On The Ontology of Win-Wins

Win-win arrangements exist because lose-lose ones do. For every business guru who effortlessly parrots this axiom, there are countless who roll their eyes at the concept. Nevertheless, charlatans and skeptics withstanding, it is critical to remember the essential existence of “win-wins” is evinced by needless waste and loss. What happens, for example, when we lack common units of measurement? Standard units of width for cars and roads benefit consumers, manufacturers, and governments alike—a classic win-win. Lose-lose would be everyone working in isolation, resulting in zero compatibility. Although adopting the nihilistic air of doubting progress is comforting, it is less an accurate view of history and more a sign of intellectual laziness. In fact, a well-defined problem naturally births its own solutions. Needless loss and waste—tragedy—are everywhere: both literally and figuratively. Consequently, we must commit to the imagination and mental work of redemption through win-win solutions.

Footnotes:

  1. NASA orbiter lost to miscommunication metric and imperial units
  2. Qin emperor of China standardizing the axles of all cars and roads
  3. Before Bell Lab’s sanctioned monopoly, “…phone customers had two options: AT&T and mostly smaller, independent businesses. Like today, AT&T easily had one of the largest and most robust telephony networks. Unlike now, however, AT&T customers could only call other AT&T customers. This resulted in ridiculous scenarios where the same house might be served by multiple telephones, and where competing companies would deliberately rip up each others’ lines in an effort at sabotage.”
  4. Misfit Foods literally taking ugly produce waste and turning it into a thriving business.
  5. Countless workers find no meanings in their jobs, and thus probably aren’t doing it very well. What ways could we make people happier, and do better work?
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