Game Theoretic And Ethical Choice Considerations

By Marketing Research Team, 3EA
Game Theoretic And Ethical Choice Considerations

It is a fact that a vast majority of organizational decisions are made in the context of a small group, whether that group is an ad-hoc task-force, a standing committee, a self-managing work team or a group of colleagues standing around a tea-dispenser. It is also a fact that a pervasive part of organizational life is conflict. Conflict has been defined (Putnam & Poole 1987) as "The interaction of interdependent people who perceive opposition of goals, aims, and values, and who see the other party as potentially interfering with realization of these goals." This definition highlights three I's of conflict viz. Incompatible goals, Interdependence, and Interaction. Research is deficient in looking at issues such as relationship, initiative and leadership, flexibility and connectedness and sacrificing nature (giving-nature in contrast to taking-nature) in investigating conflict. Traditionally conflict has been viewed as a "game" in which opposing goals, aims or values necessitate interaction to resolve differences. Burrel, Buzzanell and McMillan (1992) found personality and gender have limited impact on conflict management tactics. It does appear, however, that the way an individual "frames" a conflict will influence the manner in which the conflict is managed (Neale and Bazerman 1985; Simons 1993). For example, individuals in conflict can frame the situation in terms of what they have to loose or in terms of what they have to gain. Neale and Bazerman (1985) found that individuals who frame conflict in terms of losses will be much more likely to take risks than those who frame conflicts in terms of gains. Individuals using a frame in terms of loss are also more likely to reach an impasse and seek arbitration. Neale and Bazerman also found that negotiators who were overconfident were less likely to be successful on resolving the conflict.

What are the basic governing principles of group decision making? An insight into game-theoretic and ethical choice considerations' was sought to be gained by stimulating a "game" in which participants had a "considerable" stake. Thirteen MBA part time students were chosen as subjects in this experiential exercise. The students were a mix of entrepreneurs and junior level executives with an average experience of 4.3 years (Range 0-12 years). The author was their instructor for the course "Organization Change and Development". The students had been assembled for a "scheduled" test but instead the instructor springs a surprise by announcing that they could appropriate and allocate the marks ('stake) without taking the test provided (a) They allocated marks as per either of the distributions (constrained choice to prevent consensual booty-distribution approach) displayed on the board and (b) They arrived at the decision by a consensus. After the group fails to arrive at a consensus, the subjects were asked to write down their version of as to why consensus could not be arrived. The author reconstructs the dynamics of group decision making from these narratives as well as from his observations, Subjects are then given basic inputs from game theory and John Rawl's theory of justice (egalitarian Approach to Ethics) and are encouraged to derive their own conclusions as to why a consensus could not be arrived.

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Case Study by: Marketing Research Team, 3EA