The Games

It turns out that Cooperation is fairly difficult to measure in day-to-day interactions between construction professionals.  There are tools and guidelines for cooperative behavior, but how are we going to tell if it was the cooperative attitude or some other factor that influenced the project? 

The answer is the modeling inside Game Theory.  Originally an attempt to make actual mathematical equations out of human interactions, it is thorough the studies of Robert Axelrod (See the Book Summary: On The Shoulders of Giants) and others starting in the early 1980’s that show the impact of cooperation in games. 

While games have always utilized competition, some games have been designed to measure cooperation inside competitive situations.  To make the studies in this area work, the game is extremely simplified and played over and over.  The repetition is important in the development of a reputation for each player.  In construction projects, a team is assembled and then those same people work together over and over for months or years to complete the project.  They develop a reputation of their behavior on the jobsite or in the design studio and it affects the overall job significantly they bring a cooperative approach to the job trailer everyday. 

The Game that was used for over 30 years to show how cooperation works is called Iterated Prisoners Dilemma.  It centers around two robbers who are caught, but very little evidence is found to convict them.  The robbers have made a pact to not rat on each other.  In the police’s efforts to get one of them to rat, enticing offers are made to each.  The choice for each robber is to rat (called “defecting” on their prior agreement) or remain silent (called “cooperation” with the terms of their prior agreement.)  Points are set up so that the behaviors are scored and the game is played over and over, herein departing from the reality of actual crime solving.  But oddly, the re-iteration of one’s behavior toward a colleague, owner, contractor, party to a contract from subcontractor or designer is very important, helpful or not.

In my upcoming book, Cooperative Construction, the game Prisoners Dilemma will be analyzed in elaborate detail because it can be used to show the power and mechanisms in cooperative behavior.  The analysis will include many recent variants on the observations of Mr. Axelrod in 1980.  For now, suffice it to say that they have proven that cooperative behavior begets cooperative behavior and that it is the most successful strategy in the long run.  Many individuals, businesses and institutions around the world have researched these topics in the most rigorous detail.  Many major business associations, commodities markets, partnerships and joint ventures have been developed to the mutual benefit of those businesses that have partaken in cooperative strategies.  Now, despite our own set of resistances and inconvenient circumstances, the construction industry must adopt these attitudes if we are to utilize the new processes that will correct our ills.