Zero-Sum Games Versus Positive-Sum Games

Zero-Sum Versus Positive-Sum Games – All You Need To Know

In this post we’ll unpack all you need to know about Zero-Sum Games and Positive-Sum Games, defining exactly what they are, distinguishing the differences, the key to success and more.

What Are Zero-Sum Games?

A Zero-Sum Game refers to an interaction where one party’s gain is obtained at the direct expense of others.

More simply, Zero-Sum games are win-lose. They create asymmetric gains. An example of a Zero-Sum game is status since only one person can occupy a position within a hierarchy at any given time.

What Are Positive-Sum Games?

A Positive-Sum game refers to an interaction where both party’s in an interaction gain.

More simply, Positive-Sum games are win-win. They create mutual gains. An example of a Positive-Sum game is trade since both parties exchange products or services in a way that benefits them both.

Zero-Sum Games Versus Positive-Sum Games Table Summary

Zero-Sum GamesPositive-Sum Games
Win-WinWin-Lose
Asymmetric GainsMutual Gains

Life Is Both

From an economic perspective, life is both a Zero-Sum Game and a Positive-Sum Game.

Life is a Zero-Sum game because people are competing for the finite amount of recourses available at any particular moment in time.

Life is a Positive-Sum game because the finite amount of recourses will, through innovation, ideally be used to create new recourses, thus expanding the net-total amount of recourses available.

The Key To Success

The key to success in both personal and professional relationships is to maximise Positive-Sum Games. In other words, we must pursue the goal of creating win-win situations.

Summary (TL;DR)

A Zero-Sum Game is where one person in an interaction loses at the expense of others. A Positive-Sum Game is where both party’s in an interaction gain.

From an economic perspective, life is both a Zero-Sum Game and a Positive-Sum Game since resources are finite but innovation creates new recourses which expands the net-total pool of recourses.

The key to success in both personal and professional relationships is to maximise Positive-Sum Games.

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