Multi-level Adaptation of Distributed Decision-Making Agents in Complex Task Environments
Stephan Leitner and
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To solve complex tasks, individuals often autonomously organize in teams. Examples of complex tasks include disaster relief rescue operations or project development in consulting. The teams that work on such tasks are adaptive at multiple levels: First, by autonomously choosing the individuals that jointly perform a specific task, the team itself adapts to the complex task at hand, whereby the composition of teams might change over time. We refer to this process as self-organization. Second, the members of a team adapt to the complex task environment by learning. There is, however, a lack of extensive research on multi-level adaptation processes that consider self-organization and individual learning as simultaneous processes in the field of management science. We introduce an agent-based model based on the NK-framework to study the effects of simultaneous multi-level adaptation on a team's performance. We implement the multi-level adaptation process by a second-price auction mechanism for self-organization at the team level. Adaptation at the individual level follows an autonomous learning mechanism. Our preliminary results suggest that, depending on the task's complexity, different configurations of individual and collective adaptation can be associated with higher overall task performance. Low complex tasks favour high individual and collective adaptation, while moderate individual and collective adaptation is associated with better performance in case of moderately complex tasks. For highly complex tasks, the results suggest that collective adaptation is harmful to performance.
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