business is not a game

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Peter French, director of the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at Arizona State University, said, “In recent years, we’ve grown accustomed to using games as models for understanding institutional behavior. Business as a metaphor for games.” has become undeniably ubiquitous in the language and culture of business.While this linguistic apparatus helps clarify multiple business concepts such as competition, hierarchy and goal attainment, games Business as a metaphor for is not always morally neutral and can be very ethically questionable.

Business as a game metaphor overlooks an important distinction between the intent and the means of a metaphor. Games are self-contained, but business is not a self-contained activity because it is deeply connected to society. A game is simply an isolated bubble in which you can choose to participate voluntarily knowing the rules that apply to it, and in many cases people enter the game for their personal enjoyment. More importantly, if a person doesn’t like or disagree with the rules of the game, the person can quit the game. But opting out of the economic system is not easy. Business and commerce are an integral part of everyone’s life. Opting out means choosing to completely isolate yourself and radically disconnect from modern corporate practices, so there isn’t much spontaneity associated with it.

Another important consideration is how using business as a game metaphor dramatically trivializes what is actually at stake. In any game, from poker to football, for the most part, the only stakeholders who have a significant impact on the outcome of the game are the players themselves who choose to participate and understand the costs and risks of the game. But in business, the story is much more complicated. When we think of business as a game metaphor, it’s easy to forget that in the process of seeking victory or defeating an enemy, business actually has far greater stakes than most people think of games. is. These higher stakes can have a significant impact on the health, safety and quality of life of many members. For example, consider the Bhopal disaster. Some erroneous decisions by one corporate official caused him to spew 40 tons of toxic gas from the factory, claiming the lives of thousands of people outside these walls. Thirty-seven years after the incident, his 70-acre site in Bhopal remains largely unchanged, leaving hundreds of tons of contaminated waste that continues to pose serious health risks to nearby villagers. I’m here. Business is “perfectly located in the human realm” and affects a much wider range of real and complex human lives than games.

Another concern is that business as a game trope falsely portrays the nature of business as ephemeral. They have a definite beginning, middle and end. But business practice can’t draw the line so sharply. While professionals in the corporate community may focus on short-term profits, successful quarterly positive earnings may have been achieved at the expense of other social or ethical interests. Short-term thinking, like games rewarded by markets, is not always in the best interest of the larger community, or even in the long-term interests of the companies themselves. There is no definite end to business activity, but the metaphor of the game artificially implies that there is a conclusion.

Henceforth, the critical downfall of business as a game trope will be to try to separate the moral realm by implying that there exists a set of business ethics that differ from the set of ethics practiced in everyday social life. is. By making business morals self-referential, like the rules of a game, companies become less morally accountable to the sources of normative ethics in society. A powerful metaphorical understanding that business is a game when it is nominally understood as an institution made up of another class of “business professionals” who are more morally accountable than anyone else overlap, which actually reinforces the differentiation and compartmentalization of the moral realm. .

Overall, a deep dive into the structural differences between business and games reveals that business as a game trope can be ethically questionable, if not outright inappropriate. I was. The game is fun, has easy-to-understand rules, and promises glorious wins. But as companies seek to communicate their identities through vision and mission statements, ethically aligned practices demand more than what constitutes normal game play. As the French philosopher Roger Caillois commented in his book Humans, Plans, and Games, “The real problem begins here. Adults themselves continue to play complex, diverse, and sometimes dangerous games. Fate and life may involve similar activities, but even if the player doesn’t take life as seriously as the game on which they depend, playing Unlike these, the game remains separate and closed, and in principle does not have a material impact on the stability and continuity of collective and institutional existence.”

Krista Akiki is a senior majoring in Business Analytics with a minor in Computing and Digital Technologies. She grew up in Beirut, Lebanon and returned to the US to pursue her bachelor’s degree. She loves learning new languages, traveling and of course trying new foods.She craves her adventures and new experiences and she hopes to share these with her readers through her writing. increase. She can be reached on her Twitter at or @kristalourdesakiki.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the observer.