Navigating Zero-Sum Games: Building High-Performing Organizations with Win-Win Relationships



Have you ever struggled with building strong, lasting relationships within your organization? 

In this episode of The Business Philosopher podcast, host Bhavesh Naik sits down with Idil Karateke, the host of the "100-Some Game" podcast. Idil shares her insights on creating 100% win-win outcomes through principled negotiation strategies that can transform your business.

Idil dives deep into the concept of the "hundred-sum game" - a powerful framework for cultivating positive, synergistic relationships that benefit all parties. She explains how this approach differs from the toxic "zero-sum" mentality that plagues many organizations, and how you can apply it to build high-performing teams, foster innovation, and drive sustainable growth.

You'll discover:

  • The hidden dangers of zero-sum thinking and how it sabotages companies from within. 
  • Proven techniques for managing your own ego and developing empathy to connect with others. 
  • Strategies for becoming a more effective listener and unlocking the true power of collaboration.
  • Ways to build confidence, vulnerability, and emotional intelligence as a leader.

Whether you're a founder building a long-lasting business, an executive developing a self-sustaining organization or a team leader or manager nurturing a high-performing team to new heights, this episode offers a masterclass in negotiation and relationship-building that can unlock untold value in your organization. Tune in now to start creating 100% win-win outcomes in your business.

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Navigating Zero-Sum Games: Building High-Performing Organizations with Win-Win Relationships 1

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About Idil Karateke

Idil Karateke is the host of the "100-Some Game" podcast, where she explores negotiation strategies and tactics with top experts that enable 100% win-win outcomes. Idil is deeply passionate about helping individuals and organizations unlock value through principled, collaborative negotiation.

With a background as both an economics and psychology graduate, Idil has firsthand experience applying negotiation frameworks in the corporate world, including in finance and marketing at prominent brands. After witnessing both positive and toxic work environments, she became deeply interested in the power of valuing your counterpart's needs and building strong, mutually beneficial relationships.

On her podcast, Idil shares proven techniques for building emotional intelligence, managing one's ego, and becoming a more empathetic and effective communicator. She has interviewed guests from leading organizations like Google, Apple, and McKinsey to shed light on how negotiation mastery can accelerate careers and drive innovation.

table of contents

"Every day, before you go to work, you should look in the mirror and be like 'It's not about you. It's not about you. It's not about you'"

~ Idil Karateke 

Host, 100-Sum Game podcast

Conversation Outline: How to Build High Performing, Self-Sustaining Organizations with 100-Sum Game


In this conversation, Bhavesh Naik and Idil Karateke discuss the concept of a hundred-sum game and its application in building strong relationships and positive communication within organizations. They highlight the pitfalls of zero-sum games and the importance of creating a culture of collaboration and mutual benefit.

The conversation emphasizes the role of leaders in exhibiting behaviors such as active listening, empathy, and removing ego to foster hundred-sum relationships. By prioritizing strong relationships, organizations can unlock the full potential of their people and drive innovation and growth. In this part of the conversation,

Bhavesh and Idil discuss the importance of listening and managing ego in effective communication. They highlight the role of confidence and self-awareness in being able to listen better. They also delve into the psychological underpinnings of ego and the self. The conversation then shifts to understanding others and scenario thinking, emphasizing the need to read body language and manage ego in interactions. They explore the concept of playing out scenarios and the impact of emotional intelligence in creating positive interactions and fostering collaboration. In this conversation,

Idil Karateke discusses the importance of emotional intelligence and effective communication in both personal and professional relationships. She emphasizes the need for individuals to manage their own emotions and regulate their responses in order to build positive connections. Idil also shares techniques such as using anchors and dynamic silence to improve emotional awareness and create better outcomes in negotiations. She highlights the role of vulnerability and self-acceptance in leadership and entrepreneurship. Overall, the conversation explores the power of emotional intelligence in navigating toxic environments, building connections, and unlocking value in various aspects of life.

Following are the sections we covered in this conversation with their summaries, along with the time location in the video and audio to follow along.

00:00 Introduction

Bhavesh Naik introduces the importance of building high-performing organizations that outlast their founders and leaders, emphasizing the significance of strong relationships and positive communication. He welcomes Idil Karateke as a guest, host of the 100 Some Game Podcast focused on negotiation strategies for win-win outcomes. Idil expresses excitement for the topic and being a guest on Bhavesh's podcast.

02:10 The Concept of a Hundred-Sum Game

Idil explains the inspiration behind the name "hundred-some game," rooted in her study of economics and the concept of zero-sum games. She emphasizes the shift towards creating mutual wins in interactions, leading to better relationships, financial outcomes, and organizational sustainability. The idea is to increase the size of the "pie" so that both parties benefit, fostering better deals, stronger relationships, and positive impacts in various aspects.

04:35 The Pitfalls of Zero-Sum Games in Organizations

Idil illustrates the consequences of zero-sum game approaches in business interactions using the example of dealing with Walmart as a consumer packaged goods company. She explains how a competitive, my-way-or-the-highway attitude can lead to short-term gains but damage long-term relationships and opportunities for collaboration. By neglecting the interests of the other party, potential for future beneficial deals and partnerships diminish. Idil emphasizes the need for a 100 Sum Game mindset to foster mutually beneficial outcomes and sustainable relationships in business interactions.

Reference Books on Negotiating and Creating Win-Win Relationships

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss

Many of the ideas Idil presented in our conversation referenced this book.

Never Split the Difference takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss' head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: in saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principles - counterintuitive tactics and strategies - you, too, can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal lives.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Cover

Bhavesh referenced this book in the beginning of the conversation while referring to the win/win quadrant and synergy which is defined as 1 + 1 = 11.

This beloved classic presents a principle-centered approach for solving both personal and professional problems. The 7 habits include: 1) Be Proactive, 2) Begin with the End in Mind, 3) Put First Things First, 4) Think Win/Win, 5) Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood, 6) Synergize, 7) Sharpen the Saw

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

In the conversation, Bhavesh incorrectly attributes the quote "Seek to Understand Before Being Understood" to Dale Carnegie's famous book "How to Win Friends and Influence People." This was a mix-up, as the "seek to understand" sentiment is actually a well-known principle attributed to Stephen Covey in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," rather than Carnegie's work.

The core insight - the importance of prioritizing listening and understanding over asserting one's own views - remains a valuable negotiation and communication strategy regardless of the specific source.

09:34 The Importance of Strong Relationships in Organizations

Bhavesh and Idil discuss the dynamics of win-lose versus compromise versus win-win scenarios in transactions. Drawing from Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," they explore how win-win interactions create synergy, where both parties benefit more than expected individually. Idil mentions negotiation expert Chris Voss as an inspiration for creating mutually beneficial deals. They emphasize the concept of a hundred-sum game, where successful collaborations result in outcomes beyond what either party initially envisioned.

22:47 Empathy vs Sympathy

Bhavesh and Idil discuss the importance of empathy over sympathy in communication. They highlight the difference between focusing on oneself in the conversation versus genuinely engaging with the other person's emotions and experiences. Empathy, demonstrated through responses like "Tell me more," shows a deeper understanding and connection, leading to better relationships and potential reciprocal benefits. Removing oneself from the conversation and genuinely focusing on the other party's concerns can cultivate trust and rapport, potentially leading to various positive outcomes like promotions or referrals.

25:18 The Power of Listening and Managing Ego

Bhavesh discusses the impactful leadership approach of active listening by sharing an anecdote about Richard Branson. He emphasizes the importance of allowing others to speak first in meetings and refraining from trying to assert dominance or control. This strategy cultivates a collaborative environment, gathers diverse perspectives, and enhances the leader's credibility and influence. By prioritizing listening over speaking, leaders can establish a powerful presence and gain deeper insights from their team members.

Bhavesh and Idil discuss the significance of listening as a leadership tool to enhance presence and manage ego. They highlight the importance of moving beyond ego-centric behaviors and fears of inadequacy that may drive individuals to dominate conversations. By prioritizing active listening, leaders can effectively navigate their egos, foster collaborative environments, and gain respect from their teams. The conversation emphasizes the power of humility, self-awareness, and ego management in leadership roles.

27:56 Confidence and Self-Awareness 

Idil and Bhavesh discuss the correlation between confidence and effective listening in leadership. They highlight how confidence, rooted in self-awareness and absence of insecurities, enables individuals to practice active listening and humility. Confidence not only enhances the ability to engage empathetically but also encourages open-mindedness and respect towards others. The conversation emphasizes how confidence facilitates positive behaviors like active listening and empathetic responses, contrasting the counterproductive impact of insecurity on communication and leadership effectiveness.

29:45 Ego and the Self

Idil and Bhavesh delve into the psychological dynamics of ego and self-awareness, drawing insights from religious beliefs and psychological principles. They discuss how detachment from ego can alleviate suffering and human tendencies driven by ego, such as insecurity and ambition. Emphasizing the importance of understanding and managing ego in interpersonal interactions, they advocate for maintaining a balance in dealing with personal and others' egos. The conversation touches on self-confidence, mindfulness, and the interconnected nature of humanity, exploring the dichotomy between individual egos and collective awareness in fostering healthy relationships and self-understanding.

34:00 Understanding Others and Scenario Thinking

Idil and Bhavesh explore the importance of understanding others through scenario thinking and body language analysis. They emphasize the significance of reading nonverbal cues like fidgeting to detect potential dishonesty or discomfort in conversations. By shifting focus from oneself to the other party during interactions, individuals can engage more effectively and discern hidden motives. Idil offers a personal example and stresses the value of actively listening, observing body language, and using silence strategically to uncover deeper insights and navigate interpersonal dynamics with enhanced awareness and empathy.

"People are actually very fair animals. We are very fair, actually. People think that people... theyr'e not fair, like they don't return favors. But... once you really have made them feel good... we are really wired to return the favor."

~ Idil Karateke 

Host, 100-Sum Game podcast

37:38 Reading Body Language and Managing Ego

Idil and Bhavesh discuss the significance of managing ego and understanding others through body language and scenario thinking. They stress the necessity of observing nonverbal cues like fidgeting to detect honesty or discomfort. By practicing social interactions in low-stakes situations and scenario playing conversations in advance, individuals can enhance their intuition and communication skills. Planning conversations like presentations allows for strategic thinking, empowering individuals to anticipate responses and navigate interactions effectively. The conversation highlights the value of preparation, intuitive feedback, and practicing with diverse individuals, including children, to refine social perceptiveness and communication strategies.

41:50 Playing Out Scenarios and Emotional Intelligence

Bhavesh and Idil discuss the importance of scenario thinking and emotional intelligence in anticipating and navigating interpersonal interactions effectively. They highlight the value of preparing for conversations by envisioning potential responses and outcomes, emphasizing the significance of understanding others' perspectives. Through scenario playing and considering various reactions, individuals can develop empathy and strategic communication skills. Idil shares a personal experience showcasing the impact of a boss's words on team dynamics, illustrating the crucial role emotional intelligence plays in fostering positive relationships and professional success. The conversation underscores the power of foresight and empathetic communication in workplace interactions.

47:48 Creating Positive Interactions and Collaboration

Bhavesh and Idil discuss the significance of fostering positive interactions and collaboration in organizational settings. They emphasize the impact of a positive environment on productivity and innovation, acknowledging the role of emotional intelligence in shaping interactions. Idil illustrates a scenario where a positive response from a manager to an analyst's ideas can boost morale, creativity, and overall efficiency. The conversation underscores the value of emotional intelligence, collaborative communication, and crediting employees' efforts towards achieving shared organizational goals through positive interactions.

Working in a Toxic Environment

Bhavesh and Idil discuss the dilemma faced by individuals working in toxic environments and the importance of maintaining positive behavior despite surrounding negativity. They emphasize that personal actions, even in a toxic setting, can contribute to fostering a positive atmosphere. The conversation highlights the power individuals possess in choosing to exhibit positive behaviors and attitudes, irrespective of the toxicity present in their work environment. This underscores the impact of individual responses on workplace culture and personal well-being, advocating for personal empowerment and resilience in challenging work environments.

Autonomy in a Toxic Culture

Bhavesh and Idil discuss the concept of autonomy within a toxic organizational culture, highlighting individual empowerment and control over their actions and responses. They stress the ability to navigate toxic environments positively by employing techniques such as active listening, empathizing, and scheduling discussions for understanding differing perspectives. The conversation emphasizes the role of emotional intelligence in managing workplace challenges and interactions, illustrating how individuals can leverage autonomy to contribute to a more positive and constructive culture, regardless of the toxicity present.

55:01 Emotional Intelligence and Techniques for Managing Emotions

Idil and Bhavesh delve into emotional intelligence and self-awareness, focusing on managing emotions and cultivating awareness. Idil highlights a five-step process for emotional management promoting self-regulation and fostering a transition from reaction to response. The discussion underscores the significance of recognizing emotional triggers, using anchors for self-awareness, and cultivating the ability to respond thoughtfully in various situations. The concept of dynamic silence and emotional regulation align to empower individuals with the skills needed to navigate emotions effectively and engage in meaningful interactions with heightened self-awareness

Managing Your Own Emotions

Idil and Bhavesh discuss strategies for managing emotions, emphasizing the importance of controlling emotional reactions in interpersonal interactions. Idil suggests using anchors, such as holding a pen or a glass, to bring awareness to emotional states and prevent immediate reactions. By avoiding outward displays of negative emotions like anger or fear, individuals can tactfully navigate situations, maintaining composure and strategic advantage. The conversation underscores the significance of self-regulation and subtle emotional cues to influence positive outcomes in various social dynamics

Using Anchors to Regulate Emotions

Idil and Bhavesh discuss the efficacy of using anchors like pens or mugs to regulate emotions and maintain composure in challenging situations. Anchors serve as tools to refocus attention, mitigate fight, flight, or freeze responses, and reduce cortisol levels by grounding individuals in a calming baseline state. The conversation illustrates how holding a tangible object can shift attention away from heightened emotional states, promoting a sense of control and stability during interactions. Anchors, such as a pen or phone, act as psychological cues to facilitate emotional regulation and enhance cognitive focus in different settings.

Using Writing as an Anchor

Bhavesh and Idil explore the technique of using writing as an anchor to manage and understand emotions. Writing with a pen serves as a tool to process emotions, maintain focus, and engage actively in conversations. The act of writing subtly conveys attentive listening and thoughtful reflection to the speaker, fostering perceived importance and meaningful connection. By jotting down notes or scribbling, individuals can subtly demonstrate engagement and respect, enhancing communication dynamics and signaling active participation in the exchange. The practice of writing serves as a socially acceptable and effective way to regulate emotions and display attentiveness in conversations.

01:01:36 Managing Ego, Building Connection and Being Vulnerable as a Leader

Bhavesh and Idil discuss the dynamics of managing ego and fostering connection by acknowledging the universal desire to feel important and respected in interactions. By recognizing this shared motivation across diverse individuals, the conversation highlights the significance of addressing ego sensitivities and establishing rapport through mutual respect. The exchange underscores the value of validating others' importance and perspectives to build meaningful connections and enhance communication dynamics. Understanding and managing ego-related needs can strengthen relationships, create a sense of value, and cultivate positive engagement in various personal and professional settings.

Being Vulnerable as a Leader

Idil and Bhavesh discuss the essence of feeling valued and respected in conversations, emphasizing the importance of vulnerability and authenticity as a leader. Bhavesh shares a personal technique involving a rubber band on his wrist to manage talking habits, showcasing vulnerability and humor to humanize himself. The conversation underscores the power of vulnerability in leadership, enabling open communication, self-awareness, and connection with others. By admitting imperfections and employing strategies to enhance listening and presence, leaders can create collaborative environments and foster genuine engagement with their team members

Accepting and Processing Emotions 

Bhavesh and Idil discuss the significance of vulnerability in leadership and human connection. Bhavesh shares a technique involving a rubber band to manage talking habits, promoting authenticity and relatability. They advocate for leaders to embrace vulnerability, acknowledge imperfections, and cultivate coping strategies to enhance emotional processing and team connection. By demonstrating vulnerability and shared struggles, leaders can foster relatability, openness, and trust within teams, promoting a supportive environment where coping mechanisms are valued and human connections are strengthened.

The Importance of Emotional Regulation

Bhavesh and Idil underscore the humanizing effect of leaders exhibiting vulnerability and imperfection within team dynamics. By sharing personal habits and coping mechanisms like the rubber band technique, leaders can bridge the perceived gap between authority and approachability. This vulnerability fosters relatability, disarms fear, and builds human connections, encouraging team members to see leaders as relatable individuals with shared vulnerabilities. The discussion emphasizes that relatability and likability influence team dynamics and decision-making, highlighting the significance of emotional regulation and authentic leadership in cultivating positive interactions and collaboration.

01:03:31 Dynamic Silence in Communication

Idil explains dynamic silence as a communication technique borrowed from hostage negotiation strategies. The method involves pausing after a statement to prompt the other party's response, fostering introspection and active engagement. By embracing intentional silence during interactions, individuals can elicit thoughtful responses, demonstrate genuine interest, and build connections by allowing space for reflection and enhancing the quality of conversation. Dynamic silence creates opportunities for deeper understanding, encourages self-awareness in dialogue, and fosters meaningful exchanges through the power of intentional pauses in communication.

Important Terms and Definitions from the Conversation

Zero-sum game: An interaction where if one party wins, the other party loses. There is no way for both parties to win together.

Hundred-sum game: A framework where the goal is to increase the overall "pie" or value so that both parties can win more, rather than just dividing a fixed pie.

Win-win: An outcome where both parties in a negotiation are satisfied and able to get what they want, rather than one side winning at the expense of the other.

Synergy: When the combined outcome of a collaboration is greater than the sum of the individual contributions, resulting in a "1+1=11" effect.

Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, putting yourself in their shoes.

Sympathy: Feeling compassion or sorrow for someone else's situation, without necessarily understanding their perspective.

Calibrated questions: Asking open-ended "how" and "what" questions to draw out the other party's true thoughts and feelings.

Emotional intelligence: The ability to recognize, understand, manage, and reason with emotions, both your own and others.

Dynamic silence: Deliberately pausing and allowing silence in a conversation to prompt the other party to share more.

Anchoring: Using a physical object as a way to ground yourself and regulate your emotional state.

Scenario planning: Mentally rehearsing and preparing for different possible negotiation outcomes.

Self-awareness: Knowing your own strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and biases.

Ego management: Consciously setting aside your own ego, pride, and need to be right.

Vulnerability: Openly acknowledging your own flaws, uncertainties, and humanity.

Confidence: Having a strong sense of self-assurance and belief in your abilities.

Emotional regulation: The ability to recognize and control your emotional reactions.

Microaggressions: Subtle, often unintentional, comments or actions that communicate negativity.

Reputation: The perception of a person or organization held by others.

Collaboration: Working together with another party to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.

Value creation: Finding ways to expand the overall "pie" of value, rather than dividing a fixed amount.

01:05:27 Inspiration Behind Starting the Podcast

Idil shares her inspiration for starting the podcast, rooted in a childhood interest in decision-making and influence processes. Motivated by a desire to enhance her negotiation skills after exploring Chris Voss's work during the pandemic, she aims to empower individuals to improve their persuasive abilities and handle vulnerable situations effectively. Reflecting on personal experiences of negotiating value and facing challenges, Idil seeks to inspire others to learn from her journey, avoid common mistakes, and cultivate better negotiation tactics, ultimately fostering growth and development in communication and influence strategies.

Negotiation as a Value Creator

Idil reflects on past negotiation shortcomings, inspiring her to share lessons learned and empower others to negotiate better and enhance their value creation abilities. Through the podcast, she aims to instill a "hundred sum game" perspective, emphasizing unlocking value and expanding opportunities through negotiation in both personal and professional realms. By hosting expert guests from diverse industries to share influencing strategies and success stories, the podcast embodies the belief that negotiation and persuasion skills are universally valuable, applicable across all sectors, roles, and contexts, fostering growth and effectiveness in various areas of life and career development.

01:09:51 The Challenges of Entrepreneurship

Idil and Bhavesh delve into the challenges of entrepreneurship, reflecting on the demanding journey and emotional toll it can take. Idil shares her experiences as an entrepreneur, acknowledging the intense commitment, resilience needed to face failure, criticism, and self-doubt prevalent in entrepreneurship. She encourages acceptance and processing of emotions, emphasizing valid reactions to difficulties and the importance of owning vulnerabilities. The conversation underscores the necessity of self-acceptance, allowing for genuine emotions, and developing coping strategies to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship and stay resilient through setbacks.

01:15:52 The Future of Negotiation and Emotional Intelligence

Bhavesh and Idil discuss the growing importance of coping mechanisms, self-management, and emotional intelligence in an era of heightened exposure and social media scrutiny. They highlight the necessity of developing skills for emotional regulation and self-awareness in navigating the complexities of a connected world. Idil envisions a future where leaders and organizations increasingly embrace emotional intelligence, driven by accessible research and evolving societal awareness. While acknowledging persistent toxic cultures in some organizations, she remains hopeful for a future where individuals prioritize self-awareness and positive behavioral practices in decision-making and leadership.

01:20:31 Connecting with Idil

Bhavesh and Idil discuss the ease of connecting with Idil, who shares her contact links for LinkedIn and email, inviting questions, feedback, and discussions. By engaging openly through these platforms, Idil fosters opportunities for continuous dialogue and connection with listeners. Bhavesh expresses gratitude for the enlightening conversation and underscores the mutual learning experience inherent in podcast hosting. The exchange culminates in an appreciation of shared wisdom and the enriching process of continuous growth and learning through interactions and podcast discussions.

"You're 31 percent smarter when you're in a positive mood"

~ Idil Karateke 

Host, 100-Sum Game podcast

Conclusions And Take-aways

  • Building strong relationships and positive communication within organizations is crucial for long-term success.

  • Zero-sum games, where one party's gain is another party's loss, can lead to negative outcomes and hinder organizational growth.

  • The concept of a hundred-sum game promotes collaboration and mutual benefit, where both parties can win and create something greater than what they could achieve individually.

  • Leaders should exhibit behaviors such as active listening, empathy, and removing ego to foster hundred-sum relationships and create a culture of collaboration. Listening and managing ego are crucial for effective communication.

  • Confidence and self-awareness contribute to better listening skills.

  • Understanding the psychological aspects of ego and the self can enhance communication.

  • Reading body language and managing ego are important in interactions.

  • Scenario thinking and emotional intelligence can improve communication outcomes.

  • Creating positive interactions and fostering collaboration are key to successful communication. Emotional intelligence is crucial for navigating toxic environments and building positive connections.

  • Managing your own emotions and regulating your responses can lead to better outcomes in negotiations.

  • Anchors, such as writing or holding an object, can help regulate emotions and shift focus during challenging conversations.

  • Vulnerability and self-acceptance are important qualities for effective leadership and entrepreneurship.

  • The future of negotiation and emotional intelligence lies in increased awareness and adoption of these skills in various industries and contexts.

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