Laying claim to the land of The Dutch Uncle Game – which just might be everyplace.

Q: How do you tell a good leader from a poor one?

A: Practice!

Image by: Andrew Kitzmiller

The Dutch Uncle Game is a temporary assertion of dominion over territory, and, hence, it is a game of appropriate authority – affectionately managing inclusion and exclusion to achieve a goal.

The game itself could not be simpler, but the ideas it repeatedly teaches are central to the ThriversEd curriculum.

You play like this:

1. As the self-proclaimed Dutch Uncle, you assert your dominance over a previously unclaimed social space – such as an empty table in a lounge area or a vacant corner of a kitchen counter at a party – by laying down your game token: A small medallion, one side white, one side black. While your token is visible, you have declared that space to be your temporary dominion, with you as its Dutch Uncle.

2. Your objective? A well-managed Sociability. In a lounge or at a party, your goal might simply be chatting – or it might be very serious conversation. In ThriversEd, virtually everything is a Dutch Uncle Game – including the management of the day-to-day thriving. The point is that the social contact will have some agenda, and advancing that goal by the management of the space and the people is the Dutch Uncle’s job.

3. Wide open agenda, just having fun? The white side of the token is up: Come join us! Tightly-focused agenda, aimed at getting something accomplished? The black side of the token is showing to put other people on notice: You can join us if there is space, but if your contributions are not productive, the Dutch Uncle is obliged to insist that you depart – in the nicest possible way.

That’s it. The Dutch Uncle sets the agenda – something specific or just about anything – and he controls the space by his immigration and expulsion policies. Any other rules – including turning the medallion over mid-game – are his to set, with the understanding that his immigrants can emigrate at will. A Dutch Uncle is the boss of that space, yes, but new Dutch Uncles will learn in very short order how best to express their dominion – and all players will learn to distinguish good from poor leadership.

ThriversEd is Driven/Sociable education, and The Dutch Uncle Game is that and then some: The Dutch Uncle is a dictator in the Roman sense, but if he is not a PEAK-performing dictator – proficient, efficient, appealing and especially kind – he will be a country without a man.

In ThriversEd, every Dutch Uncle should be PEAK evaluated, but you can play this game anywhere. People are free to come and go at will, and, since no one is bound to “respect my authoritah,” Dutch Uncles will get better – with regular practice – at maintaining control without losing people. At the same time, the other players in Dutch Uncle Games will get better at taking and upholding leadership – and at evaluating it.

Every ThriversEd game is a Dutch Uncle Game, and ThriversEd thrives on Dutch Uncle Games, in the form of ad hoc kid-led play and study groups. In addition to everything else every Dutch Uncle Game is doing, The Dutch Uncle Game idea is how ThriversEd effects bottom-up education.

I invented this game, originally, for adult-male nerds, not kids. How could until-then socially-inept highly-Cautious INTJs (the people most blessed and most broken by Cautious/Incandescent education) manage parties to their own actual – unprecedented! – enjoyment? By supplanting the de facto chaos with little islands of order. “You want to party? Party on! Right here, we want to talk seriously, so if you will please party elsewhere, we’ll all have a great time.” Just as with kids, the objective is for unpracticed people to gain experience managing appropriate authority.

Do this. Play with this. You can make your own medallion with two poker chips and some glue. Most Toddlers are too young to be Dutch Uncles, but they will graduate into leadership roles as they grow up in the game. Older Children who learn this game will thrive on it: It answers nebulous questions with clear-cut value-seeking strategies.

There’s more, lots of it. There’s an MLM to end all MLMs in here, for instance, and a praxis in reliability that will change lives. I expect more ideas to emerge as more people play the game.

All appropriate authority is a Dutch Uncle game: We step to it because the boss is good at being the boss, not because he’s wearing a special hat or holding a magical document. And if the boss is lousy at his job? We mutiny, either overtly or covertly, or we run away. The formal game just tears away the veils for people who are not as good at seeing the dance of social concourse on their own – while it shows everyone who plays it how to get better at being the boss.

Simply by turning appropriate authority into a visible symbol, we make an intractable idea easy to teach to Toddlers – and to everyone else. Come thrive with me and I’ll show you lots more.

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  • Sindre Paulsen

    Wonderful article. I have one question about MLM, I guess you mean Multi Level Marketing? Also, do you mean to end all MLM’s in general?
    *I do understand that this “MLM” will eradicate itselfs as a MLM* but I just want to make sure : )

    • Double apologies.

      MLM is multi-level marketing, yes. Horrible reputation in the U.S., but there are some inspired implementations, including the Keller-Williams Real Estate recruiting model: Long-standing loyalty pays ever-increasing dividends.

      And “the X to end all Xs” is just an American idiom meaning “ne plus ultra.” In this case, I literally mean that my network will eat all the others, but still it was hyperbole.

      I’ve been talking about this with Brian Brady on Facebook, and I may write a post about just this part of The Dutch Uncle Game, since it comes ready-made with a business model.

      • Sindre Paulsen

        Ahh, okay. Thanks for the explanation 🙂
        Yeah MLM is, what can I say. I know from personal experience. *Regrets*

        • Check. If we do something with this, we’ll call it something different – because it is different. The problem you met was leadership without accountability – made possible by the Cautious tyranny imposed by the contract you signed: Your escape was blocked. In The Dutch Uncle Game, if you try to block escape, you get abandoned in a flash.

          • Do you see? The RIGHT way to assume authority is take responsibility, not to try to deflect it. MLM as a naif-milking con-game is stoopid. But building mutually-voluntary layerings of appropriate authority makes great sense to me: It’s what you’re doing with me right now, and you’re depending on my integrity as your assurance that I am not leading you astray. Building a Dutch Uncle multi-level-leadership(!!) network incentivizes good leadership – even as it surfaces and obviates bad bosses.