Payoffs and Tradeoffs for Crows and Hawks

In the last installment I left the hanging question: 

What happens to hawks left to their own devices within a company?

In the movie version, (referring back to “A Beautiful Mind”  from the last post), we never get to find out. Russell Crowe jumps up to thank the blonde for being his muse and inspiring the mathematical revision to his economic theory, as he rushes out of the bar to the bewilderment of the blonde and all of his male colleagues. 

So how would this same scenario play out in the workplace? Imagine a group of hawks interacting, all competitive and willing to do whatever it takes to advance his/her position. But this time, no one is leaving the bar.

To see the blind spots of businesses that operate like this it’s helpful to have a visual representation of a “payoff” for which individuals would be competing. The “payoff” can be any number of things. 

Higher social standing, a raise, recognition. 

For now, let’s just use some arbitrary numbers as a demonstration. 

If in any given interaction a person within the company behaves “hawkishly” toward another (i.e. stabs a colleague in the back to get a promotion) that will benefit the hawk, whilst hurting the colleague who behaves more “crow-like” in this instance. 

Crows do occasionally fall prey to hawks when they are not paying attention and this can be a quite harmful if not a deadly interaction. 

A hawk enjoying the spoils...

A hawk enjoying the spoils...

So the standings for hawks and crows within the company thus far: 

HAWK = +1
CROW =-1

But what happens when the crow, angered by this last interaction with the hawk, decides to act hawkish as well? In the next interaction, they will both behave as hawks, denigrating one another to the deficit of both. Now, not only is there a cost to both individuals, but it’s far more severe as their efforts to get a leg up on one another, has only prevented forward progress on company projects and ultimately makes both of them look bad in front of their superiors as both are now pointing fingers at the other. The “payoff” is closer to 

Hawk1 = -10
Hawk2 = -10

Internal competition drives overall deficits.

Internal competition drives overall deficits.

So what would happen if instead of pursuing an individualized “hawk-like” strategy within a company, employees all behaved more like crows toward one another? The payoff individually may not look so appealing to all the hawks out there:

Crow 1 = 0
Crow 2 = 0

Zero seems pretty unacceptable to most. No growth, no good right? At least that's how it looks initially...

But it’s not that being a crow requires rolling over and playing dead. Cooperation internally can lead to HUGE payoffs when the fights are saved for external competition. 

Foreshadowing the murder.

Foreshadowing the murder.

What can a company of crows do to the competitors? That will be the subject of the next installment. 

Until then, caw on.