OFMOS: The Solution
Note: The following post is an extended version of the section "Solution" from the 2018 crowdfunding campaign for the game OFMOS.
Speaking of fun... If you love the excitement of managing resources in Catan, the thrill of making money in Monopoly, and the exhilaration of strategizing in Chess, then you will love OFMOS.
But, wait, there’s more. :)
The age-old "trick" for taking a person’s understanding of the world to the next level is to focus on fundamentals. Elon Musk (SpaceX, Tesla), Charlie Munger (Berkshire Hathaway), Albert Einstein (the relativity guy), and others have advocated for it.
Henry Mintzberg, professor and author of the book Managers Not MBAs, recommends something similar on the application of knowledge side, namely synthesis.
Now, the question is, can we get that in business? Can we get a fundamental theory of business?
Why not? In my blog post Drucker + Big Data = A Fundamental Theory of Business? (excerpted from the 2013 draft manuscript, which is intended for use as a "letter to the reader" or afterword in a future edition of my book Spointra), I suggest a simple thought experiment, using "Peter Drucker’s idea that all businesses are operated on a set of assumptions called the theory of the business, which must be constantly revised as the environmental conditions change."
"With that in mind, we can imagine a large set of companies that have been around for a very long period of time. Over those many years, they all had to change their theory of the business numerous times. Furthermore, all the assumptions that were employed by these companies were codified and recorded for future analysis. Now, would we see assumptions that were employed more than others? Common sense suggests so. The bigger question, however, is whether or not we can find assumptions that have survived most changes. But if we think that the only thing that remains constant is human nature or, at least, a set of basic human behavior characteristics, the odds of finding such assumptions become quite high. And those assumptions will include theories that we could refer to as fundamental."
This approach to theory development could be thought of as a top-down approach. It's as if you are observing the world from a remote viewpoint, identifying patterns in the business activity, through very long periods of time, and without an initial understanding of what drives that activity. But, as we are waiting for some friendly AI (artificial intelligence) to help us with this task, the thought experiment strongly suggests that 1) the development of a fundamental theory of business is possible, and 2) a fundamental theory of business is likely to be rooted in human nature.
And that's what we have here: a fundamental theory of business, underlying a set of simple game mechanics. The OFMOS solution.
1. THE THEORY
Developed over the past fifteen years, the theory was built by using a bottom-up approach, which means that it starts with the behavior of one individual and then it moves up to describe how businesses and economies behave. Detailed in some of my publications, and particularly in the book Spointra (2007, 2013) and the draft Afterword, the fundamental theory is actually a set of interconnected theories, progressing from a theory of needs, to the fundamental forces in business (commoditization and innovation), to corporate strategy, and even to a macroeconomic model.
At the individual level, it shows how humans generate and structure their needs, in an ongoing quest for a successful existence. Those needs then can be represented along a continuum; representations that also indicate the value (or utility) that individuals place on those needs.
At a broader, marketplace level, many needs tend to be shared among individuals, with a perceived value (or utility) that changes under the opposing pressures of commoditization and innovation.
Then, the set of theories introduces us to the concepts of tofmos (total offering-market cosmos) and ofmos (offering-market cosmos). Consequently, companies can be seen as dynamic collections of evolving ofmos, a perspective that unifies the deliberate and the emergent ways of managing them.
And, when looking at the broader picture, the economies can be seen as collections of commoditizing tofmos, a perspective that is consistent with Joseph Schumpeter's view of the economy:
“The same process of industrial mutation — if I may use that biological term — that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”
In reviewing one of his biographies, The Economist writes, "Schumpeter's two greatest insights were that innovation is the driving force not only of capitalism but also of economic progress in general, and that entrepreneurs are the agents of innovation."
Along these lines, the new macroeconomic model aims not only to describe what is happening to an economy, regardless of the way it is currently handled, but also to suggest better ways in which an economy can be managed.
2. THE GAME MECHANICS
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about these theories, right now (unless you want to). They have been translated into simple mechanics. And that’s the beauty of it! By playing the game, you’ll gradually start asking the right questions, and do the “digging” later.
By instantly showing you the big picture, the OFMOS solution makes business learning more meaningful and more accessible. For those new to business, it provides a scaffolding, on which all new knowledge can be placed. And for those with more experience, it provides an umbrella to unify all of their existing knowledge.
Whether you decide to use OFMOS as a primary tool or just as a complimentary aid, the unique combination of theory and simple game mechanics will enable you to make business learning more meaningful and more accessible. At home, in school, or at work, OFMOS can bring significant value to the table (literally). As Boston Consulting Group suggests in their article Strategy, Game, and the Mind, "leaders can harness games in six important ways:
Bridge the gap from theory to reality.
Lower the cost of learning.
Offer enhanced and effective feedback mechanisms.
Provide alignment mechanisms through a common language.
Measure skills consistently.
Know, develop, and deploy your workforce."
"Play may prove to be an important component of the future of work."