Nice guys can finish first and so can their teams!

March 10, 2009

Toronto - Ever thought the other guy was a loser for giving his all for the team even if others weren't pulling their weight?

A new study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, says that person can influence a group to become more efficient in achieving its goals by making cooperative, collective behaviour seem acceptable and appropriate, and thereby encouraging others to act similarly.

The study, authored by a professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and his collaborator at Northwestern University, calls such individuals "consistent contributors" - people who contribute all the time, regardless of others' choices.

The findings challenge assumptions made by many game and rational choice theorists that people should cooperate very little in situations with a known end-point when there are short-term incentives to act selfishly.

"It was generally accepted that the unconditional 'always-cooperate' strategy was a dumb strategy," says Mark Weber, an assistant professor of organizational behaviour at Rotman who co-authored the paper with J. Keith Murnighan of the Kellogg School of Management. "The prevailing wisdom in some scholarly circles is that consistent contributors shouldn't exist, that if they do they're "suckers", and that people will exploit them."

"But our study found consistently cooperative actors even in places you might least expect them, and when they're there they seem to set a tone and shape how their fellow group members understand situations," says Prof. Weber. "Their clear, consistent behavior elicits cooperation, and once you get a few people cooperating with each other, they seem to enjoy cooperating. Groups become more productive, more economically efficient and, anecdotally, people enjoy being a part of them more as a result."

The paper re-analyzed data from two previous experiments by experimental economists and presented findings from two additional experiments. Participants were given endowments they could keep for themselves or contribute to the group, benefiting everyone. Taken together, the experiments found consistent cooperators commonly emerged, benefited from rather than suffered from their risky actions, and members of their groups cooperated more often than those in groups containing more "rational" actors.

"When you join a new group you have a strategic choice to make - are you going to be a consistent contributor or risk being in a group without one?" says Weber. "Our findings should remind people that they can have a big effect on the groups with which they interact."
-end-
The complete study is available at: www.rotman.utoronto.ca/newthinking/contributors.pdf.

For the latest thinking on business, management and economics from the Rotman School of Management, visit www.rotman.utoronto.ca/NewThinking.

The Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto is redesigning business education for the 21st century with a curriculum based on Integrative Thinking. Located in the world's most diverse city, the Rotman School fosters a new way to think that enables the design of creative business solutions. The School is currently raising $200 million to ensure Canada has the world-class business school it deserves. For more information, visit www.rotman.utoronto.ca.

For more information:

Ken McGuffin
Manager, Media Relations
Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto
Voice +001.416.946.3818
E-mail mcguffin@rotman.utoronto.ca
Follow Rotman on Twitter - rotmanschool

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

Related Management Articles from Brightsurf:

Cannabis use for menopause symptom management
CLEVELAND, Ohio (September 28, 2020)--As legislation relaxes regarding cannabis, it is being used to manage numerous chronic health conditions and mood symptoms.

A new strategy for the management of inflammatory pain
A group of researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin has discovered a new mechanism of long-lasting pain relief.

Big ideas in performance management 2.0
Industrial-era performance management paradigms and practices are outdated and ineffective in the modern VUCA work environment.

Water management grows farm profits
A study investigates effects of irrigation management on yield and profit.

What we can learn from Indigenous land management
First Nations peoples' world view and connection to Country provide a rich source of knowledge and innovations for better land and water management policies when Indigenous decision-making is enacted, Australian researchers say.

Study changes guidelines for sepsis management
University of Arizona Health Sciences researcher ends debate among physicians regarding sepsis management.

Native approaches to fire management
In collaboration with tribes in Northern California, researchers examined traditional fire management practices and found that these approaches, if expanded, could strengthen cultures and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires in Northern California.

Is wildfire management 'for the birds?'
Spotted owl populations are in decline all along the West Coast, and as climate change increases the risk of large and destructive wildfires in the region, these iconic animals face the real threat of losing even more of their forest habitat.

More woodland management needed to help save dormice
Managing woodlands to a greater extent could help stop the decline of Britain's dormice, new research suggests.

The surgical management of Ebstein anomaly
In the current issue of Cardiovascular Innovations and Applications (Volume3, Number 1, 2018, pp. pp.

Read More: Management News and Management Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.