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adamsmith RT @JohnNash Love the game. Let’s play it together. BFF

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adamsmith RT @JohnNash Love the game. Let’s play it together. BFF

Adam Smith, Father of Capitalism, set forth in the world the greatest experiment man has ever encountered. Smithbrilliant in his understanding of true human nature.  With this understanding, devised a system by which he focused the fallibility of man’s own nature to the betterment of society.  This system allows for the human needs to be met while using this same nature as a mechanism for self-regulation and management.

With this said, there was an American in the 1950s who challenged the concept of “every man for himself”.  John Nash, an economist and mathematician, is considered to be the “Father of Game Theory”.  Nash understood how a person would react given a certain set of circumstances.  He theorized a person will always make a choice that gives him either the least pain or the greatest gain given the circumstances.  By understanding this, the game can be manipulated for the betterment of all of the participants.

This is somewhat esoteric, so enough of the history lessons.  How does this affect us in the daily struggles of small business?  How can the game be manipulated (legally) so that a better result can be gained for my business?  I would propose it is the development of “synergy” around your business that will be the “game changer”.

So, how does a small business build this synergy around their establishment?  I would offer that there are two ways this can be done:

1) collaborate with like competitors within your geographical area and advertise the area as the place to come for your products and
2) pull together businesses complementary to yours and promote each other in one online location.  The synergy of this online “channel” will draw more customers interested in your product than you could draw on your own.

Allow me to give a couple of examples.  If the five or six clothing boutiques on Elm Street would collaborate, they could develop a Twitter channel called ElmSteetBoutiques.  The followers of this twitter feed would be there to see what kinds of special offers, deals or new designs are available at these stores.  This will build synergy and give the impression that Elm Street is the place to shop.  Having the added people shopping on Elm Street will strengthen all of the stores located there.

The second example would be; if the two bistros, the pub, the nightclub and the three retail stores on Oak Street were to cooperate, they could develop the OakStreetCommons Twitter feed.  These complementary businesses, together, give Oak Street synergy.  Instead of advertising and doing it all on your own, the Oak Street Commons becomes a destination with something to offer for everyone.

The combination of the greed of Adam Smith’s man with the sophistication of John Nash’s games (competition) will bring a synergy to your business that is un-deniable.  See with whom you can partner your marketing efforts, to gain this synergistic effect, and grow the numbers of patrons walking past your door.

Photo by Bindaas Madhavi via

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Steve is a husband of 27 years and a father of two young men who are well on their ways to becoming leaders in their respective fields. Steve has always taken an active interest in his sons’ education and has come to some conclusions along the way. Read his articles to gain some of his insights. He has lead a unique professional life. As a trained biologist Steve has held the positions of Curator of a public aquarium as well as Senior Vice President of a very large commercial aquaculture facility (fancy name for fish farmer). He and his partner Karen have started Organic Business Strategies because they both share a unique perspective on business. They each have strong backgrounds and many years running businesses and have been closely involved with staff training, marketing and developing a business climate of ethics, honesty and cooperation. Organic.

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  • It is always said 2 brains is better than 1, group work is encouraged for better performances. There is truth to this but only if we could see though our differences and work towards one similar goal. Not to mention, the trust element as well. Those are really good examples given, showing there’s a chance for collaboration even in this competitive world we’re living in. 🙂 Good job.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. You’re right about 2 being better than 1. The even bigger issue with this concept is getting 10 brains to agree. There are a number of misconceptions in business. Like, if a customer goes into my competitors store – they will not buy my items or if I run a special I will not make as much money, even though I have 10 times more customers today. There are a few examples of this collaboration, art districts and other non-profits. Maybe there is hope 🙂 There is always, Sidewalk Days.

  • Anonymous

    Two super points Steve. The business that are excelling during these challenging times are definitely the ones that are working together with like minded businesses to generate increased business. And the less successful ones are the businesses who are paranoid seeing everyone around them as a threat.

  • Anonymous

    Greg, I’m glad you liked it and you are right. There is a lot to be said for cooperating, even with competitors. In today’s economy it is even more important to be able to focus your advertising dollars to customers who care. By working together you are building the size of the market for you and your neighbor.

  • Hi Steve, Collaboration is the new competition, companies particularly small businesses need to wise up to this fact – If you want to get ahead, join forces. Wonderful post to explain the concepts! Thanks a lot for sharing. Cheers, Niall

  • Great way to get us to look for synergies to improve our business. A pity the BizSugar link is not working for me…

  • What a brilliant way of looking at it. I agree with the comments here, collaboration is the way ahead. If more businesses stopped and looked at the benefits and put some trust into it there would be a lot more businesses doing well instead of struggling.

  • Hi Steve. Collaboration is key to making it work. If you can find a company who complements you and also, just as importantly, work well with you in terms of mutual promotion along with similar values, the impact is far greater than going it alone. Nice post.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Steve. I’m currently reading ‘A Beautiful Mind’, the biography of John Nash, so your post resonates highly with me at this point in time. I’m a big proponent of collaboration in all walks of life. In my day job cross line of business collaboration is key in our attempts to embed Social Media practices internally.

  • Anonymous

    Well, it goes against our nature and everything that we have been taught. But those that take this step will find the benefits. Thanks for the opportunity to post it to your site. collaboration.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad you liked it. The contest was a wonderful idea, whether the link works or not:)

  • Hi Stephen, Hi Cindy, we are working on having the link fixed asap. In the meantime, can people use the “Vote for the post here and win great prizes” link at the bottom of the post. Thanks for your patience, Cheers, Niall

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Mairead. I wrote this with social media and advertising in mind, but this also works in some situations with your vendors or even with your competitors and the supply of your common products.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Barney, It really is not any different than what many of us would do with affiliate marketing, list sharing or joint ventures on projects. Collaborating increases your reach and influence. Powerful.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Frank, that is a great idea using social media within a company. There are so many platforms and so many ways to foster conversation that doing this can make a large company feel smaller. (maybe I’m reading too much into your comment, sorry). As for John Nash; I have always been fascinated with brilliant people and the “way” they think. Obviously, Nash is one of the most unique. For him to understand his limitation, make the decision as to how to handle it and then keep it under control – wow – true brilliance.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Steve. For sure it makes the company feel smaller. Since I started using Social Media inside the organisation I haven’t looked back. A recent example of a win win situation was when we were looking to create some jingles for an internal podcast. Via our internal Social Network I posted a question. Within a few days a volunteer from the US (I’m based in Ireland) had volunteered to help us produce these jingles. In turn we have agreed to help him convince his boss that Social Media is of value to his team.

    I’ve actually started blogging on Bloggertone about my experiences of Social Media inside the corporation. You can see my first post at I hope to have a second post up, by the start of next week.

    I’m really enjoying the book about John Nash so far. I’m currently at the part where he is working for RAND, so I haven’t yet got to the part where he is affected by his illness.

  • I’ve always collaborated with my competitors and complimentary businesses. It saves you from making errors if a customer calls you up out of the blue with unusual volume estimates and wants pricing that seems unrealistic. Excellent article.

  • obssteve

    Colleen, Thanks for the kind words. You are to be congratulated for your understanding and your strength. I am amazed at the number of people who are afraid to even consider speaking with their competitors. You obviously know that business is not a zero sum game and that you along with your competitors can strengthen your industry and/or even be friends 🙂

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