Tag Archives: games that people play

Peraturan Konflik

In this last post in the rules of the game series, we look at the creative use of the rules in a couple of situations. Rules can be used to create productive and predictable conflicts. One such conflict is in law enforcement, where cops hate defense attorneysif we are to believe Michael Connelly’s depiction of how things work at LAPD. It is not as if they are really working against each other, although it may look that way. Both of them are working toward implementing a set of rules that will lead to justice for all, while avoiding power concentration and corruption. The best way of doing it happens to be by creating a perpetual conflict, which also happens to be fodder for Connelly’s work.

Another conflict of this kind can be seen in a bank, between the risk taking arm (traders in the front office) and the risk controlling teams (market and credit risk managers in the middle office). The incessant strife between them, sebenarnya, ends up implementing the risk appetite of the bank as decided by the senior management. When the conflict is missing, problems can arise. For a trader, performance is quantified in terms of the profit (and to a lesser degree, its volatility) generated by him. This scheme seems to align the trader’s interests with those of the bank, thus generating a positive feedback loop. As any electrical engineer will tell you, positive feedback leads to instability, while negative feedback (conflict driven modes) leads to stable configurations. The positive feedback results in rogue traders engaging in huge unauthorized trades leading to enormous damages or actual collapses like the Bearings bank in 1995.

We can find other instances of reinforcing feedback generating explosive situations in upper management of large corporates. The high level managers, being board members in multiple corporate entities, keep supporting each other’s insane salary expectations, thus creating an unhealthy positive feedback. If the shareholders, sebaliknya, decided the salary packages, their own self-interest of minimizing expenses and increasing the dividend (and the implicit conflict) would have generated a more moderate equilibrium.

The rule of conflict is at work at much larger scales as well. In a democracy, political parties often assume conflicting world views and agendas. Their conflict, ratified through the electoral process, ends up reflecting the median popular view, which is the way it should be. It is when their conflicting views become so hopelessly polarized (as they seem to be in the US politics these days) that we need to worry. Even more of a worry would be when one side of the conflict disappears or gets so thoroughly beaten. In an earlier post, I lamented about just that kind of one-sidedness in the idealogical struggle between capitalism and socialism.

Conflicts are not limited to such large settings or to our corporate life and detective stories. The most common conflict is in the work-life balance that all of us struggle with. The issue is simplewe need to work to make a living, and work harder and longer to make a better living. In order to give the best to our loved ones, we put so much into our work that we end up sacrificing our time with the very loved ones we are supposedly working for. Sudah tentu, there is a bit of hypocrisy when most workaholics choose work over lifethey do it, not so much for their loved ones, but for a glorification, a justification or a validation of their existence. It is an unknown and unseen angst that is driving them. Getting the elusive work-live conflict right often necessitates an appreciation of that angst, and unconventional choices. Pada masa-masa, in order to win, you have to break the rules of the game.

Kehidupan: Timur vs. Barat

In the last post we examined life from the perspective of evolutionary biology. Now let’s move on to philosophy. There is an important philosophical difference between the perspectives on life in the East and the West. These views form the backdrop to the rules of life, which shape everything from our familial and societal patterns to our hopes and prayers. How these rules (which depend on where you come from) do it is not merely interesting, but necessary to appreciate in today’s world of global interactions. In one of his lectures, Yale philosophy professor Shelly Kagan made a remark that the basic stance vis-a-vis kehidupan (and death) in the West is that life is a good thing to have; it is a gift. Our job is to fill it with as much happiness, accomplishments and glory as possible.

The Eastern view is just the oppositethe first of the four noble truths of Buddhism is that life is suffering. Hindu, which gave birth to Buddhism, says things like this world and the cycle of life are very difficult (Iha Samsare Bahu Dustare dalam Bhaja Govindam, misalnya). Our job is to ensure that we don’t get too attached to the illusory things that life has to offer, including happiness. When we pray for our dead, we pray that they be relieved of the cycle of life and death. Deliverance is non-existence.

Sudah tentu, I am vastly oversimplifying. (Let me rephrase thatthis oversimplified version is all I know. I am very ignorant, but I plan to do something about it very soon.) Viewed in the light of these divergent stances against the conundrum of life, we see why westerners place such a premium on personal happiness and glory, while their eastern counterparts tend to be fatalistic and harp on the virtues of self sacrifice and lack of ambition (or its first cousin, ketamakan).

To an ambitious westerner, any chance at an incremental increase in personal happiness (through a divorce and remarriage, misalnya) is too good an opportunity to pass up. On the other side of the globe, to one brought up in the Hindu way of life, happiness is just another illusory manifestation not to be tempted by. Those caught in between these two sets of rules of life may find it all very confusing and ultimately frustrating. That too is a macro level pattern regimented by the micro level rules of the game.

Seni Perang Korporat

Satu contoh yang lebih kompleks mengenai bagaimana peraturan membentuk corak di lapangan adalah permainan korporat,,en,Metafora biasa adalah untuk menggambarkan pekerja sebagai cogs dalam roda tanpa henti jentera korporat,,en,atau sebagai bidak kuasa dalam memainkan kuasa orang lain,,en,Tetapi kita juga boleh memikirkan kesemua mereka sebagai pemain aktif dengan sumber mereka sendiri yang terlibat dalam permainan kuasa kecil mereka sendiri,,en,Jadi, mereka mempunyai kehidupan korporat yang penuh dengan politik pejabat,,en,asap dan cermin,,en,dan kesunyian dan penyesalan,,en,Apabila mereka mengambil perkara-perkara ini secara peribadi dan suka atau membenci rakan sekerja mereka,,en,mereka melakukan ketidakadilan,,en,Mereka harus menyedari bahawa semua ciri-ciri ini adalah hasil akhir peraturan yang mereka mainkan permainan korporat,,en. The usual metaphor is to portray employees as cogs in the relentless wheel of the corporate machinery, or as powerless pawns in other people’s power plays. But we can also think of all of them as active players with their own resources engaged in tiny power plays of their own. So they end up with a corporate life full of office politics, smoke and mirrors, and pettiness and backstabbing. When they take these things personally and love or hate their co-workers, they do themselves an injustice, Saya rasa. They should realize that all these features are the end result of the rules by which they play the corporate game. Politik pejabat yang kita lihat dalam ruang kerja moden adalah topologi yang diharapkan dari peraturan permainan,,en,Apakah peraturan terkenal ini yang saya harapkan,,en,Anda akan mengharapkan mereka menjadi lebih rumit bahawa mereka adalah permainan catur yang mudah,,en,memandangkan anda mempunyai sejumlah besar pemain dengan pelbagai agenda,,en,Tetapi saya peminat besar kesederhanaan dan Occam's Razor sebagai mana-mana ahli sains yang benar,,en,yang merupakan penegasan serong dan ingin tahu bahawa saya masih satu,,en,dan saya percaya peraturan permainan korporat sangat mudah,,en,terdapat hanya dua,,en,satu adalah peluang perkembangan kerjaya adalah bentuk piramid kerana ia semakin sukar untuk gelembung ke atas,,en,Peraturan lain ialah pada setiap peringkat,,en,terdapat periuk ganjaran,,en.

What are these famous rules I keep harping on? You would expect them to be much more complex that those of a simple chess game, given that you have a large number of players with varying agendas. But I’m a big fan of simplicity and Occam’s Razor as any true scientist should be (which is an oblique and wishful assertion that I am still one, sudah tentu), and I believe the rules of the corporate game are surprisingly simple. As far as I can see, there are just two — one is that the career progression opportunities are of a pyramid shape in that it gets progressively more difficult to bubble to the top. The other rule is that at every level, there is a pot of rewards (seperti kolam bonus,,en,yang perlu dikongsi bersama dengan rakan sekerja,,en,Daripada peraturan ini,,en,anda boleh dengan mudah melihat bahawa seseorang melakukan yang lebih baik apabila orang lain melakukan buruk,,en,Backstabbing berikut secara semula jadi,,en,Untuk menjadi pemain yang sempurna dalam permainan ini,,en,anda perlu berbuat lebih banyak daripada backstabbing,,en,Anda perlu membangunkan kepercayaan yang jujur ​​terhadap keunggulan anda juga,,en,Hipokrasi tidak berfungsi,,en,Saya mempunyai rakan sekerja yang menegaskan bahawa dia boleh melakukan pengaturcaraan peringkat perhimpunan sebelum dia meninggalkan tadika,,en,Saya tidak fikir dia berbohong per-se,,en,dia jujur ​​percaya bahawa dia boleh,,en,rakan sekerja saya cukup cerdas,,en,selepas menamatkan pengajian dari IIT dan bekerja di CERN,,en,Saya digunakan untuk kecerdasan dan jenius yang unggul,,en,Dan dia tidak,,en,Tetapi itu tidak penting,,en, misalnya) that needs to be shared among the co-workers. From these rules, you can easily see that one does better when others do badly. Backstabbing follows naturally.

In order to be a perfect player in this game, you have to do more than backstabbing. You have to develop an honest-to-john faith in your superiority as well. Hypocrisy doesn’t work. I have a colleague who insists that he could do assembly-level programming before he left kindergarten. I don’t think he is lying per-se; he honestly believes that he could, as far as I can tell. Sekarang, this colleague of mine is pretty smart. Walau bagaimanapun, after graduating from an IIT and working at CERN, I’m used to superior intelligences and geniuses. And he ain’t it. But that doesn’t matter; keyakinannya yang tidak munasabah terhadap keunggulannya sendiri akan mengatasi dia dengan halangan kecil seperti cek realiti,,en,Saya melihat pilihan saham pada masa depannya,,en,Jika dia menikam seseorang di belakang,,en,dia tidak bersalah,,en,hampir tidak bersalah,,en,Ia adalah untuk tahap kebajikan yang anda perlu bercita-cita,,en,jika anda ingin cemerlang dalam permainan korporat,,en,Hampir setiap ciri pejabat korporat moden,,en,dari politik hingga promosi,,en,dan mengimbangi bonus,,en,adalah hasil dari peraturan mudah permainan yang kita mainkan oleh,,en,Maaf tentang percubaan yang lemah pada sajak huruf pertama.,,en,Perkembangan seterusnya idea ini,,en,adalah permainan kehidupan,,en,Kita semua mahu menang,,en,tetapi akhirnya,,en,ia adalah permainan di mana kita semua akan kehilangan,,en,kerana permainan hidup juga merupakan permainan kematian,,en,permainan yang dimainkan oleh orang ramai,,en. I see stock options in his future. If he stabs someone in the back, he does it guiltlessly, almost innocently. It is to that level of virtuosity that you have to aspire, if you want to excel in the corporate game.

Almost every feature of the modern corporate office, from politics to promotions, and backstabbing to bonuses, is a result of the simple rules of the game that we play it by. (Sorry about the weak attempt at the first letter rhyme.) The next expansion of this idea, sudah tentu, is the game of life. We all want to win, but ultimately, it is a game where we will all lose, because the game of life is also the game of death.