Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Game Theory: Harrington Road to Pattulos Road


It is only about 5 kilometers from my residence to office. But the number of ways (routes and not modes) exceeds that number. A small reflection on the routes that I could take reminded me of a chapter from Thinking Strategically by Avinash K Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff. 

Now in addition to Geoffrey A Moore's collection of Crossing the Chasm, The Gorilla Game and Inside the Tornado, if there is one book that I really relished is Thinking Strategically. So here, I have tried to recreate, taking a cue from the book, my options. 

Route 1: Harrington Rd-Spurtank Rd-Casa Major Rd-Pantheon Rd-Rukmini Lakshmipathi Rd-Binni Rd-Mount Rd-Pattulos Rd.

Route 2: Harrington Rd-McNicholas Rd-Under Chetpet Bridge-Valluvar Kottam Rd-College Rd-small bridge on left-Ethiraj Salai-Binni Rd and then like Route 1

Route 3: Till College Rd like Route 2-Greams Rd-Mount Rd-Right on Sathyam Theatre signal-Whites Rd-Smith Rd (that is parallel to Pattulos Rd and takes me to office)

Route 4: Till College Rd like Route 2-Sterling Rd-Nungambakkam High Rd-Gemini-Mount Rd-Sathyam Theater signal-then like Route 3

Now there are two mini diversions which I can make in Route 1 and Route 3 that can create variations. Now I can also, if I want to, create further more variations. Complexity can be added to the options by introducing the modes. Like I could think about going by a bicycle or an auto or a combination of walking and share auto. Thankfully, I have decided to ply by my car, only.

Game Theory is about creating different options and the figuring out which one is the most suitable to you. Please note, 'most suitable'. For example, for me the most suitable of the above routes to office is not the one which is the shortest and not even fastest. For me, the drive to office should be quick and hassle-free. Now here is what I consider before taking a particular route:

  1. Which route has the least signal? Even if a particular route is short does not mean that it is fastest. It would be better to drive a longer route with no signals than one in which I would get stuck on signals for a long periods.
  2. What day is it? If I work on a Saturday, I rather take the shortest route, because on the weekend, it also turns out to be the fastest.
  3. Traffic load: While Route 3 might have the least amount of signals, the pile up at the point where it joins Mount Road creates a huge bottleneck.
Now there was this discussion other day during a session organized by Social Media Club, Chennai, about what is a strategy and what is a tactic. In between there was a confusion over strategy and objective.

So in my route-dilemma, what is the objective, what is the strategy and what is the tactic?

In my opinion, reaching office in the quickest (not shortest and fastest) and hassle free way is my objective. And the routes, I have enlisted above, are the strategies/options that I have. And tactic is my choice to change routes based on certain situation that may arise. My choice to take Route 2 instead of usual Route 1 on Saturdays is one such tactic. And as Naru had once explained, tactic should not be considered insignificant.  Even a tactical move can be strategic!

For those who intend to understand more about strategy, tactics and game theory, please order a copy of the book. While I try to figure out why, despite taking the best route possible, I get late!
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