Business Ethics A Philosophical View Description: Game Theory


Business is often thought of according to a game and in
most games a score is kept. A lot of board games and even
quite a few card games are scored using money. The person
or team who ends up with the greater sum of money in the
end is the winner. Even such small games between
individuals as bets in the end result in a transfer of
money to the winner.
Solomon's explanation runs concurrently in that in games,
the best way to keep score is to have a dependable point
system, a definite unit of worth. In comparison, when
society is looked upon according to these game theorists,
then money usually becomes the all too important
measurement. Solomon states that the reason we do this, is
because social theorists in general like to talk about
money, because money is a readily measurable utility, a
readily comparable measure, an apparently clear basis for
comparison. Economists also talk the jargon involving and
including money. Money talk is what they have learned to
do, it is their profession.
Solomon finds many problems with this theory. He states
that game theorist modeling society end up talking a great
deal about money. Of course here too, the proper excuses
are made, "money isn't the only or even the primary social
good," "money is only a means and not an end," and so
forth. Economists as stated before talk money because it is
their profession, what they know. However, they will admit,
if they are pressed, that people do (at least occasionally)
want things that money can't buy. He states when referring
to unrefined theorists that they recognize that equal
amounts of money do not have equal significance for
different people, and so the inescapable qualifications of
marginal utility and the "utility of money" are
(hesitantly) entered into the equation. Solomon also states
that everyone is different, and because of this success and
"maximum utility" may be hard to measure. Solomon looks at
this according to two different people. One person wants to
greatly by winning a downhill ski race while another is not
interested in this and is thus not driven or motivated by
the end result. He instead wants to sleep in his hammock,
nothing makes him happier or gives him more satisfaction
then stretching out and taking a nap. In order to use this
theory, Solomon states that everything would have to be
placed on an equal scale so they could be measured and
I totally agree with Solomon. I do not believe that
everything can be measured according to its worth. There
are far too many controlling factors such as the different
interests between different parties. What they value and
what they do not; what they need and what they do not need.
If one student was very bright and excelled in academics,
she would put more value on obtaining high grades she would
put more value on obtaining high grades whereas a person
who didn't usually do so well wouldn't. Or in another
context, if that second person usually did well, but valued
another opportunity, perhaps their sports team and
accomplishments, they would place it on a lower scale. In
order to be motivated and to strive towards accomplishing
our goals, we have to have that innate desire to succeed.
We have to be satisfied intrinsically as well.
An example of a "game" which many university students in
our position face is that of graduating university and
entering the "business world". We are predisposed to
believe that in order to be happy we need to select our
jobs according to the salary being offered. And from this
'status symbol', (extrinsic reward) we are rated among our
fellow colleagues. Your ability and worth are measured
according to your paycheck. This just is not the way all
things happen in today's business world. Sure, like all
situations this may play a role in motivating some
individuals, but it definitely would not be the deciding
factor for all. A lot of students upon emergence, want to
obtain the best job for them in terms of how much knowledge
they can learn, the experience they can obtain and the
contacts and relationships they can build. These are all
things which cannot be placed on a scale. If they were all
placed on a scale, they would all fall at different levels
for different people.!
The Open-ended Playing Field
The main point being offered here is that games are too
specific to be compared with business and society. Solomon
gives such examples as the foot-ball field which has
carefully drawn lines around it, and that only a certain
number of players are allowed on the field at one time. He
also looks at Poker, how it is played with a
"conscientiously nonpersonalized" deck of cards and the
players are either "in" or "out". You are not permitted to
sit back to wait to find out if the circumstances of the
situation are optimal for you. Solomon sees life as being
vastly different from games in this regard. Business deals
can allow any number of players, there is not a pre-decided
number. Games involve only the immediate players, the ones
directly involved at the particular episode. Conversely,
business does not merely include the few situated in the
boardroom, but also the employees and customers and entire
community, "stakeholders" and not necessarily insiders.
Games once started have to stay the way they began, with
the same players and no one can enter or leave without a
new game being started. Business on the other hand can have
many different players and participants at different stages
and situations. Every situation of business life is
different according to the parameters and circumstances.
Because every individual is different and has their own
ideas and ideologies, the context of every situation will
be different. No two individuals think exactly the same way
about every situation. And even when they do agree on some
basic principles they will hardly ever agree on all. This
is not the situation with games, in a deck of cards you
only have as ! many options in playing your hand and in
deciding what move to make. In a boardgame you only have so
many spaces you can land on, so many questions you can be
asked, and so many numbers on the dice you can roll. The
number of permutations and combinations for the situations
are limitless for the situations we live through in our
business lives.
 I absolutely agree with the points Solomon is making. If
we were to compare our lives with games, especially in the
context of business, we would be limiting ourselves
greatly. We would be degrading our abilities and strengths.
Almost anyone can learn to play almost any game. With
practice and knowledge of the rules and methods just about
anyone in a short period of time can play a game well
enough to succeed. Business has so may variables that no
one could ever foresee all the circumstances and situations
that could possibly take place. That is why we have some
people that are really good at foot-ball (stereotyped as
the jock) and some people are really good at chess
(stereotyped as the intellect). Business is not quite so
easily segregated into determining what type of person is
best in a particular situation.
Entrepreneurs and managers for example have been described
as having particular qualities and attributes that make
them successful at the endeavor. However, it has been
proved time and time again that it is not only and not
always these people that succeed. There are so many
different qualities all joined together, intertwined, to
make someone great. It would be impossible to look at
someone and say that they would fail as an entrepreneur
because they do not have "the defined qualities" that an
entrepreneur should possess. Perhaps under one circumstance
or situation that person would fail, however, perhaps the
economy is booming at that time and there is an enormous
need for the product or service. By all means under this
scenario this person would be bound to succeed. Success
depends on far too many variables and situations to be
When a person "tries out" for a wrestling team, the coach,
after a relatively short period of time, can determine who
should and should not make the team according to their
strength and size. A recently graduated student looking for
a job would pose a much greater problem for an employer.
The employer can use such variables as grades, the
interview, references, etc. However, there is no outright
guarantee that they are getting the best employee. Perhaps
they obtained good grades in school, that may or may not
coincide with their ability to make quality decisions and
to get the work done effectively and efficiently. A good
reference may show that the student worked very well, but
that was at another job. There is always the possibility
that the individual will not like the new job or that they
will find it too hard or too easy. Even the interviewing
process is not an easy determinant because of particular
peoples strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps they are
relatively shy!
upon just meeting new people, but as they acquire comfort,
they may perform the best work possible. Those who make a
fabulous first impression may end up being inherently lazy
and may get bored and demotivated extremely fast.
For these reasons, business has no rights or wrongs, no
absolutes. It becomes what you make of it. A game is just a
game and will always be "just a game". It is repetitive and
after a period of time downright boring. In business, the
world is your oyster!


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