Would you rather win or lose?
The answer to this question is obvious. After all who would prefer to lose? This was my line of thinking in my 20s. However, the answer to this question is not as straightforward as it sounds – at least not for me. As always, my answers come from sports. Last week I found myself, rather subconsciously, choosing to be in teams where I shared similar team-play values rather than ones which maximized the chance of winning. Of course, this was not in the context of a tournament where winning could be more important, but even on that hypothetical, I found myself preferring to choose teams by the people and not by the ‘win quotient’.
What does this say about me? Probably says that I am stubborn or that I prefer the comfort of cohesion over the chaos of conflict or even that I am too judgmental about people. Or maybe all of the above. My own perspective is that it says there are some things that are non-negotiable to me even if it means losing in the short-term. I take it one step further – I think it might be the starting point for creating a culture where ‘winning at any cost’ is not the core value.
As the details of the Volkswagen controversy still continue to unfold, one can’t help but wonder – was the ‘win at any cost’ kind of culture the reason the company collectively cheated consumers and harmed the environment? Could this kind of attitude be the reason so many investment banks folded up under the weight of their crazy risks (on their client’s money!)? Corporate history is littered with a number of such examples and it would be too simplistic to assume that one person was responsible for such frauds (even if it takes just one person to bring down the house of cards). There is usually a culture in the team that drives those results.
Maybe it’s time to revisit the question “Would you rather win or lose” and see it for what it is – a trick question and an incomplete question. The context matters. The definition of success and the means to success – both matter. That’s what corporate (and individual) reputations are built on.