Monday, 30 April 2012


Winners' Curse - winners aren't learners


winnerOne trend we often see at in our Bird Island KM exercises, is what we refer to as the "Winner's Curse". This is where the team that builds the tallest initial tower, seems to learn the least from the others (and often from the Knowledge Asset as well).

The very fact that a team is ahead in the race, means that they have less incentive to learn. So the team with the tallest tower "relaxes" a bit. The best learners are often the teams with the second-tallest tower, as they know that with a little bit of learning effort, they can be in the lead. Also there seems to be a tendency to learn more readily from failure, than from success.

A real example of this can be seen after World War 1. Tanks were a decisive element in this war, and any learning from WW1 would surely include some really significant learning about tanks. Who do you think learned more about tanks - the British, French and Americans (who were on the winning side) or the Germans (who were on the losing side)?

It was, of course, the Germans. You can read here (in a review of this book by Max Boot) the following story

 The British military and government, before Churchill became Prime Minister, lost interest in tanks. In France, Captain Charles de Gaulle was interested in fast-moving mechanized warfare, but the French military favored defensive warfare and firepower. The United States also devoted little interest in armored warfare. Writes Boot:
The U.S. had deployed a Tank Corps in World War I, but it was disbanded in 1920 over the anguished objections of two of its leading officers -- Colonel George S. Patton and Major Dwight D. Eisenhower.
It was the Germans who were most interested in fast-moving mechanized warfare. Writes Boot:
Around 1934, Colonel Heinz Guderian, chief of staff of the Inspectorate of Motorized Troops, gave the Fuehrer [Adolf Hitler] a short tour d'horizon of tank warfare. "Hitler," Guderian wrote, "was much impressed by the speed and precision of movement of our units, and said repeatedly, "that's what I need! That's what I want!'"
In 1939 Hitler had a three-hour parade of mechanized forces. Fuller was there, invited because of his fascist sympathies, Hitler said to him, "I hope you were pleased with your children." Fuller replied:
Your Excellency, they have grown up so quickly that I no longer recognize them. 
The Winners' curse is that the winner often fails to learn, and so is overtaken (at least for a while) by the loser. So did Germany overtake the Allied powers in terms of tank warfare in 1939.

(Thanks to Andrew Mortlock at AZ for pointing out this story)

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