Comment: You've heard this phrase a number of times? What's its origin? Meaning?
Language: Who's got a skin in the game?
Microsoft's Certified Professional Magazine Online quotes a vice president, Rick Devenuti, saying, "Customers want confidence, especially with this new product wave, that Microsoft has skin in the game." A reader can presume that this means the company will hire new employees in its new-wave consulting business because the executive hints provocatively that "there is some relationship to head count."
At the same time, on the other side of the world, Lachlan McKeough, chief of an Australian insurance brokerage on an acquisitions spree, told The Sydney Morning Herald that the key to the company's success is the way that "front-line staff" retains a substantial equity in the business. Asked to describe his business model, he replied, "They have got skin in the game, so to speak."
The skin in this case is a synecdoche for the self, much as "head" stands for cattle and "sail" for ships. The game is the investment, commitment or gamble being undertaken. Thus, investors in a company will be more comfortable in their own skins if they know that the managers are personally invested as well - that they share the risk and have an incentive to share the gains.
From "Town Talk," The Oakland Tribune, April 20, 1912: "It cannot be said that the latest visit of Eleanor Sears to California was an unqualified success. ... She didn't play polo, though she seemed crazy for a chance. She was very insistent while the men refused to let her hazard her skin in the game, but when they finally consented she was attacked by what the vulgar call 'cold feet' and reneged."