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Is Win-Win Still Winning? Part One

January 17, 2017
Conventional Wisdom would tell us that the business world loves a win-win scenario, where two parties mutually benefit from establishing a relationship or alliance. Conventional Wisdom – which often is actually neither – seems to be mistaken again. Despite lofty rhetoric to the contrary, win-lose seems to be the business world’s norm
and desired outcome, so long as you are the one on the “win” side of the deal. Surprising as this might sound, it’s the most logical conclusion, but let’s begin with some background and color commentary.

Win-win scenarios are as old as time. You can see it in the concept of hunter/gatherers: “You hunt and I’ll gather. If we do this correctly, we could each end up with half a chicken salad.” It’s the underlying principle of the barter system, a self-serving swap of what you have for what you want with someone who is in the reciprocal position. From that modest starting point humankind invented currency, a means of trading goods and services for tokens of recognized value that were held until they could be traded for other goods and services at a later date. All the constructs of modern business, including our systems of accounting and contract law, are based on the principle of beneficial exchange. We are the eternal participants in a planetary system of musical chairs, continually exchanging time for money, until we run out of one or both.

The concept of the win-win scenario is deeply embedded in our national psyche. Those of us old enough to have attended a high school civics class would recall that the point of a national representative legislature was to synthesize divergent attitudes into laws that expressed the will of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority. You must have either read about or studied such a process in a history class; unfortunately, it can no longer be observed in nature. Nonetheless, Americans and American business people love the concepts of fairness, equality and mutual benefit – or at least
we say we do. After all, who wouldn’t want mutual benefit? What sort of party of the first part would voluntarily enter into an agreement that disproportionately favored the party of the second part? Answer: the disadvantaged – just ask any indentured servant.

So there are reasons why the principles of mutual benefit don’t prevail, and generally we don’t much care for those reasons. Agreements are inherently unfair when one party deals from a position of vastly superior strength (and we favor the underdog), when the agreement is deceptive (because we value truth and transparency) or one party simply doesn’t care about the impact on the other party (because we decry the loss of integrity in pursuit of profiteering).

The nobility of the win-win scenario is well established. There are entire companies that love to cite it in ethics statements, recite it as a core value of the organization, and talk the talk as they train new employees. Why, then, is it not self-evident in most companies’ hiring practices?

Most companies in hospitality – and all other industries, for that matter – promote an defend the great symbiosis between a business entity and its associates. You know the rap: the company is only as good as its people, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and there is no “I” in team. Bravo! I concur but let’s set aside the effusive talk and in part two of this post, we will examine how employee admiration is typically translated into action. Stay tuned!

Michael Schubach CHTP, CHAE
Strategic Business Director and Program Management Officer
Infor Hospitality
As published on
Filed Under
  • Cloud
  • Mobile
  • Technology
  • Hospitality
  • North America
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