By Garry Shirts
I am talking specifically about Survivor and The Weakest Link. I haven’t watched any other reality TV shows but I assume they follow a similar format. Both of these programs are zero sum contests. If one person wins another person loses. Most sports are zero sum games. I enjoy watching sports, betting on sports and participating in sports, so it’s not the fact that these are zero sum contests that bother me. […]
In the Survivor show, teams compete against other teams and team members also compete against each other. I don’t mind teams competing against other teams, that’s a reflection of the real world. Pepsi competes against Coca Cola, Toyota against General Motors, etc. But the assumption that teams are made up of people who are competing against every other member of the team galls me.
There are such teams but, as in these reality shows, they are highly dysfunctional. The arguments, the sabotage, the conspiracies, the secret alliances, the third party communications that characterize the interaction on these teams make interesting viewing, but I’m concerned that people will start to believe that this is the only model for a team. Believing and acting as though every other team member is your potential enemy greatly reduces the team’s effectiveness and suboptimizes any system for which the team is responsible It also creates pain and suffering for everyone but the winner and even the winner often comes out a loser because of the damage done to his or her reputation and to his or her feelings of self worth.
In our Power of Leadership simulation, participants assume it is a zero sum game and generally base their decisions and behavior […]