Friday, June 06, 2008

Cheating is part of the game

I just finished listening to an NPR about cheating in baseball. The scope was broad, covering things like a man in a skyscraper with binoculars relaying a catcher's signals to the batter's team, to things like moving the back fence further back to make it harder to hit a home run, and even things like painting greater numbers on the back fence to make it seem harder to hit a home run.

The gist was that cheating is part of the game, and while steroid use is explicitly illegal, most baseball players probably view sterioids as simply another way to gain an advantage over the other team given the pervasive attitude towards cheating.

The tacit implication is that the honest team, the one which refuses to cheat in any way, is destined to lose.

I'm reminded of a story Hans told me once about a bank owner. This bank was quite small and could barely make ends meet but they were installing a brand new ATM. This happened back when ATMs were still a new contraption, and new means expensive. "How can you afford to install one of those? Aren't ATMs really expensive?" they were asked. "Our competition already has ATMs. We can't afford to not install an ATM. If we don't, we'll be out of business within the month."

I'm not equating ATMs with cheating, but ATMs were a new technology to gain advantage over the competition in the same way cheating is used to gain advantage. If your competition is using a tool or technology you aren't using because you think it's "unfair" or "immoral", and your competition is winning because of it, you might want to reconsider your business strategy to take back your advantage. For example, Disney has already conceded that movie piracy is a successful business model to compete against... and in China, Microsoft doesn't sell MS Office for $150, but for $3.

Cheating is part of the game. Get used to it... or you should pre-pay your funeral costs.

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