Competition ? Cooperation
From the Blog of Phyllis G. Pollack.
What is the “Nash equilibrium”?:
“It is a position in which both sides have selected a strategy and neither side can then independently change its strategy without ending up in a less desirable position. . . .”
“Nash called such a state of affairs an equilibrium because it is a point of balance in a social situation, from which neither side can independently escape without loss. . . . So long as we act independently, with each of us pursuing our own interests, the Nash equilibrium will continue to trap us in a plethora of social dilemmas.” (Id. at 18.)
A perfect example given by the author is an acrimonious divorce:
“It would usually pay [sic] [for] both parties to compromise, but so long as one refuses to compromise, it is not worth the other party’s while to give way. They become trapped in a Nash equilibrium so that both lose out through the money they have to pay to lawyers and the emotional stress they end up going through.”
“. . . the parties are trapped in a genuinely paradoxical circle of logic that arises because they are unwilling or unable to communicate and to coordinate their strategies. But there is an escape clause: if the parties can communicate and negotiate, they may be able to break out of the dreadful trap.” (Id. at 23.)
The decisive feature is that the cooperative solution or negotiated agreement must prove more beneficial to each of them than pursuing their respective strategies independently of the other. (Id.) Otherwise, each party will “willingly” remained “trapped.”
In essence, each of us will approach a social situation with a “what is in it for me” attitude and thus pursue our own individual interests over those of the others or even of the collective whole, in the hopes of gaining the best possible deal. But this gain will come solely and only at the expense of every other person involved in the social situation. Only when we realize that if we continue to pursue our separate interests independently of everyone else, the result will be worse for all concerned, do we change our strategy from one of competition to one of cooperation. At this point, we are at the Nash equilibrium and realize that in order to get out of the “trap,” we must stop being competitive and begin to communicate and be cooperative with each other. By doing so, we can turn a lose-lose situation into a win-win situation, so that everyone walks out a winner.
According to Nash, this theory applies to any social situation in which two or more persons are involved. Take a moment and reflect on a recent social dilemma, replay it in your mind, but this time apply Nash’s theory. . . . See what I mean. . . Life becomes game theory based on advanced mathematics.
Perhaps, mediation is meant to be the apex of the Nash equilibrium. The parties walk in with a “what’s in it for me” attitude and the goal of the mediator is to change the parties’ mindset from competitive to cooperative; to have each party understand that if she continues with her own strategy independently of everyone else involved, the situation will only become worse for all concerned, not better. . . but that the way to change this is to start communicating and cooperating and choose strategies by which each party can win; to go from competitiveness to cooperation; from lose-lose to win-win.
Is mediation the tipping point in game theory? Perhaps so.
. . .Just something to think about.
Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as well as their own needs better than any mediator or arbitrator. She does not impose her views or make decisions for the parties. Rather, Phyllis assists the parties in creating options that meet the needs and desires of both sides.
When appropriate, visual aids are used in preparing discussions and illustrating possible solutions. On the other hand, she is not averse to being proactive and offering a generous dose of reality, particularly when the process may have stalled due to unrealistic expectations of attorney or client, a failure to focus on needs rather than demands, or when one or more parties need to be reminded of the potential consequences of their failure to reach an agreement.