategy is how individuals approach the situation, but people are not always aware of their strategies. They’ll know some patterns of things that seem to constantly happen to them and may leave it to that. They’ll also be aware of how the game can evolve based on their growing experience.

But that information may very well stay within what is immediately visible. When scores are given, the quick conclusion is, that comparing scores will determine the winner. It establishes the consequence, that the other will be perceived as a potential enemy. Seen from that perspective, if it isn’t the other, it is oneself one has to battle. It’s a situation that also opens the question of status one seeks to gain or is afraid to lose. That is how people start to compare themselves with others.

It’s how crises can become valuable. Instead of individuals focusing on their perception of enemies, a crisis establishes a common enemy. One that has not been visible before. And in doing so a crisis provides a team with focus and helps them unite. Their task suddenly becomes clear again.

There is no reason to go against an instinct to fight an enemy or to fight to win. At the same time, no one can remain in a state of constant crisis of having an enemy to fight against. It is a stressful situation to be in. But it is easier said than done. Without a crisis, there is no natural focus and without a natural focus it is up to the individuals to decide on their focus and task.

And if all they know is to use the visible score to decide on the winner, their strategy will be to compare themselves with others and fear how that might impact their position. Even if there is a common objective, the work entertained to compare oneself with others makes it hard to have a shared focus.

What is missing, is a common enemy people can unite over. One that isn’t the other people in the team nor a scapegoat. If the found enemy is one they have to fight against, the team will operate in crisis mode. If they find an enemy that allows for a constructive approach, the process becomes enjoyable beyond the outcome.

Purpose eases to find an enemy in the change one seeks to make. Whereas values will provide criteria that describe an enemy and accompany every decision in the process. And the chosen challenge provides an enemy one can try to outsmart using one’s strategy.


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