Catan reflects a new era of collaboration

Posted on May 1, 2009



One of my favorite games of all time is Settlers of Catan. It’s a very unique game that can only be described as part Risk, part Civilization, and part Monopoly. I normally hate board games but this one has captured my attention ever since my first experience. The game was created a few decades ago by a German dental technician named Klaus Teuber. The typical attack/defend Western board games were not embraced in a post World War II German culture. Most games are what economist call ‘Zero Sum’ theory; in order for me to win, you have to lose. The inventor thought there must be another way to compete without domination. Klaus said this in a recent article from WIRED Magazine:

“Monopoly has you grinding your opponents into dust. It’s a very negative experience”

After perfecting it, Catan became the Game of the Year in Germany in 1988. In the past few years, it has grown into one of the fastest growing game in the ‘life style’ board game market here in the West. It’s secret- collaboration.

In the game, your goal is to collect, trade, and buy resources to build up your community. The larger the community, the more you collect, and the easier it is to win. The game is designed so that each player needs the other players in order to progress. There is still a clear winner but the other players can still have a prosperous game. The game is not dependent on gouging, exploiting, or humiliating opponents in order to win. Someone doesn’t have to lose for you to win. It’s still incredibly strategic, competitive, and very addictive. So why is this important to creative leadership?

We are in a era where collaboration is more valuable than ever. If we compete against each other than we all lose. In the TV-Industrial complex of the last era, it was all about big companies dominating the small through commercials and marketing. Now, it’s about a network of small entities spreading ideas ‘word of mouth’. Whether you are a church or business, collaboration helps leverage each other’s influence for all parties to benefit. Creative leaders should be in a posture of being open source and freely resourcing others. Imagine a community where creative resourcing, leadership development, and global initiatives were all openly shared and taken? The under resourced would benefit, new relationships would be formed, and there would be many winners. Not only would your organization prosper but the world would be a more beautiful place. 

Life is not a game but we could all benefit by playing like it is.

Click here to learn more about Settlers of Catan.
Click here to play for free online.