Game Theory, politics & the power of a non-zero narrative

Like many of you, I watched the Republican & Democratic convention speeches — and was struck by the stark difference between the core narrative of each event.

The Republicans were rallying around a story of competition for scarce resources – with a fearsome opponent who is trying to grab your share and harm you. In contrast, the Democrats were weaving a narrative around reaching across boundaries and cooperating to create more abundance for everyone.

It struck me that game theory has something to say about politics here.

Schoolyard games & political speeches

In game theory, there are two types of games we humans like to play: zero-sum games, where opponents compete for scarce resources and rank-ordered superiority — and non-zero-sum games, where partners collaborate to create more abundance for everyone.

You can see these games played out on schoolyards – and political stages – all over the world. Some kids (usually girls) like to play cooperative games – like “family” or double dutch — where the object is to have fun together doing something you can’t on your own. Others (usually boys) gravitate towards competitive games – like throwing contests or organized sports – where there are clear winners & losers, and the object is to find out who’s best.

The RNC Narrative: “I alone can fix this”

A zero-sum narrative is about determining who is most deserving – who’s on top – who gets the resources and reaps the rewards. When you fan the flames of xenophobia, incite suspicion & paranoia, and signal to white pride leaders that you’re speaking their language – that’s a classic zero-sum narrative of us-vs-them.

Right now we’re seeing the same fear-based strategies and racist dog-whistles that Richard Nixon used to capture the Southern Democrats after Lyndon Johnson pissed them off by championing civil rights legislation. This playbook is built around a call for law-and-order — and not-so-subtle codes for racial hatred.  All built on a zero-sum narrative that assumes there’s not enough to go around.

The DNC Narrative: “Stronger Together”

In gaming terms, a non-zero-sum narrative is about banding together to create more abundance for everyone. This was the through-line of the DNC narrative- speech after speech, the message of “stronger together”  was reinforced.

This inclusive, co-op narrative is directly linked to Obama’s 2008 campaign message of “Yes We Can” – immortalized by in this brilliant song, inspired by Obama’s DNC  acceptance speech.

Here we are in 2016, seeing Obama handing the baton to his former rival – a woman he clearly respects, someone he invited into his inner circle after the election. Now THAT is a masterful co-op move. The Democrats are doubling-down on this reach-across-the-aisle theme, and inviting everyone to gather under an inclusive, optimistic tent.

Women Leaders and the Non-Zero Narrative

The DNC wasn’t just about Hillary; we saw many powerful women leaders take the stage – including Michelle Obama, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) & Rev. Leah Daughtry – with powerful, accomplished men cheering them on and acknowledging their power. In the words of the great sage Tina Fey – “Bitches get stuff done”

Our problems can’t be solved by individuals

I’m thrilled that the United States is catching up to the rest of the world and promoting women leaders – people who understand that problems we face today CANNOT be solved by individuals. I deeply believe in the non-zero narrative that tells us to put our energy into collaborating and banding together to solve problems – because as game designer, I KNOW that’s how shared abundance is created.

And women leaders can own that non-zero narrative like nobody’s business. #ImWithHer

The post Game Theory, politics & the power of a non-zero narrative appeared first on Amy Jo Kim.

Author: Amy Jo Kim

Written By juliooliveira

I’m from Sao Paulo / Brazil, married with a incredible woman called Francine and I have two lovely children: Sarah (8 years old) and Nicolas (2 years old). Currently enrolled at the master degree program (MSc) in Information Systems Management at the University of Liverpool (UK). Holder of the credentials PMP and PMI-ACP of the Project Management Institute (PMI).

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