Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

October 2003

The Business Game

Did you read the book A Beautiful Mind?

Perhaps you saw the movie.

The story was based on the real person who won a Nobel Prize fo reconomics for his work on "game theory," which explained market actions. It is used to develop business strategies and tactics as well as ways for regulators to evaluate and make market rules. I have not been able to understand the Nobelist's theory and, therefore, could never hope to explain it. In the movie, the theory was explained as a dating game. I didn't get that, either. Nevertheless, like most business people, I play the business game for a living.

So, let me explain my understanding of the business game. In business, like the game of poker, honesty is not always the best policy. You shouldn't play with a marked deck, peek at other players' hands or secretly conspire with other players to disadvantage another player. However, bluffing is cool. A lot of business transactions require negotiation, and in most cases, best offers are seldom the first offers, and there's nothing unethical or immoral about that. That being said, telling the truth makes it a lot easier to keep your story straight.

In business, like the game of baseball, how "officials" call the game dictates how best to play the game. Depreciation rates, marginal income tax brackets, deferred compensation rules and such influence business behavior as surely as an umpire's strike zone. If the ump gives the pitcher high outside pitches, swing at anything close. But if the pitch has to be belt high in the middle of the plate, take a few and try to draw a walk.

In business, like the game of horseshoes, you don't have to be perfect to score points, but you do have to be better than your competitor to win. As I heard it put recently, AOL and Microsoft have never brought a perfect product to market but do quite well.

In business, like the game of bridge, good communication between partners is key to success. If a bid of two clubs means you've got 18 points and hearts and spades, make sure your partner agrees before the hands are dealt. In business, like the game of chess, position is, sometimes, everything. Orderly development with a long-range objective of success wins far more often than risky spectacular forays and gambits.

In business, like the game of tennis, you can't win with lousy service. Even for the most talented, practice, practice, practice is required to improve service; and even Andre and Serena can improve how they serve. In business, like golf, self regulation and integrity are critical. Not directly related to winning but being allowed to play. After all, you can't win if you don't play.

In business, like all team sports, having a great game plan isn't worth much unless all the players know the plan and how they fit in to it.