Imagine we live in a world of intertwined power games. Every player with accumulated power has a dashboard for monitoring their play action and outcomes of their maneuvers. As each player's power evolves, his/her dashboard upgrades as well. As I've pondered the shifting power balances in the Middle East this week, here's how I've envisioned the changing dashboards for the entrenched leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. There are obvious parallels to corporate moguls, political titans and the top positions within institutional hierarchies:
When power has been entrenched for decades, the readout on the dashboard can simply monitor the player's power supply. There may be slight, occasional fluctuations of supply of power which is to be expected. There is no cause for alarm. The entrenched power is neither questioned, challenged or exposed as abusive. There would be no need to watch the dashboard closely as the readout shows the same indication for decades. This dashboard could create mayhem due to its profound disconnection from changing situations.
When a power struggle ensues, the dashboard for the power game needs an immediate upgrade. The player needs to monitor his/her exercise of power as well as the prior supply of power. Situations call for reminding others who's the boss by pulling their chain with intimidation tactics, implied threats and manipulations of evidence. A readout would show how successfully those maneuvers fortified entrenched power, restored others' powerlessness, shot the messenger and convinced others to back off.
When entrenched power has been lost to constituencies, citizenry, customers or marketplaces, the dashboard needs to monitor the player's influence. The exercise of power would show a loss of influence on this new addition to the dashboard. The practice of transparency, empathy and acknowledgement would all move the needle toward the plus side on the influence monitor. Unilateral concessions or obvious sacrifices of unilateral power over others would make the needle jump in the desired direction.
When power sharing emerged from the engagement with others, the dashboard needs a final upgrade. The voters, problem solvers and citizen activists would see the same readout on their personal dashboards as well. Everyone would be tracking mutual empowerment. Interactions that yielded mutual respect, benefit and reciprocation would show up favorably on this readout. It would be clear to everyone how to move toward greater democratization and synchronous innovation by watching this dial on shared dashboards.
As I'm envisioning these power games, the changing of the dashboard would be part of the game. The dashboard would be more than a readout of the play action. Achieving a dashboard upgrade would outrank mere advances in the metrics monitored by the current indicators. The condition of the dashboard becomes fair game in the games played with entrenched power.