Win-Winning in a Collaborative World

18 June 2015

     We played collaborative baseball this weekend, with 17 members of the family, from 7 to 75. Tiny infielders and towering outfielders.  (That’s bubby at bat in the photo.) Two of the older kids organized the teams, but somehow everybody managed to organize everything.

Bubby at bat

     So who won? My goodness, we forgot to keep score. We shall never know. But that hardly matters because the teams got all mixed up. What we do know is that a good time was had by all.1 Winning didn’t spoil the game, or, more to the point, everyone won-won. Imagine playing life like this.

     You don’t need a big gang to play win-win. Let me suggest collaborative badminton, where the object is to hit the birdie back, not beat the other person. (Not recommended for experts.) Here you keep score by counting how many times the two of you hit back the birdie before it hits the ground. Hence boundaries don’t matter—just hit the thing back—but clever shots into corners are not sportsman-like (because they are hard to hit back). Imagine if playing together like this became habit-forming.

     Proper economists will be quick to point out that this isn’t the “real world.” That’s competitive, not collaborative, about self-interest. They even think that altruism is just disguised self-interest. You have to wonder what kind of mothers these people had.

     Unfortunately, mothers and bubbies aside, this is our real world, thanks to people in powerful positions who have to win at any cost. But can we continue to tolerate this in a zero-sum world with finite resources? Winning is spoiling the world. A bad time is being had by too many people

     Training our youth to be hyper-competitive may have served certain needs for development and protection. But in a world of nuclear weapons, on a planet that is warming, with infections that are spreading, we had better get co-operative before it’s too late.

     Don’t get me wrong. I am not calling for an end to competition, even if that were possible. What we need is an end to is the winner-take-all mentality—some people having to be bigger, faster, richer, more powerful at the expense of  many other people, and, ultimately, themselves. (I’ll do a TWOG on the “rich man’s burden” some other time.) We shall have to balance competition with cooperation. So let’s get real and play more win-win before we all lose-lose.

     Imagine collaborative politics. That sometimes happens in the face of a major threat: people pull together for the common good. Well now what we have in common are a host of major threats. So imagine collaborative globalization too—organizing the world like a family baseball game.

The collaborative baseball team

A different family outing on the same day (Shot by daughter Lisa in London)

© Henry Mintzberg 2015. See Rebalancing Society…radical renewal beyond left, right, and center (Berrett-Kohler,,


1 Word wanted me to change this to “All had a good time”!