#7. The Irrational Truth

How Zero-Sum Thinking Can Hinder Your Success

May 2024

Life's not a melktert-eating contest where your chommie’s big slice means you and your other chommies get the crumbs. That’s zero-sum bias at work – because life’s sommer not a win-lose battle, it's thinking that makes it so. 

Understanding zero-sum bias

No spoilers ahead: The latest episode of Irrational (the tv series is based on the book by Dan Ariely, and is currently on DSTV) explores how this bias can play out in unexpected ways even when the melktert metaphor doesn't fit perfectly. A zero-sum mindset is a throwback to our past – a time capsule of competition for scarce resources that still impacts our lives.

The zero-sum trap in our lives

The zero-sum trap klaps us in all sorts of ways, like rocking up in negotiations where we turn down fair deals if we don’t see the benefits right away. It also rocks up in:

  • Relationships | Feeling threatened by our partner's success can lead to unnecessary competition instead of celebrating the good vibes together.
  • Parenting | Thinking zero-sum to compare sibs can lead to major drama, causing resentment and harming the family dynamic.
  • Helping others | Fear of losing out on opportunities if we lend a hand holds us back, limiting our sense of community and connection.
Hidden biases affect our actions, even when they seem logical.

Breaking free from zero-sum thinking in business

Understanding the zero-sum bias is a game changer in business. It's more than having a win-win mindset with clear communication and shared goals (though that's crucial for teamwork and innovation). Here are some extra ways to break free:

  • Focus on value creation| This helps build stronger partnerships with clients, colleagues and even competitors.
  • Embrace abundance thinking | Success isn't limited – the world isn't just melktert, it’s also malva and koeksisters. Seeing the world in this way encourages creativity and collaboration.
  • Celebrate collective wins| When others (colleagues, partners, competitors) succeed, celebrate them. Shared purpose inspires everyone to strive for greater successes.

The power of Irrational

The takeout: Hidden biases affect our actions, even when they seem logical. Clocking the zero-sum bias empowers us to make informed choices, build stronger relationships and achieve success. Collaboration is key: By working together and focusing on creating value, we can break out of zero-sum thinking and open up endless opportunities.

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