The Golden Rule

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Treat people the way you want to be treated. With minor variations, this simple rule goes a long way in facilitating stable cooperation in groups by demonstrating and underscoring the value of mutuality.

This rule is exemplified by the Prisioner’s Dilemma. two prisioner’s are interrogated about the same crime. Each prisoner could get a lighter sentence if he speaks. But if both of them talk, their punishment would be harsher. If neither of them talks, the sentence would be lighter for both.

Many people face the prisoner’s dilemma at their workplace where there are incentives for individuals to act in their self-interest. The highest outcomes tend to be obtained by returning competitive and cooperative behaviors in kind. Thus, cooperative behavior gets rewarded and competitive behavior gets punished. ┬áMost of the leaders we spoke with invoked the Golden Rule as their management philosophy.

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