What is this winning thing? Charlie Sheen managed to co-opt the term in a profound, yet scary way.

I’ve noticed that we each have our own definition. My take is that it takes on all forms of dimensions. At its best, winning is at the core of why open, capitalistic societies thrive. At its worst, “winning” can be the underpinnings of cultural angst and decay (viva la revolution, anyone?). Or picture tents lined up on wall street. In reality, winning is a combination of things, some great, and some with horrible consequences.

To many, particularly in publicly traded companies, it means that shareholder value has been maximized. The things that contribute to that are embraced. All other things can take a second seat. This can include customer and employee satisfaction, and in general, the impact to society as a whole. Mark Cuban’s piece on this was particularly fascinating. In it, he cautions that the behaviors of these companies to juice their stock through cost cutting may raise stock prices, but at an ever increasing detriment to society as a whole (unemployed people are less productive, and certainly aren’t making economic contributions).

On the flip side, there’s the post from Barbara Corcoran to “Shoot the Dogs Early” where she shares her thoughts about how to ensure that she has the best people in her organization. Her post received a ton of responses, some of which (the minority) defended her as being successful. After all, she’d grown a company and sold it for a pretty significant sum. But it had consequences. She was on to something in that, to build a successful business, you need good people. Her approach seemed a bit rough. She seemed to show particular disdain for the employees who didn’t help her achieve her desired goals, calling them dogs and losers. Seems pretty unfortunate.

So, what is winning? Not so simple. If you start with a recent, popular definition of the word, from, you get:





the act of a person or thing that wins.


Usually, winnings. something that is won, especially money.




any opening by which coal is being or has been extracted.


a bed of coal ready for mining.



that wins; successful or victorious, as in a contest: the winning team.


charming; engaging; pleasing: a winning child; a winning smile.”

From <>

In life, and business, there are many components, which include:

  • Short term victories. These could include securing new business, grabbing market share, creating a market, perhaps meeting near term target financial goals (such as increased revenue, profit margins, etc.)
  • Mid-term victories. These include creating the intangibles that provide the foundation for sustainable, and recurring victories (you decide what these are)
  • Sustained, long term winning. These come from striking the right balance between financial success and building relationships, resources, and capabilities that serve the needs of the organization and its ecosystem over time.

One definition I loved, which was when I was in the early stages of what was becoming an enormously successful startup was a mantra that we were in it to create value to our customers, that would result in value to the company, its employees and shareholders alike. That’s ideal, not always possible. Also, we were incredibly successful in the short & mid-term, but time, the economy eventually caught up, and we, like many in our industry faced some very difficult times with corporate downsizing. That said, I’ve been fortunate to see all range of approaches.

The economy and society don’t always allow for that to continue unchecked. Capitalism is based on a Darwinian component where companies need to adapt, adjust and be their best. My preference is that be done with integrity and empathy for the people involved, which includes customers, employees, and shareholders alike.

What do you think?


About Mike Rodbell

I'm a technology leader, engaged in developing software for the telecom, online commerce, and business process/analysis markets. All of the teams I've worked with have had a great deal in common. They need to be good at what they do, listen, share, and collaborate towards a shared set of goals. This blog is dedicated to those activities. I hope you enjoy reading it.
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