Build a Company. Sell the Company. Why was the game created?

Build a Company. Sell the Company. Why was the game created?It’s been two and a half years since the first game was put on in the network of nano-centers, with players who did engineering, created businesses and then tried to sell them. By now, there have been thirty games played within the network and beyond. Some players ended up working for nano-centers. Many are yet to come

The game has been developing, it is now almost completely automatized, the scenario has shrunk from 3 to just 1 day. The game doesn’t depend on its creators: there have been good examples of it being organized by those who played it before. The previous experience of organizing the games suggests some reflection: what has been done?

The concept of #labordivision(1) is one from the ontology(2) of activity. Explaining at least something of this ontology in a text, regardless of whether it is written or spoken, is a virtually unattainable task. It’s enough to just recall philosopher Fichte’s numerous attempts and his near to desperate plea as to how to read his texts(3). Anyway Fichte wrote about mental actions that the reader has to take.

  1. Shchedrovitsky P.G. Up and Down on the Waves of Industrial Revolutions. Lecture. [Online resource] // University of National Technological Initiative “20.35”, Educational intensive program “Ostrov [Island] 10-21”, Far Eastern Federal University. — 2018. Available at: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=gB6fRwkBPMc&feature=youtu.be (date of access: 10.08.2018).
  2. Ontology is what exists, the real world. Philosophers who came up with this word constructed their worlds almost like those of fantasy – in parallel: for one the whole world is a world of ideas, for another one it is a world of matter. Activity is neither of the two. It’s just that there is a world where we act, and everything around it is activity. The objects only appear for us as a house, or a jacket, or a logistic robot, but, in fact, they are nothing but outcomes of performed or unfinished activity.
  3. Fichte J. G. The Sun-Clear Report to the Public at Large Concerning the Actual Essence of the Latest Philosophy. Works: in 2 vol. — vol. 1. — Spb, 1993. — pp. 653–669. This is an example of a desperate, not to say rude, call for the “dear reader” to stop analyzing and evaluating everything and instead do the actions that the author suggests. The attempt failed. “Dear readers” ended up ecstatically analyzing and evaluating that plea as well.

HOW ONE CAN EXPLAIN THAT IT DOESN’T ONLY TAKE TO THINK ABOUT THINGS BUT ALSO DO THINGS IS STILL A MYSTERY

Through instructions? Guidelines? Could be. But would their fulfillment be more than the simple act of fulfillment? Would it entail acquisition of experience? One doesn’t automatically turn into another. In order to gain experience or, in other words, knowledge, the level of reasoning demonstrated by the person who is acting in accordance with those instructions must be stratospheric. Otherwise, the actions which are blindly performed following instructions will be useless in terms of retrieving the concept that was embedded in the instructions by the author. It will be impossible to extract anything worthwhile at all. The very nature of action suggests that it must be independent to lead to formation of experience(4).

  1. Those who have ever listened to the lectures given by P.G. Shchedrovitsky on the philosophy of action might remember that a productive action is an action taken all by yourself. If you don’t act on your own, it feels like your memory doesn’t function – there is no experience gained.

Perhaps, #labordivision(5) is too immature. And there is no text that is capable of real capturing the general meaning that has become obvious to everybody, that has been fixed as a result of numerous discussions and that is related to the given concept.

And this general understanding should arise out of the economic reality itself rather than from the academic circles of professional writers and readers of texts.

  1. We put #labordivision in one word. It has a profound philosophical meaning but we can just as well consider it to be our hashtag.

Which means this understanding should be arrived at by the people who are doing business and don’t normally incline to construct general theoretical assumptions about what they have done. Can we just try and compress the emergence of this general understanding (and then the idea) that is extremely hard to do without when it comes to getting access to the world of activity? It can take dozens of years in real time. Is there a way to find a specific spot with more suitable timing?

IN WHICH FORM CAN THE GENERAL UNDERSTANDING AND IDEAS EXIST AND ARISE FROM THE ACTIVITY-DRIVEN WORLD VIEW?

One way to tackle this question is the business game “Build a Company. Sell the Company”(6) that rests on the first stretch of experience gained within the networks of nano-centers in high-tech mass production entrepreneurship.

Everything that is contained in the game is contained in the entrepreneurial reality

Though, of course, not everything that is contained in this reality made it to the game. It is still a game after all.

  1. This business game became a possibility only because its authors have first-hand knowledge of the technology of organizational activity games (OAG). To learn more about OAG, refer to Shchedrovitsky G. P. Organizational-activity game as a new form of organization of collective mental activity. [Online resource] // Organizational-activity game: selection of texts. Materials from the archive of G. P. Shchedrovitsky. Vol.9(1).M.2004. Available at: http://www.fondgp.ru/gp/biblio/gp/biblio/rus/49.

“Build a Company. Sell the Company” stands out from the rest of the organizational-activity games in terms of how it is arranged: this game, for instance, doesn’t have a moderator or game technicians. But it is exactly the OAG technology and the underlying ontology that made it possible to transform the description of entrepreneurial actions into a scenario and gaming norms that one has to play out and perform rather than just read. Transition from the world of descriptions to the world of gaming actions was the hardest part in the game development.

The first distinction that had to be made in the game

was that between #labordivision and specialization of people within the project. Division of labor is way too often interpreted as elaboration of an operation chart for the project in which every cell is attributed with essential features(7). For instance, description of people’s functions and competences that have to be demonstrated. Sometimes various aspects of the project and description of required competences are given from the outset. And people are selected accordingly. Sometimes people and teams come first, and only after that a corresponding project is worked out. In this case, what is erroneously called “division of labor” will turn out to be these people’s anthropological peculiarities, skills and values. It’s all a very different story with entrepreneurs. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have any skills or values. It’s just that the mechanism of their labor is different.

  1. Frankly speaking, this is how it is taken by the absolute majority in most cases. It is a little overwhelming but you will anyway have to make that distinction.

THE GAME WAS CREATED FOR THE EXACT PURPOSE OF IMMERSING THE PLAYERS IN THIS DIFFERENT REALITY FOR A SHORT WHILE.

IN BUSINESS, FROM THE OUTSET, THERE ARE NEITHER FUNCTIONS, NOR TEAMS OF PEOPLE WITH THEIR COMPETENCES.

There is nothing but the entrepreneurial work. And its product takes the shape of activities and new workplaces.

It is not until this work is done that there can appear any workplaces, not to say people in that activity.

SOCIALLY ENTREPRENEURS CAN BE AROUND THEIR FAMILY AND FRIENDS, BUT IN THEIR ACTIVITY THEY ARE IN AN EMPTY SPACE

Then one day someone will retrospectively say that the entrepreneurs used some management tools, gathered a good team and things like that.

BUT HERE AND NOW, IN THEIR WORK, THERE IS NOTHING TO APPLY THE TOOLS TO, AND THERE IS NO TEAM AS THERE IS NO SUBJECT MATTER.

When they enter a sphere where nothing has yet emerged, they see that they have to do everything and at once

But “everything and at once” is nothing, it is nonexistence, an abstraction. That is why the only way is to start doing something, at the same time trying to give directions to other entrepreneurs within the frame of reference of their actions. They build up the density of their actions, repeat them, they basically constitute this “something” that is emerging from “nothing”. Maybe other entrepreneurs will also start an activity that will be suitable for cooperation. It will then increase the density of mutual business transactions. This will only be a tiny fraction of the whole new sphere, of that very “everything”. But once that tiny fraction of the whole is knit tightly enough and is reinforced by real rather than phantom business connections that enable each participant to develop the economic system of their own activity, this fraction of “the whole” will become tangible, distinctive and self-defined.

BUSINESS TIES AMONG COMPANIES HOLD EACH ONE AND ALL OF THEM TOGETHER.

THE ENTREPRENEUR’S ACTIONS ARE INSEPARABLE FROM THE ECONOMIC COMMON SENSE:

any sort of unreasonable economic behavior, whichever elevated goals or ideologies are used to justify it, threatens to destroy a new activity in a newly emerging reality. Unreasonable economic behaviour will lead to destruction of newly emerged workplaces, which will not only affect the entrepreneur but also all the team as well. There is always this risk, together with the risk of staking everything on the first wrong move, on the wrong kind of business, on the wrong activity, or taking actions when the situation isn’t right, when nothing really depends on the entrepreneur. This is what the game participants go through while playing. At first, almost all of them make economically irrational moves. Which are at the same time absolutely irresponsible in relation to the activity. Very often they justify such moves saying that “we are one team”, or that “the beauty of this engineering solution is really important”, or that “creativity and self-realization are indispensable for motivation” or something like that in complete dissociation with the simplest economic laws. The fact that all of this team is then left with nothing to do, no chance of success, and a beautiful engineering solution that turns out to be impossible to integrate in any of emerging technological chains is just a brief illustration of many unfortunate stories that unfolded within the post-Soviet continuum.

As the game scenario goes, there is a moment when it turns out that there are no limits or external challenges to meet

THE NEW TECHNOLOGY CAN BE USED IN ANY BUSINESS, BUT IT IS ABSOLUTELY UNCLEAR IN WHICH

This confrontation with nothingness, with the void of the business reality of the game is rather painful.

The game allows entrepreneurs to repeat the business transactions they are staking on a few times. It is the only way if they want to manage to sell the company they have built.

THE GAME SHOWS HOW UNREASONABLE THOSE REPETITIONS ACTUALLY WERE AT THE BEGINNING – AS THEY BROUGHT NEITHER REVENUES NOR ENOUGH COOPERATION.

And one can see the gradual growth in the density of business connections. The software of the game “paints” this picture automatically building a visual image of something appearing out of an empty space.

THERE IS A POINT IN THE SCENARIO WHEN THE TIME SEEMS TO BE DRAGGING ON FOREVER, FLOWING UNBEARABLY SLOWLY WITH NO RESULTS OF THE FIRST ENTREPRENEURIAL TRIES AND RECURRING ERRORS.

That is the moment in the game that triggers the second (after the game started) mass exodus of participants from the labor.

And those who didn’t leave, who went through the game with success, who were attentive to rising opportunities, actually started to act, managed to navigate through uncertainty and succeeded in building up tiny islands of labor, inside of which one can observe the phenomenon of labor division for the first time.

What kept them from failing? We hope that one day we will have an answer to this question, as for now we will hold it back. Whatever has been said earlier, it doesn’t anywhere near mean that somebody has definitive knowledge of how the mind of successful entrepreneurs works, be in the game or in life. Since the game situation is very close to reality, participants simply don’t have the time or space for explanations and expression of their reflections. It isn’t even clear if they are at all aware of the accumulated experience. Very few among those who once came up with creation of a new activity actually continued creating them again. The game was developed together with entrepreneurs and people with philosophical background. However, it doesn’t give any guarantee that there won’t be any texts trying to reason out the specific nature of entrepreneurial actions. Neither do we know how to write a text that will convey the business notion of labordivision to people. Unless we consider the game itself to be this sort of “text”: its scenario, software algorithms and interface device of the players.

Source: JUMP! venture August–September 2018

Author: Anna Elashkina

Date: September 20, 2018