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Optimal Information Transmission in Organizations: Search and Congestion

  • Álex Arenas
  • Antonio Cabrales
  • Leon Danon
  • Albert Díaz-Guilera
  • Roger Guimerà
  • Fernando Vega-Redondo

We propose a stylized model of a problem-solving organization whose internal communication structure is given by a fixed network. Problems arrive randomly anywhere in this network and must find their way to their respective "specialized solvers" by relying on local information alone. The organization handles multiple problems simultaneously. For this reason, the process may be subject to congestion. We provide a characterization of the threshold of collapse of the network and of the stock of floating problems (or average delay) that prevails below that threshold. We build upon this characterization to address a design problem: the determination of what kind of network architecture optimizes performance for any given problem arrival rate. We conclude that, for low arrival rates, the optimal network is very polarized (i.e. star-like or "centralized"), whereas it is largely homogenous (or "decentralized") for high arrival rates. We also show that, if an auxiliary assumption holds, the transition between these two opposite structures is sharp and they are the only ones to ever qualify as optimal.

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Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 64.

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Date of creation: Jul 2003
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Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:64
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  1. Raaj Kumar Sah & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1984. "The Architecture of Economic Systems: Hierarchies and Polyarchies," NBER Working Papers 1334, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Luis Garicano, 2000. "Hierarchies and the Organization of Knowledge in Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 874-904, October.
  3. Mathias Dewatripont & Patrick Bolton, 1994. "The firm as a communication network," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/9595, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  4. Beggs, A W, 2001. "Queues and Hierarchies," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(2), pages 297-322, April.
  5. Van Zandt, Timothy, 1999. "Real-Time Decentralized Information Processing as a Model of Organizations with Boundedly Rational Agents," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(3), pages 633-58, July.
  6. Visser, Bauke, 2000. "Organizational communication structure and performance," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 231-252, June.
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