The Oldest Decision Making Tool

There is a new digital game in town and it’s one of the oldest around. Even corporations are making decisions with RPS. Maybe you have heard of this tried and true decision making skill before. Fargling, Roshambo, or jankenpo. Not familiar? Try Rock, Paper, Scissors.

If you were asking yourself why anyone would use RPS to make a major decision, perhaps a better question would be, “Why not?” After all, RPS is on of the oldest decision making devices known to man.

RPS is easy enough to play: Each of two opponents makes a fist. They count together, “One, two, three,” while simultaneously bouncing their fists. After “three” each player changes his fist into one of three weapons: paper, rock or scissors. The rules are: paper covers rock, rock blunts scissors, and scissors cuts paper. The game is beautiful in its tripartite simplicity.

You may ask, “Why not just toss a coin?” the difference is that while coin tossing relies solely on random odds, RPS, doesn’t. What is fascinating about RPS is that it’s a competition to simultaneously read your opponent’s mind and prevent him from reading yours. And unlike other games that involve reading and misleading your opponent, like poker, you can’t win RPS by bluffing alone. Eventually you have to show your hand.

Winning at RPS is all about knowing what your opponent is going to do. Successful strategizing involves a series of mental questions: “If you know that I know that you know that I know…” Part of the trick is knowing when to stop the series. Another part is knowing where to start. Ask yourself, “Deep down, is my opponent rock, paper, or scissors?” Guess right and you’ve probably guessed his first throw.

Making decisions using RPS is more common in Europe than in the United States. Go figure! RPS is a valuable tiebreaking tool for deciding everyday matters. And, why not? Man has been using RPS probably since the beginning of time.

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