About the tragedy of choice

The other day I came across with Michael Crooke, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Robert Bikel article titled Leadership in a Complex World: How to Manage ‘‘The Tragedy of Choice’’  (Organizational Dynamics, Volume 44, Issue 2, April–June 2015, Pages 146–155).

The article states no less than: “even when a company is committed to its core values, tension between values can exist inherently or arise due to circumstances. In this environment leaders must respect these tensions and overcome a “Tragedy of Choice’’’.

The article identifies core values, relevant for all businesses today, if they strike for excellence in business world. The four dimensions are summarized in the so-called Mandala Model and these are: financial performance; social responsibility; product/service quality and environmental stewardship.


Besides the tragedy of choice at organizational level – as for no doubt at one time – a company cannot excel at all levels-, there is another layer, where business leaders must find a fine balance, namely their own employees often conflicting organizational values. As the article states: „ people are complex, it is highly likely that at any one time, certain individuals or groups will elevate some values over others.“

Isn’t it feel like an overly difficult task to manage these numerous and often contradicting needs? How to find the right balance and deal with the Tragedy of Choice?

As professor Csikszentmihalyi’s world-famous conceptualization on the FLOW theory revels organizational performance can be excelled only if employees get into Flow state as frequently as possible, as better performing employees add more value to the company.

But putting employees into Flow state wont solve managers all ‘headaches’. They still need to find, achieve and maintain balance between generating Flow and aiming to make a profit (“surplus” in the case of NGOs), keeping in mind the interests of all the organization’s stakeholders, in terms of CSR, superior product/service quality, ethics and environmental responsibility.

While playing FLIGBY – in a simulated environment – you, as a GM of the Turul Winery can test your managerial skills and abilities in how you would perform in keeping the balance between organizational goals and personal preferences of the employees, while constantly facing the Tragedy of Choice in business operations.


(The author of this entry is Esztella Fazekas, member of the Leadership & Flow Research Team)