My eldest son is very involved in his high-school’s business club. His local chapter is a very dynamic group. They participate in business themed competitions all over the state, volunteer in various civic endeavors and fund-raise for their various trips by running a popular cookie stand in the high-school.
This year Calder and two other club members competed in the “Virtual Business Competition”. For this competition, they basically played a business themed video game in which they ran a distribution center. The game lasted for one semester. The point of the game was to generate as much profit as possible, while keeping their employees from striking due to low wages. They played against other business club teams all across the US.
And they won.
They beat every other team in the nation.
They beat huge fancy schools in California and hoity toity schools in the Midwest. Three kids in a small town in Kansas beat everyone. And they didn’t just win by a hair either.
They beat them soundly.
Because they found a loophole in the game.
While every other team was playing the game diligently, trying to pay competitive, yet fair wages to keep their workers from striking while also keeping all the other plates of a busy distribution center in the air – Calder and his team discovered that the game had a glitch. They figured out that the workers would only quit at midnight. They discovered that they could pay their workers incredibly low wages all day long, but if they raised the wages right before midnight, the workers would not quit. Then after midnight, they would lower wages again and the computerized workers would just go right on working as if everything in their virtual world was fine. I think it’s fair to say that they didn’t learn much about business ethics while playing this game, but because of the low wages they paid the workers (except for at midnight) they made way more money than any other team and thus beat the pants off their competitors.
As a result of this dubious, yet winning strategy, they got to go to San Antonio and compete against the other fifteen finalists in a live version of the game.
They showed up in San Antonio the national champions…
But they only got eighth in the live version of the game.
Due to time constraints (they played in fifteen minute increments as opposed to the semester long game they played previously) they were not able to employ the same strategy and were forced to behave like real business people and not loophole seeking capitalists.
But still – they got a trophy. And they got to go to the national competition and get up on stage to the cheers of the eight thousand other kids who all gathered for this high-school business club conference to receive their trophy. It was a great experience for all of them.
Business is a tricky business. Sometimes a loophole gives you a competitive edge and sometimes it works against you. Either way, Calder and his teammates had a great time with this project.
I am super proud of him.