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Keeping Your Options Open

Author

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  • Jean Guillaume Forand

    (Wallis Institute and University of Waterloo)

Abstract

In standard models of experimentation, the costs of project development consist of (i) the direct cost of running trials as well as (ii) the implicit opportunity cost of leaving alternative projects idle. Another natural type of experimentation cost, the cost of holding on to the option of developing a currently inactive project, has not been studied. In a (multi-armed bandit) model of experimentation in which inactive projects have explicit maintenance costs and can be irreversibly discarded, I fully characterise the optimal experimentation policy and show that the decision-maker's incentive to actively manage its options has important implications for the order of project development. In the model, an experimenter searches for a success among a number of projects by choosing both those to develop now and those to maintain for (potential) future development. In the absence of maintenance costs, the optimal experimentation policy has a 'stay-with-the-winner' property: the projects that are more likely to succeed are developed first. Maintenance costs provide incentives to bring the option value of less promising projects forward, and under the optimal experimentation policy, projects that are less likely to succeed are sometimes developed first. A project development strategy of `going-with-the-loser' strikes a balance between the cost of discarding possibly valuable options and the cost of leaving them open.

Suggested Citation

  • Jean Guillaume Forand, 2011. "Keeping Your Options Open," 2011 Meeting Papers 82, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed011:82
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nicolas Klein & Sven Rady, 2011. "Negatively Correlated Bandits," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(2), pages 693-732.
    2. Johannes Hörner & Larry Samuelson, 2013. "Incentives for experimenting agents," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 44(4), pages 632-663, December.
    3. David A. Malueg & Shunichi O. Tsutsui, 1997. "Dynamic R&D Competition with Learning," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(4), pages 751-772, Winter.
    4. Godfrey Keller & Sven Rady & Martin Cripps, 2005. "Strategic Experimentation with Exponential Bandits," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(1), pages 39-68, January.
    5. Patrick Bolton & Christopher Harris, 1999. "Strategic Experimentation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(2), pages 349-374, March.
    6. Bergemann, Dirk & Hege, Ulrich, 1998. "Venture capital financing, moral hazard, and learning," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 22(6-8), pages 703-735, August.
    7. Rady, Sven & Keller, Godfrey, 2010. "Strategic experimentation with Poisson bandits," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 5(2), May.
    8. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sundaram, Rangarajan K, 1994. "Switching Costs and the Gittins Index," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 687-694, May.
    9. Klein, Nicolas, 2016. "The importance of being honest," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 11(3), September.
    10. R. Preston Mcafee & Hugo M. Mialon & Sue H. Mialon, 2010. "Do Sunk Costs Matter?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(2), pages 323-336, April.
    11. Bergemann, Dirk & Valimaki, Juuso, 2001. "Stationary multi-choice bandit problems," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 25(10), pages 1585-1594, October.
    12. repec:cwl:cwldpp:1726rrr is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:cwl:cwldpp:1726rr is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sundaram, Rangarajan K, 1992. "Denumerable-Armed Bandits," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1071-1096, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Heidhues, Paul & Rady, Sven & Strack, Philipp, 2015. "Strategic experimentation with private payoffs," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 159(PA), pages 531-551.
    2. Alejandro Francetich, 2014. "Managing Multiple Research Projects," Working Papers 516, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis

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