Trust Agents, Pac-Man and Closed Systems

Read Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith and you will come across this story about Pac-Man and the differences between Closed Systems and Open Systems. There are two versions of Pac-Man, the original Pac-Man arcade game, and the follow on version, Ms. Pac-Man.

The champion of the original Pac-Man game is Billy Mitchell. Because Pac-Man is a Closed System, the patterns remain the same throughout the game. There is no random event, the characters all follow the same predictable patterns, the rewards are always in the same place and are always worth the same amount of points. Mitchell has committed those patterns to memory and has completed all of the 256 levels on his first man.

Ms. Pac-Man is slightly different. The champion of Ms. Pac-Man is Abdner Bancroft Ashman. In Ms. Pac-Man, the prize values for picking up the cherries and the bananas are random and, at each new level, the character movements begin randomly. Ashman and Mitchell are playing two very different games.

Brogan and Smith note the distinction:

This is relevant to would be trust agents because it needs to be clear: Which games are closed systems, fully understood, and which are open? An open system means we are constantly guessing and always allowing for a margin of error, which helps us improve.

So what, then, does this mean say about a sales process? Is sales more like the original Pac-Man with predictable, repetitious patterns that we can memorize?  Or is sales more like Ms. Pac-Man, with random prizes that require the ability to maneuver through the game without the benefit of being able to simply memorize the patterns?

The challenge for us in sales is in understanding that the game has certain predictable rule-sets or patterns, while dealing effectively with the randomness we are sure to encounter. To stick with the Pac-Man analogy, each level of the video game may be thought of as a stage in the sales process. To get to level two, you must complete level one. But within any single level, you are you are certain to encounter randomness that must be effectively dealt with in order to reach the following level and collect all of the points.

If you are like Billy Mitchell, when things fall into a pattern you have memorized, you may easily complete the level. But, when things become unpredictable and you you are confronted with randomness, you may find yourself in deep trouble (Hence, my sales process agnosticism). Sales is nothing if not a completely Open System. Better to think of sales as Ms. Pac-Man and understand that forward progress requires dealing effectively with randomness and deviations from the patterns and rule-sets.

Filed under: Sales 3.0

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