What can we learn from Survivor and Big Brother?

This article is for everyone, not just mobile app developers. Survivor and Big Brother are two television shows where over a dozen people compete in a closed environment to be the “last person standing.” I rarely watch television and this is the kind of television that I would typically watch last… or not at all. But I got curious as to what the draw was… What makes these television “game” shows so popular?   It didn’t take too long to discover why – negotiations of alliances, backstabbing, showmances, lots of contests, social strategy and the simple notion that one could be on the chopping block one moment and king of the house the next. There are some really good lessons to consider applying to real life.

The Sand Box. We don’t live in a closed environment. Every day, we have the potential to interact with any of 7 billion people. Our options for friends, partners, alliances are, for all practical purposes, unlimited. We can wait for others to reach out to us, or we can reach out to them.   It might be said that the odds of anyone else reaching out to us is directly proportional to the extent that we reach out to others.

gianniThis is not new. The “social game” has been played forever – it’s how countries were formed, it’s how big businesses get started. Previously though, everyone had to interact in person or through message courier. Today, we have the Internet and we have roughly 2 billion people practically at our fingertips. What that means is that it is easier to find people interested in British Shorthair cats, playing fantasy baseball or looking to start a business developing mobile apps for astronomers.

Making Deals. Why should someone listen to you? Why should you listen to them? The art of making a deal frequently revolves around being able to provide something people want. It’s not a one way street. The odds of making a sale are greatly increased when you have something another actually wants or needs.

The question is what do you have to offer? What’s your product? Or service?   Do you even need one? As long as you have time, you have something to offer others who are in need of help. Add your skill sets, your ability to reach others, not to mention any potential you may have to invest or simply make a purchase. You have your voice – tweets, facebook posts and reviews.

Trust. Frequently, it does not matter what you have if you don’t have trust. Trust does not happen overnight. You have to win it – through words, action and consistency over time. One axiom is that the best way to get to where you want to be is by helping others get to where they want to be. The more someone trusts you, the more likely they are to ask you to help them. That usually comes with a reward.

Keeping Clean.   The big difference between real life and a game show is that we are not locked into a closed environment and forced to compete to be the last one standing. In that kind of environment, like it or not, you may have to get your hands dirty. The game rules dictate that you have to nominate or vote for “the lesser or greater” of two evils on a regular basis. In real life, that’s not the case. It’s not necessary to get your hands dirty, developing that kind of reputation is not good for business… at least until you have a monopoly or cartel on that business.

Don’t give up.   A lot of these game shows require not just physical ability, but social skills, a strong mind, thick skin, long-term planning skills, and a heck of a lot more. One day you can be down in the dumps, the next day riding high. That’s real life. As long as you keep trying to improve your game, your “game” will improve. It’s not just a matter of playing to your strengths, but mitigating your weaknesses. Frequently, it is simply easy to find others who are stronger at things in which we have no skill.

It means asking for help. That’s a big part of the “game shows” – sometimes everyone in the show may be up for getting one person out of the house. They have to show what they can offer to remain in the game – and sometimes all they can do is pledge their loyalty next week with a commitment to do what others want. That inevitably comes down to whether they have gained people’s trust.

There are a lot of ways to say the same thing – and this post only reiterates what I’ve been saying all along in trying to find ways for developers to reach out and network with others, here, here and here, amidst many more.


Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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