If you and I play cards, the winner will be determined by fate. Get good cards and you come forward.
If you and I play 100 games of backgammon, the better players will win, because the luck of the dice becomes average, comes out in the evening over time, leaving skill as the dominant factor.
Good game design involves creating situations where early luck does not destroy the rest of the game. A good roll or a good first hand opportunity should not be left out to other players. This is why monopoly is a more accurate social commentary than a good game.
When people talk about life and say, “there is no such thing as fate,” they may refer to the fact that in the long run, those who are prepared, unwavering, and skeptical often take advantage. But what they are missing is that life (and our culture) was not created as a game that does not reward early destiny.
Early fate has a far-reaching effect. Where you were born, caste society puts you, whether you were properly ahead in the various primary ranking systems – all this becomes complicated. Malcolm Gladwell writes that there is an important factor in who can play in the NHL at birth – because that’s where a Canadian kid plays hockey when he turns six.
[If you’re a sports fan, that means we could create a second NHL, with just as many star players, simply by creating a different farm system for kids born six months later].
Organizing early fortunes is usually good for those who have early fortunes. What a surprise. But it’s unfair and it’s a talent-using problem that hurts everyone. When we fail to create the conditions for people to be resilient with resilience until fate comes, we all lose.
Institutions have long-term investment opportunities. They can take profits from early fortunes and apply them to areas where the end will emerge. This is the secret of successful VCs like Brad Feld and Fred Wilson. A portfolio is an easy way to minimize the effects of luck (good or bad) over time.
But we are all in the organization. We have the opportunity to take steps not to confuse the initial fate with skill and to create enough resilience in our journey so that we are more likely to reach where we are going.