While I have studied statistics, I’m not a statistician. I in fact have a cynical aversion to statistics. One of my favourite sayings is you can prove anything if you find the right sample space.

Despite that, my statistical knowledge started me on an interesting journey, a journey that began with a so-called random event.

One day one of my managers who had a strong statistical background and didn’t know me from anyone dropped the following article from Douglas Hofstader‘s Metamagical Themas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metamagical_Themas  on my desk regarding Prisoner’s Dilemma.

When I read the initial Prisoner’s dilemma example, I thought the best solution to it was simple. Either not to commit the crime or not get caught for it.

But it was the extended Prisoner’s dilemma that began to fascinate me. Simply stated it was a blind exchange between two people who didn’t know each other. At that time I was working for an organisation that was quite informal and collaborative having previously worked for another organisation which was neither!

The article then mentioned a simple method of winning at extended Prisoner’s dilemma: tit for tat. Simply stated it was cooperate first, and then reflect back how you were treated. Sounds like the computer generated Golden Rule. But what the hey it worked.

Admittedly, to me, this is a simplified model of collaboration but I was shocked, stunned and amazed at just how successful collaboration could happen

But further research into the article lead to these simple rules….

Here are the rules…

Life as a game between two players where one or both can cooperate or defect.

1.       Don’t rock the boat: Continue to cooperate after three mutual cooperation.

2.       Be provocable: Defect when the other player defects out of the blue.

3.       Accept an apology: Continue to cooperate after cooperation has been restored.

4.       Forget: Cooperate when mutual cooperation has been restored after an exploitation.

5.       Accept a rut: Defect after three mutual defections.

 My question is do they work?