Skip to main content

Drawing Insights from Game Theory to Make Career Decisions

Today’s career paths are widely diverse, but there’s one thing they all have in common: the scarcity of resources. Resources are scarce; they have always been. Be it the amount of time you can devote to a particular career goal, the money you can invest on it, or the energy you can afford to spend in pursuing a career goal – they are all limited. That’s where economics steps in – the science of managing scarce resources. There is one particular branch of economics that deals specifically with decision making in adversarial situations, and it tells us a lot about the way we should be making decisions in life – game theory.

A little background

The game theory deals with the study of ways in which the choices of parties involved in a particular situation/transaction/circumstance affect each other, often in ways that were not intended by either of the parties. The ‘game’ here has a quite broad meaning – anything that involves interaction between two or more parties.

Games can be either finite or infinite. Finite games are the ones that have predetermined or expected rules and courses of conduct that are known to all the parties involved. They end at a certain point, with either party winning and the other party losing. Examples include football matches, competitive sports, conventional warfare, etc.

Infinite games are strange – they don’t have any rules or conventions attached to it, and none of the parties has a clear idea about the outcome. No one party loses in an infinite game; the game goes on and on until one party decides to withdraw due to lack of interest or depletion of resources. Examples include business, international diplomacy, politics, career trajectories of professionals and most important, life!

What does game theory mean for career choices?

Career trajectories are infinite games. They aren’t won or lost; they are played on and on until the player gives up. The only ending point is when the player quits, and no other.

However, just because there are no losers and winners in an infinite game it doesn’t mean all the choices made in such a game are equally good. In fact, quite the opposite – every single choice that we make in an infinite game decides our future course of action and its impact on the grander scheme of life as a whole.

While making choices in a game, be it a finite one or an infinite one, decisions are taken based on one of these two in mind: our immediate interests, and our values. Decisions aimed at securing immediate interests are often useful in finite games. They secure us the win, because they have a finite time limit and a predictable frame.

However, things are a bit different for infinite games. Over an extended period, decisions aimed at immediate interests have a discrete randomness in them, since our interest keeps changing over time and place. Today our interest may lie in earning money; tomorrow it may lie in securing an appointment with someone; the next day it may be in getting a project completed in time. When we make decisions based on our immediate interests, it becomes haphazardly random, with no necessary connection between them. This randomness makes it difficult for us to build allies and networks, since it doesn’t send out any clear message about what we stand for.

A better way to make decisions in an infinite game is by considering our values. When we make decisions based on our values and long-term visions, it provides us with coherence and integrity. It sends out a message to potential allies and networks about what we stand for, and what we would fight for. A few short-term interests may be defeated when we make choices this way, but worry not, since there are no winners or losers in this game, only players who play long enough!

Another benefit of value-based decision making in an infinite game is it provides you with longevity. Say, for example, companies doing business. Business is a well-known example of an infinite game. Companies who forget this and base their choices on satisfying short-term goals like quarterly profit or yearly turnover are always outlasted by companies who have long-term goals and visions that’s something more than annual turnovers. Companies who ignore the fact that business is an infinite game are often sold out/bankrupted/acquired/merged in a short period. The same happens with all other infinite games, including our career trajectories.

The point to take home

Long conclusions do little good, so here’s a short point to take home: in an infinite game, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about who plays long enough to see the other players quitting.

Popular posts

Citing Legal Materials Using Bluebook - A Short Guide

© Anshuman Sahoo 2017.  Free for mass distribution till the source is properly mentioned. So, you collected the relevant materials for your research, went through them carefully, and evaluated the available materials. Now, what remains is to carefully dot down your arguments in your own words while supporting those arguments and ideas by citing relevant materials in the footnotes. It is necessary to cite relevant legal material that you have referred to because it reflects your research and in-depth study that you have undertaken to write that paper. Apart from that, while quoting the work of someone else, citation is necessary to avoid possible allegations of plagiarism. However, while citing the materials in the footnotes section, you cannot cite them as per your wish. For example, while citing page no. 99 of ‘The Start-up of You’ book written by Reid Hoffman, you cannot cite it as ‘page 99, The Start-up of You, Reid Hoffmann’ just because that seems convenient. There is

A journey called Law School: Few words for the newcomers

Law school has its own ways to teach us the needed, regardless of our consent or interest thereto! However, gradually, through the ups and downs of our journey, it seems that while there are some things that we can change, there also exist some things that need to be accepted. I have had my fair share of ‘law school experiences’ to enable me to write this piece. However, I cannot guarantee that you’ll be having the same experiences through your journey. Therefore, inapplicability regretted. So, shall we start? 1. You’ll be facing tough competitions. Yes, cutthroat competition. You’ll compete with unfaithful friends and sincere enemies. Be prepared to be betrayed, used, and knocked out. However, don’t let this affect you. Everyone you meet in Law School isn’t your competition, but a potential ally. Learn to build meaningful relationships. Remember, legends don’t compete, they collaborate! 2. You’ll be having not-so-competent teachers teach you. We all face it. And not just

Legal Issues Surrounding Cloud Computing

With the explosive growth of innovations in the Information Technology industry, the Legal provisions are currently lagging behind and desperately looking for ways to cope up with the never-seen-before advancements. Cloud computing, being one of such recent advancements, have raised a number of legal issues including privacy and data security, contracting issues, issues relating to the location of the data, and business considerations. The abovementioned issues are the primary ones faced by almost all the nations across the globe. However, when it comes to the Indian scenario, a number of additional complicated issues are faced by India owing to lack of awareness and lack of resources. With the ‘Digital India’ initiative in the news, it is obvious that more and more individuals and organisations will be using online services and infrastructure via the Cloud in the near future; and it is therefore necessary to analyse our position thereon and discuss whether our legal system is r
Creative Commons License

All these articles are written by me and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License