Sometimes Charles Darwin should be wrong. I’m not in favor of invalidating evolution, mind you. I just think that the other processes than strict natural selection should come into play in certain situations. I think the character of John Nash summed this up best in the film A Beautiful Mind when he said:
If we all go for the blonde and block each other, not a single one of us is going to get her. So then we go for her friends, but they will all give us the cold shoulder because no on likes to be second choice. But what if none of us goes for the blonde? We won’t get in each other’s way and we won’t insult the other girls. It’s the only way to win. It’s the only way we all get laid.
Sometimes it’s better to be cooperating as a group for a group’s benefit, rather than competing in the “dog eat dog” world of natural selection. In that world, it’s every cockroach for himself.
These ruminations are being fed by the office politics at here company O. Here is the situation: we have two Vice-Presidents that we’ll call Cain and Abel working in different divisions of Company O. They both have underlings that are pursuing projects with similar, if not identical, goals and deliverables. Rather than collaborate and eliminate duplicated effort, Cain and Abel have decided to race to see who can deliver first in some weird exercise in competitive social Darwinism in order to curry favor with our El Supremo CEO.
Now if that isn’t bad enough, I work in Abel’s division. Abel has two Senior Managers, Jacob and Esau; I work directly for Esau. When presented with the goal delivering something for Abel to beat Cain to the punch, as it were, they both commit resources to producing what Abel wants because both want to curry favor with Abel. So, Jacob and Esau are now competing to produce something for Abel, so Abel can compete with Cain to curry favor with El Supremo.
A little explanation about the relationship between Jacob’s and Esau’s teams makes it clear why this is particuarly depressing and stupid. As a matter of history, Jacob’s team has a history of taking product our team develops (remember, I work for Esau), making minor improvements which we help to complete, complaining that we don’t help them enough, and then take credit as if they were responsible for everything from day one. Since both Jacob and Esau both are committed to finish this project for Abel, Jacob has taken the attitude that his team would “lead” and Esau’s team could “help”. Of course, history is repeating itself — Jacob’s team wants resources, personnel, and product from our team, but then refuse to share credit. So, again, rather than cooperate and share, a certain level of competition rears its ugly head.
A shrewd fellow, this Jacob, when he makes this strategy work. He justifies his existence and the existence of his team in the eyes of his superiors, while he gets other people not on his payroll to do most of the work. That’s a got a real upside for him; the only thing he lacks is integrity.
Not so for us, I’m afraid. This whole situation is depressing a lot of people I work with. Why? To use John Nash’s example, we know that everyone is hitting on the blonde, and no one is probably going to get laid. And how stupid is that?