Use game theory to transform the dysfunctional teams in your organisation

Article by Ken Thompson, 06 Apr 2017


A novel and powerful way to view dysfunctional teams in organisations, where there is a lack of shared objectives, poor co-operation and weak leadership, is through the lens of Evolutionary Game Theory (EGT).

Application of EGT also reveals surprisingly that the most effective long-term co-operation strategy between individuals is not Win-Win but in fact Tit-for-Tat (TfT). EGT uses the techniques of “Game Theory” which allows us to analyse how individuals will behave when put into a situation where they have a choice between co-operation and competition. Game Theory often reveals that competitive behaviours which appear rational in the short-term often do not produce the best outcomes (payoffs) for the participants and thus counter-intuitive but stable behaviour patterns emerge particularly over an extended period.

One of the most famous Game Theory scenarios is the Prisoners Dilemma which explores the situation where two prisoners are encouraged to incriminate each other for a reduced sentence. These game theory dilemmas become even more powerful when they are played repeatedly ("iterated") by the same individuals so that they can see how the others behave. In fact it has been said that life is just one big Iterated Competitive/Co-operative Dilemma where our trust is built or lost in each interaction thus affecting our behaviour in next interaction with that same individual.

Read my full article “Fix dysfunctional teams by Bioteaming”. 


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Ken Thompson

Ken is a practitioner, author and speaker on Leadership, Collaborative Working, High Performing Teams, Change Management, Project Management and Business Acumen. His work has featured in major publications including The Guardian , Wired Magazine, The Huffington Post and The Henry Ford Magazine. Ken has also spoken at many international events including TEDx, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Learn Tech (London) and NASA.

Ken is Managing Director of Business Simulations Ltd.

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