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The Parable of the Hare and the Tortoise: Small Worlds, Diversity, and System Performance

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  • Lazer, David

    (Harvard U)

  • Friedman, Allan

Abstract

Whether as team members brainstorming, or cultures experimenting with new technologies, problem solvers communicate and share ideas. This paper examines how the structure of these communication networks can affect system-level performance. We present an agent-based model of information sharing, where the less successful emulate the more successful. Results suggest that where agents are dealing with a complex problem, the more efficient the network at disseminating information, and the higher the velocity of information over that network, the better the short run and lower the long run performance of the system. The dynamic underlying this result is that an inefficient network is better at exploration than an efficient network, supporting a more thorough search for solutions in the long run. This suggests that the efficient network is the hare—the fast starter—and the poorly connected network is the tortoise—slow at the start of the race, but ultimately triumphant.

Suggested Citation

  • Lazer, David & Friedman, Allan, 2005. "The Parable of the Hare and the Tortoise: Small Worlds, Diversity, and System Performance," Working Paper Series rwp05-058, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp05-058
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    File URL: https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/workingpapers/citation.aspx?PubId=3238&type=WPN
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James G. March, 1991. "Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 2(1), pages 71-87, February.
    2. Jonathon N. Cummings, 2004. "Work Groups, Structural Diversity, and Knowledge Sharing in a Global Organization," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(3), pages 352-364, March.
    3. Jan W. Rivkin, 2000. "Imitation of Complex Strategies," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(6), pages 824-844, June.
    4. Bikhchandani, Sushil & Hirshleifer, David & Welch, Ivo, 1992. "A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change in Informational Cascades," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 992-1026, October.
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