ADLER typewriter Model n°7 (Frankfurt / Germany). Unknown model date (probably ~1930/40). By Dake

The person with the longest Time Horizon cleans the toilets

E. Forrest Christian requisite organization, Reviews - Articles Leave a Comment

Besides having a very entertaining title, Marc Bilodeau and Al Silvinski’s “Tolient Cleaning and Department Chairing: Volunteering a Public Service” (1994) has some interesting proofs. Basically, they want to put forth some propositions about figuring out who would volunteer to do an activity that no one wants to do but that everyone would benefit from. Specific examples can be found in the title.

Of interest to Requisite Organization students is the following:

We find that in a very general complete information game, multiplicity of equilibria depends crucially the (simplifying) assumption that individuals have an infinite horizon. If we assume instead that individuals have a finite horizon, the game has a unique subgame-perfect equilibrium outcome in which, ceteris paribus, the individual with the highest benefit/cost ratio from providing the public service, the largest rate of time preference, or the longest time horizon, volunteers immediately and everyone else waits. This remains true even when the time horizon tends to infinity. [pp. 1, link and emphasis added]

I’m not sure why the person with the longest time horizon is always going to be cleaning the toilets, but it gives a new spin to “servant leadership”. It may also explain some other facets about leadership roles.

It’s a bit more complex than you would think, since they don’t take into account the increases in time horizon across biographical time. It’s an interesting paper.

Found through citations across the group escalation literature. I wonder what this might mean for project risk management. I know that it’s just game theory, but some of that has been useful. Of course, game theory sometimes gets iffy when used for forecasting. J. Scott Armstrong has an interesting response to the hoopla about Kesten Green’s paper (linked above).

ADLER typewriter Model n°7 (Frankfurt / Germany). Unknown model date (probably ~1930/40). © Dake. (CC BY-SA 2.5)

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps managers and experts find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants. Forrest lives and works plain view of North Carolina's Mount Baker.  [contact]

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