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Zero-Sum vs Win-Win

 , updated on August 18, 2017
Zero-sum is an activity or strategy that seeks a bigger share of existing value without adding new value. This is often referred to as win-lose because any value you gain has to be taken from someone else.
Win-win is an activity or strategy that creates new value. By creating new value it is possible for all participants to gain.

Analogy

The classic analogy for zero-sum is dividing a pie between people. If you get a bigger piece, someone else gets a smaller piece. The equivalent analogy for win-win is baking more pies until everyone is satisfied.

Example

A real estate speculator buys houses and then immediately resells them. They hope to use their negotiating skills to obtain a profit on this activity. They don't improve the property beyond a few cosmetic changes. This is a zero-sum activity because it isn't creating anything of value. The people who buy from the speculator pay a higher price then if they had purchased from the original owner but they get no extra value.
As an example of a win-win activity, a carpenter purchases historical homes that have architectural value but are in poor condition. She fixes them up, adding significant value to each property to sell at a higher price. The people who buy from her win because they obtain an improved property.

Behavior

Although some situations are inherently zero-sum, it is usually possible to add value. As such, most zero-sum activity comes down to behavior whereby people seek to gain a greater share of the world's wealth without doing anything productive.
Zero-Sum vs Win-Win
Zero-Sum
Win-Win
Definition
An activity or strategy that seeks to gain without adding value.
An activity, strategy or agreement that allows all to gain.

Negotiation

This is the complete list of articles we have written about negotiation.
Abundance Mentality
Active Silence
BATNA
Agree To Disagree
Bogey
Anticipating Objections
Call To Action
Choice Architecture
Door In The Face
Final Offer
Influencing
Low Ball
Negotiating Power
Foot In The Door
Negotiation Process
Ground Rules
Negotiation Tactics
Social Perception
Message Framing
Win-Win Negotiation
More ...
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A definition of win-win negotiation with examples.

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Negotiation

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