The Win Win Scenario

Whenever you deal with other people in any way at all, this is the kind of situation you want to have. In the Win-Win scenario, both parties gain more than they would otherwise have gained. It's not a matter of all sides reaching a happy compromise; it's a matter of all sides "winning."

You want to benefit from dealing with other people, because otherwise such dealing will bring you only pain and, ultimately, destruction.

You also want other people to benefit from dealing with you; this keeps them coming back, so you can benefit from them again and again.

Creating and maintaining an instance of this scenario is fundamental to all co-operation between people, especially business. If you want to gain people's co-operation, you have to expect them to want to win, and you have to be able to explain to them why their co-operation with you will allow them to win, and indeed win them more than they would win otherwise. Honesty is a must because people can be expected to check this stuff.


See PrisonersDilemma and Axelrod's book mentioned therein for a formal treatment of this assertion.

See SevenHabitsOfHighlyEffectivePeople, ThinkWinWin


The Moonies have a similar concept called "The action of giving and receiving" (Korean: soo-soo-ja-gyung), or more simply, GiveAndTake. However, this, by itself, isn't quite WinWin. WinWin requires that both parties get more than they give in the exchange. WinWin is only possible in non-zero sum interactions. Fortunately, most real-world interactions are not ZeroSum.


Side note: When this was being refactored, the refactorer had surprising difficulty finding terms for the Win-Win scenario that don't assume that some side loses. For example, the term "winning" suggests that somebody loses. This suggests to me that the concept of Win-Lose is deeply ingrained in our thought processes (note the AmericanCulturalAssumption), making Win-Win difficult to penetrate our beliefs.


One easy to grasp version of this is to remember that different people value different things. I may be discarding an old motorbike with torn seats, rusty metal, and a failing engine. The guy who drives by, sees it on my lawn, and decides it's just the thing for him to fix up for his son to ride, offers me $10 for it. I get $10 for a piece of trash; he gets a functioning motorbike for $10... we both win.


There must be other non-zero-sum transactions, too. Here are the ones I could think of...
Every uncoerced human interaction is a WinWin scenario. Why would someone voluntarily enter into a trade that they didn't get more than they gave up?

Ever read Shakespeare? Deception, betrayal, power, folly. Happens all the time.

Deception: Deception is one way to coerce another person.

Betrayal: Betrayal is just a form of deception and therefore coercive.

Power: If that power is used to force the other person into a trade, then coercion once again...

Folly: Just because you think a decision is foolish doesn't mean the either of the two parties to the transaction value it the same way. What makes you right?

Your definition of coercion doesn't jive with my expectations. You buy a lemon of a car because the salesman convinced you it was a good buy. Were you coerced? Not by most people's usage of the word. Your boss asks you to work overtime on a project that's doomed to fail. You don't have to but it will look bad if you don't. Are you being coerced?

Agreed that the definition of coercion is slippery. Certainly a gun pointed to your head is coercion. I think it's equally clear that a salesman convincing you to buy a lemon is not coercion so long as he is not lying to you. Between these two poles, there is a gray area that needs to be cleared up. I don't think anybody is going to argue that any consequence to an action or inaction consitutes coercion. I personally believe that it's a function of the violence quotient of the consequence and the availability of alternatives. From a legal point of view, one could argue that that determining the level of coercion in a dispute is a function that juries should provide.


See also RelationshipManagement

EditText of this page (last edited July 29, 2006) or FindPage with title or text search