While you’ve probably never heard of Maspro
Denkoh, a Japanese company founded in 1952
that makes various TV reception equipment,
among other things, they will likely forever
be remembered in the annals of business lore
thanks to a rather oddball decision made by
Takashi Hashiyama- the man who would head
the company for a little over half a century
before his death in 2007 at the age of 76.
Over his years as president of the company,
Hashiyama deciding to have the business buy
various works of art to hang around, most
notably in 1996 purchasing Les grands arbres
au Jas de Bouffan by Paul Cézanne for $7.9
million (about $12.8 million today).
Among many other works he collected over the
years include Picasso’s Boulevard de Clichy
and Van Goh’s Vue de la chambre de l’artiste,
Fast-forward to 2004 and seeing an opportunity
to make a rather tidy profit on the art work
during a time when business was lagging a
little, Hashiyama decided to auction off the
art collection the company had accumulated.
While up to this point he had mostly dealt
with famed British auction house Sotheby’s
in acquiring various items, he also had a
working relationship with the other of the
Big Two auction houses, Christie’s, via Kanae
Ishibashi, president of Christie’s Japan.
Naturally, when he approached the two auction
houses about such an auction featuring so
many valuable works of art, they both were
eager to land the deal.
As Christie’s deputy chairman Jonathan Rendell
states, “The Maspro Denkoh Corporate Collection
was a jewel in the crown.
It had everything that one wanted to sell
at that precise moment.
You know, the Cezanne, the Picasso, the van
Gogh – they’re trophy names.”
After spending time having their respective
experts examine the collection and coming
up with estimates, the two companies pitched
Hashiyama on the various ways they’d promote
the auction to maximize revenue, as well as
outline their exact terms and how much he
could expect to get from the auction.
The result was that, at least to Hashiyama’s
eyes, “[Both] companies were equally good
and I just could not choose one…”
While it was an option to simply split the
collection between the two, Hashiyama had
little interest in this.
In similar situations where a decision needed
to be made on something to which Hashiyama
could not decide which path was best, he had
a propensity to let the fates decide, using
various games of chance.
On that note, Ishibashi recounted a story
Hashiyama once told her in one of their many
meetings over the years, “[When] his company
was listed in a stock market, which was a
very, very important incident, he chose the
insurance company by throwing dice….”
He notes of all this, “It probably looks strange
But I believe this is the best way to decide
between two things which are equally good.”
And so it was that Hashiyama called the two
auction houses and informed them of his decision.
Said Ishibashi, “I received a call from Mr.
Hashiyama in the office, and he said in order
to determine which auction house to handle
collection, I would like both of you – Christie’s
and Sotheby’s – to play the game rock, paper,
As you might imagine, the representatives
at Christie’s and Sotheby’s weren’t exactly
thrilled after countless meetings, flights
by various representatives, and all the work
they’d put into trying to land the deal.
As for Ishibashi’s immediate response, “I
didn’t really reply back to him.
I couldn’t really answer him, like, why are
you doing this?
And, you know, we can’t really do that.
I couldn’t believe it.”
Nevertheless, as Rendell stated, “[When] a
client asks you to do something, you just
get on and do it…
So we started compulsively playing rock, paper,
scissors, trying to work out how do we win
Is there some secret to this?
How bad are you going to feel?
How idiotic are you going to look in front
of your colleagues when you’ve lost a collection
for a child’s game?”
As for what representatives at Sotheby’s thought,
they were decidedly less forthcoming on their
opinions and process both before and after,
other than their specialist in Impressionist
and Modern Art, Blake Koh, simply saying,
“There was some discussion, but this is a
game of chance, so we didn’t really give
it that much thought.
We had no strategy in mind.”
In truth, while you might think Rock, Paper,
Scissors is purely a game of chance, it turns
out there are various strategies one can use
to increase the odds of winning.
For example, men are a few percentage points
more likely to open with rock.
Women, on the other hand, show a similar very
slight percentage preference to scissors as
an opening throw.
That said, according to the World Rock Paper
Scissors Society (which is totally a thing),
in tournaments featuring more seasoned players,
the overall numbers come out to 35.4% rock,
35% paper, and 29.6% scissors, meaning among
the “pros” scissors for whatever reason is
markedly less popular and rock and paper about
Whatever you throw, another interesting trend
was observed by Zhijian Wang and co. in their
study, Cycle frequency in standard Rock-Paper-Scissors
games: Evidence from experimental economics,
done at Zhejiang University.
In it, they found that if you win, you are
likely to make the same choice the next time.
If you lose, however, your are likely to choose
the next item in the sequence from the one
you just loss with.
So, if you lost with rock, you are likely
to choose paper the next time.
If you lost with paper, you are more likely
to throw scissors the next time.
Of course, in this case no amount of practice
or research on Rock, Paper Scissors strategies
After all, this wasn’t a best of three type
scenario- it was one and done, winner takes
the deal, negating some of the strategies
that could have been implemented to mildly
And as for the fact that men tend to pick
rock first and women scissors, this is only
a very slight preference in each case, and
is only terribly useful if playing someone
who doesn’t also know that.
If they know, and know you probably know,
it becomes once again anybody’s guess what
The age-old iocane powder scenario, but with
no way to rig the system in this case.
Ishibashi states of her experience preparing,
“I don’t really remember those three days.
I mean, I was under enormous pressure to think
what would be the best strategy.
But my struggle was always that I knew that
there is no strategy because it’s just a pure
So constantly, whenever I had some moment
on a train or walking in streets, I suddenly
sort of thought about rock, paper, scissors.
I had to contemplate between choices.
I think it’s paper.
No, no, no, I think it’s rock.
Then I said, you know, no, no, no, no, I shouldn’t
do it because there is no answer.
There is no answer.
But then, even though I tried not to think
about it, I couldn’t really forget about rock,
paper, scissors from my mind.”
At a loss for what to do, with literally millions
of dollars on the line, she reached out to
pretty much anyone she could for their input
on what choice she should make.
It was during this process that her boss and
Christie’s International Director of Impressionist
and Modern Art Department, Nicholas Maclean,
decided to ask his twin 11 year old daughters,
Flora and Alice, what they would do.
In his opinion, they were masters at Rock,
Paper, Scissors, playing it all the time to
decide all manner of things.
When the mirror twins (meaning identical twins
but with various elements mirrored, for example
in this case one is right handed and the other
left) were consulted, they had a lot of input,
as recounted from the following exchange between
father and daughters during an interview with
NPR several years later:
“Nicholas: …they came back to me quite
promptly and said, you know, Dad, everybody
knows you start with scissors.
Alice: Yeah, scissors is the pretty standard
Nicholas: So I said, well, how does that work?
And they said, well, most people like the
idea of going with rock.
Alice: But because they were, like, super
clever Sotheby’s, we’re like, oh, they’re
going to bluff.Nicholas: But you then double
bluff by going scissors, and scissors cuts
And I said, all right, that sounds good.
I said, what if they go scissors?
They said, you go scissors again.
Alice: Because that’s what I’d do.
You just stick with scissors and see what
Maclean then called up Ishibashi and recounted
the exchange, leaving it up to her, but suggesting
they go with scissors as, to quote Alice,
“Everybody knows you go scissors.”
Ishibashi, however, was still distraught,
“I reached the point where the situation
got beyond my capacity….I didn’t quite sleep
[for] a few days, but on that Sunday evening,
I slept for few hours.
And then suddenly my husband came up in my
He said, Kanae, and he told me what choice
I should come up with.
Then I woke up, and I saw the window, and
the sky was beginning to light up.
I didn’t look at the time, but I felt really
sort of refreshed.
Somehow my husband’s voice [in my dream] really
struck me, and I didn’t even think about…
right or wrong…
I would go for it.”
Thus, that Monday morning, she and Rendell
drove to Maspro headquarters just outside
of Nagoya, Japan, with Ishibashi tight-lipped
about her choice.
When they arrived, they were escorted up to
the conference room, with two representatives
from Sotheby’s already arrived.
“I knew who they were.
But it’s hardly the moment for, you know,
“hi, how are you?”
More sort of a grunt.
So we sit one side of the table.
They sit the other side of the table, and
there are two accountants and a fax machine.”
As for Rendell, he was still adamant that
rock was the correct choice, being the strongest
move, as recounted by Ishibashi, “Jonathan
actually looked at me, and beneath the table,
he showed me rock and – with his hand, and
his eyes were very sharp, and he nodded to
Then Ishibashi picked up her pen and wrote
her choice on the paper in front of her.
The two groups handed their respective papers
to the accountants and waited.
Said Rendell, “Looking at the face of the
accountant holding the piece of paper, you
could tell nothing.
He was totally inscrutable.
He looks at it for what was probably 30 seconds,
and your heart’s in your mouth.”
Reviewing both notes, the accountant looked
up and declared Sotheby had chosen paper.
As for Ishibashi, she had decided to take
the advice of Flora and Alice, her husband’s
suggestion in her dream, as well as go with
women’s apparent slight natural tendency-
Said Ishibashi of the event, “After we went
outside of the building, we screamed!”
As for the Sotheby’s camp, they simply stated
when asked for a quote by the media, “Sotheby’s
never comments on collections it is not offering
The total of all the items sold at the auction
ended up being $17.8 million (about $23 million
today), with reportedly around $1.9-$2.2 million
($2.5-$2.9 million today) going to Christie’s.
As for Alice and Flora, Alice’s original quote,
“Everybody knows you go scissors” ended up
in Time magazine’s quotes of the week shortly
Speaking of scissors, you can cut out the
hassle of managing projects with
team with Monday.com!…
Prior to 1978, the airline industry was completely
regulated by the government in the United
As in, if a seat on a flight from Washington
DC to New York City was a hundred dollars
on United, it would be hundred dollars on
Continental and American as well.
Prices were the same for every airline due
to federal regulations, as dictated by the
Civil Aeronautics Board, because it was considered
That is unless the airline only flew within
That was the thinking behind Texas businessman
Rollin King’s and lawyer Herb Kelleher’s
creation of Air Southwest, which would later
become Southwest Airlines.
But, while actually pretty fascinating, we’re
not here today to talk about the founding
of the popular airline.
Instead, we’re going to talk about a rather
interesting event in their history.
From the beginning, Southwest Airlines, led
by King and Kelleher, fostered it’s reputation
as a fun and zany airline.
Their lower prices helped with this.
So did the (all-female) flight attendants
wearing bright orange shorts and go-go boots.
They also had a propensity for coming up with
a myriad of pun-filled slogans, one of which
“Just Plane Smart” they debuted on October
They used that slogan for about 15 months
until they got a call from Stevens Aviation
in Greenville, South Carolina.
Apparently, they had been using the slogan
“Plane Smart” prior to Southwest.
You might think with two large companies in
a tussel that a lot of lawyers were about
to be able to buy those vacation homes they’d
been dreaming about in Maui.
However, instead of spending hundreds of thousands
of dollars on legal fees and letting the courts
decide the matter, Stevens Aviation chairman
Kurt Herwald (along with executive vice-president
Stephen Townes) came up with an idea.
They challenged the CEO of Southwest, Herb
Kelleher, to an arm wrestling match for the
rights to the slogan “Plane Smart.”
Kelleher excitedly accepted.
“Malice in Dallas” was to be held on March
20, 1992 at the famed wrestling forum, the
Dallas Sportatrium in downtown Dallas.
Besides losing rights to the slogan, the loser
of each round (it was going to be a best of
three competition) would have to donate $5,000
to the Muscular Dystrophy Association or Ronald
McDonald House of Cleveland.
The days leading up to the match-up, both
companies heavily promoted it.
Customers and well-wishers sent items to Kelleher
that they thought would help him win, including
a box of Wheaties, a can of spinach, a bottle
of Wild Turkey, and “anabolic steroids from
Both men showed up to the ring at nine am
on Friday, March 20th prepared to fight.
They also made a spectacle out it.
Herb Kelleher arrived in a bus with cheerleaders
wearing a white satin robe.
Kurt Herwald, when introduced, ran from the
tunnel in a red robe with boos reigning down
from the pro-Southwest crowd.
After Kelleher arrived in the ring to the
“Rocky” theme song and pre-match tussling
between the two corners died down, the competition
Immediately, Kelleher called in a “replacement”
due to his “injured arm” that he suffered
while allegedly saving a child’s life on his
way to the arena.
That replacement was J.R. Jones, the 1986
Texas arm wrestling champion.
Jones and Southwest Airlines easily won the
The second round, Herwald brought in a “ringer”
as well, one of his employees – “Killer”
She faced off with Kelleher, even though his
arm still “hurt.”
Coats defeated him in a manner of seconds.
Now with theatrics out of the way, the real
The third round was perfectly set-up with
a winner-take-all between the two faces of
Herwald, in a red polo shirt, and Kelleher,
with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth,
locked arms in a dead heat for a solid 35
Finally, Herwald pinned Kelleher’s arm for
Boos erupted from the crowd in Dallas, but
Herwald won fair and square, meaning Stevens
Aviation got to keep the slogan.
But Kurt Herwald decided to do things a bit
different one more time.
He allowed Southwest to use the slogan too
as a show of good sportsmanship and for Southwest’s
willingness to accept such a crazy proposal
in the first place when so many other companies
would have simply gone to court.
Said Herwald after,
“There’s too much litigation in business
today and not enough leadership.
We need more guys like Herb Kelleher who are
willing to say we don’t need to go to court
all the time.”
Kelleher told the New York Times that if Stevens
and Southwest went to court about this, it
would have cost Southwest $500,000 and a few
years to decide.
Both companies believe that the “Malice
in Dallas” had much to do with their rise
in profits directly after.
Stevens Aviation, three years later, was making
nearly four times as much as it did in 1992.
Ed Stewart, manager of public relations for
Southwest, estimated it at least generated
six million dollars in publicity, and a mere
year later Southwest’s stock prices had doubled.
And to top it all, $15,000 got donated to
charity between the three rounds.