I’ve often thought that running a business feels like a game, but I never played a game that felt like running a business.
Until last week, when I played FreshBiz.
FreshBiz is a board game invented by some Israeli entrepreneurs that is promoted as “Changing the way you play business and life,” and the inventors were offering a facilitated game session in Jerusalem.
It was no small feat for me to get there on a Wednesday afternoon, but I’ve been wanting to play FreshBiz for ages. The event was organized by the Jerusalem Business Networking Forum and sitting around the board with me were three really cool ladies: Estie Rand, Tsipora Samson and Lesley Kaplan.
After an intro from a FreshBiz founder, we were pretty much on our own, trying to figure out the rules of the game and how to win as we went along. In that sense, playing FreshBiz for the first time is an awful lot like starting a business.
I’m not going to try explain all the rules of this complex board game, but let’s just say it’s kind of like super-duper-multi-dimensional Monopoly for entrepreneurs. In the quest to reach the finish line, you need to keep pushing the boundaries of your entrepreneurial thinking – not just what you’re thinking, but how you’re thinking. You need to continually assess and reassess your assets, use them in creative ways and cooperate with others, or you will never make it there in time.
Did I mention that playing FreshBiz is a lot like running a business?
They give you 90 minutes to finish the game, and though that seemed like a lot in the beginning, no one in our game won.
One reason for this was that something really interesting happened to me as I played. When determining how much “start-up capital” I would begin with, I rolled a 1, which meant that I didn’t get much cash. After a series of further unlucky rolls, I found myself stuck in a poor-me mindset. Though I was aware that it was absurd, it very hard to shake. I found myself experiencing first-hand what so many people who seek my advice in real life seem to be stuck in – a victim mentality with regards to earning a living.
I wanted to win, but I was stuck seeing my lousy luck – and my fellow players – as obstacles to the win.
As FreshBiz founding partner Simcha Gluck pointed out, this attitude is very common in our culture, where games, sports, schools and businesses are usually organized around the goal of being No. 1.
He opened my mind a bit to what Win-Win means. If I (and my fellow players) would have been primarily focused on what the other players can do for me and how I can make it worth their while to help me out (AKA Win-Win), we all would have won.
And yes, it may be possible that we all could win. Most of us carry an artificial concept we have that there can only be one winner (and by extension, there are a lot of losers). But in reality, G-d created an infinite universe and everywhere you look you see people succeeding in various aspects of life, without in any way detracting from other people’s ability to succeed.
Perhaps there really is room for me to win and you to win and every one of us to win, whatever winning may mean to each of us.
But this can only happen if we change our view of competition and how we go about getting our way.
How to Win the Battle AND Win the War
Playing FreshBiz reminded me of a situation that I encountered a while ago with a business associate. He was offering a high-priced product that I wanted to buy, but couldn’t afford. We had a good business relationship, so we made a deal that we would give me his product in exchange for a specified number of hours of my professional services.
Right after that, his company did some restructuring and it was many months later when he finally realized that he actually had no need for my services. He asked me to pay for the value of his product. I couldn’t afford to pay in cash and instead wanted to stick to our original barter agreement.
He was unhappy with that offer.
I feared that a serious business dispute was brewing.
Thank G-d, after some negotiations, we came an agreement that I would pay him off in affordable monthly installments. I felt intense satisfaction that we had managed to settle it peacefully and that our positive relationship could continue after that.
After playing FreshBiz, I re-analyzed that deal from the perspective of Win-Win, and I understood why I was so proud of it.
There were two opposing sides:
- He wanted his money
- I didn’t want to pay the money, and was instead willing to work off the debt as agreed
This is the black-and-white way of looking at things – and if our dispute had ever reached a Beis Din or court of law, G-d Forbid, that would have been the bare facts of the dispute.
But, in reality, human beings are never simple in their motivations. Very often there are many layers of motivation for what we do, and some of them contradict. Sometimes, the main point that is being presented is not even truly the most important thing to the party presenting it.
In the case of my barter agreement gone sour, my main motivation was that I didn’t want to pay the money.
But there were other factors at play. For example, I didn’t actually want to do the work, I was just willing to do the work. I’m a busy lady and I’d be happy to get off the hook for 20 hours of work. Of course, I won’t back out if I’ve made a commitment, but I’d be dishonest if I said that it was easy for me to squeeze in that extra work into my already packed schedule, so long after having agreed to do it.
This side motivation meant that I was willing to compromise.
And there were more personal motivations that made me want to settle, rather than “fight for my rights.” Not least of them was the fact that I didn’t want a full-blown dispute with this well-respected businessman with whom I’d long enjoyed a warm relationship.
As for the other party, I can’t know exactly what was going through his mind, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his feelings were also mixed. Sure he wanted his money right away, yet something motivated him to compromise too.
It could have been nothing more than the universal desire for respect, validation and peace. I was careful to maintain those things in all my communication with him.
It could have been that he simply didn’t have the time or inclination for a full-blown legal conflict. After all, who actually likes dealing with money disputes?
Whatever his story was, we came to a mutually acceptable agreement and it felt good.
It was only after FreshBiz that I understood that was because it was a Win-Win agreement. In FreshBiz, as in business and life, our colleagues are also human beings who want many other things besides cash. When we see the people around us in the playing field of business as beings with many needs that we can fulfill, we can make our deals more satisfying and enriching – and we can all win.
This is Habit #4 in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had got his way.
In FreshBiz we could have all won within 90 mins. And if I played it again, that would be my goal.
Have you ever played FreshBiz? Would you like to play it? Maybe we can get a My Parnasa community game going?