Are there measurable benefits in using a lottery to select leaders? A scientific experiment

Short answer: Yes, and no!

Longer answer:

Hubris is a tendency of leaders to hold an overly confident view of their own capabilities and to abuse power for their own selfish goals, sometimes with disastrous consequences for organizations. A major reason for hubris is the rigorous selection process leaders typically undergo. This study proposes a governance mechanism used successfully in history to tackle hubris: partly random selections, which combine competitive selections by competence with lotteries. A frequently voiced concern about the use of lotteries is that it takes no account of the competence of the leader chosen. We propose that partly random selections can mitigate the disadvantages of both competitive selections alone and lotteries alone and reduce hubris in leaders. We conduct a test of this governance mechanism by means of a computerized laboratory experiment. Our results show that partly random selections significantly reduce the hubris of group leaders. [my emphasis]

This is the Abstract from the Report. The full citation is: Joël Berger; Margit Osterloh; Katja Rost; Thomas Ehrmann (2020, May 13) ‘How to prevent leadership hubris? Comparing competitive selections, lotteries, and their combination’ The Leadership Quarterly, ISSN: 1048-9843  http://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2020.101388 (paywall)

In order to test their theory, this group of Swiss and German scientists conducted an experiment, using a method instantly recognisable to experimental economists (and others, but they are the ones I’m familiar with). Their hypothesis was that a lottery could play a useful part in limiting hubris when selecting leaders.

We conducted a computerized laboratory experiment   ….  864 students of the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, were randomly selected from a pool of students who had volunteered to participate in behavioral experiments for monetary compensation. Participants on average gained USD 30 for 45 min……The 864 participants were randomly selected into groups of six and randomly assigned to one of three treatment conditions.

Wow! As you can see, this sort of experiment is not cheap, so well done to the guys in Zurich to obtain the funds from the Swiss government to conduct an experiment on lotteries-for-jobs. Note, too, the use of a randomly selected sample and sub-samples. Ok, so it’s students, it generally is in these scientific tests, but for obvious practical reasons.

Briefly, the experiment proceeded thus: A leader for each group were produced by one of three methods. 1. Using a general knowledge test and appoint the top scorer; or 2. Same test, but select at random from the top three scorers; or 3. A simple lottery where every member of the group has an equal chance.

How ‘hubris’ of the selected leaders was measured was complicated, and if you want know, you’ll have to read the article, but it did involve the well-known ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma Game’. It was from this, and 11 pages of statistical analysis of regression models that the conclusion was reached.

Our study follows a pioneering approach to investigate an unusual selection method for appointing leaders in organizations, partly random selection. This selection method has been extensively used in history but has nearly been forgotten. Today, random decisions are considered by many people to be “irrational”. Our study shows that purposeful random selection, in particular combining competitive selections with a random component, is a rational and promising way of recruiting leaders that tackles hubris in overconfident leaders. Our proposal to “draw your CEO by lot” is provocative but may be promising.

Most of the members of this group engage in philosophical discussion, where the merits of a proposal are a matter of persuasive rhetoric. Elsewhere, exhortations to ‘follow the science’ abound, and mere rhetoric is treated with caution. Even calling in aid ‘common-sense’ can be suspect.

This is, I believe, the first time any hypothesis of us Kleroterians has been subject to what has been described as ‘The gold standard of science’. I have another example from Levitt of Freakonomics fame which almost constitutes Science, which I will post about later.

A lottery for top jobs is not such a crazy idea

So says Amanda Goodall in an article in the Financial Times 9 Sept 2020.  You can read the article in full here (dodging the FT paywall!).

http://www.amandagoodall.com/FTRandom2020-09-07_101201.pdf

Dr Goodall of the Cass Business School, London has produced many papers on management and HR. She has tried to promote the idea of Lotteries for Jobs with Margit Osterloh, a Swiss academic.

Amanda tells me “It is a hard one [the idea of lotteries for jobs] to get off the ground. It has been hard to publish our article.”

It is very rewarding to find others in the field working on this form of ‘Local Democracy’ as Elster calls it. There are further developments which I will post here shortly.

Malcolm Gladwell on sortition

Malcolm Gladwell is a well-known popular science author. Gladwell has a podcast called “Revisionist History”. A recent episode of the podcast is devoted to sortition, with much of it being about Adam Cronkright’s work in applying sortition to student bodies in schools in Bolivia. Gladwell himself visits a school in the US and finds that the students are receptive to the idea. He also mentions the idea of using a lottery to allocate research funds.

Lotteries during Covid-19

Public housing is allocated via lottery in Trinidad and Tobago:

Five hundred applicants from the public housing database moved one step closer to home ownership when they were selected for assessment interviews during the Housing Draw, which was hosted live by the Ministry of Housing and the Trinidad and Tobago Housing Development Corporation (HDC) on Wednesday.

The HDC said the applicants were selected from a database of 180,000.

The National Housing Allocation Policy, which was developed in 2004, and which guides the HDC, is intended to ensure greater equity in the allocation process so that all applicants, once they are eligible for the programme, have an equal opportunity of being randomly selected for the location of their choice.

In addition to modified random draws which account for 60 percent of allocations per community, the Allocation Policy provides for a 25 percent for emergency cases or those recommended by the Minister; 10 percent allocation to members of the protective service and defence force; and 5 percent for the elderly and persons with disabilities.

To be eligible for public housing, applicants must be twenty-one 21 years and over, resident citizens with a combined household income of under $25,000 and must not own any property.

2019 review – statistics

Below are some statistics about the tenth year of Equality-by-Lot. Comparable numbers for last year can be found here.

2019 Page views Posts Comments
Jan 3,353 11 93
Feb 3,372 8 125
Mar 4,681 9 129
Apr 3,740 12 70
May 4,056 8 95
June 3,546 10 160
July 3,319 10 159
Aug 3,589 8 122
Sept 4,002 7 109
Oct 5,041 10 129
Nov 4,535 9 102
Dec (to 25th) 3,605 9 53
Total 46,839 111 1,346

Note that page views do not include visits by logged-in contributors – the wordpress system does not count those visits.

Posts were made by 16 authors during 2019. (There were, of course, many other authors quoted and linked to.)

There are currently 413 email and WordPress followers of this blog. In addition there are 419 Twitter followers (@Klerotarian) and 67 Facebook followers.

Searching for “distribution by lot” (with quotes) using Google returns Equality-by-Lot as the 1st result (out of “about 39,300 results”). Searching for “sortition” returns Equality-by-Lot as the 6th result (out of “about 163,000 results”) – preceded by the sortition entry at Wikipedia, links to Brett Hennig’s Sortition Foundation, and a link to Tim Dunlop’s article in the Guardian.

Happy holidays, a happy new year and a happy new decade to Equality-by-Lot readers, commenters and posters. Keep up the good fight for democracy!

Equality by Lot‘s first decade – a call for review input

The first post on Equality by Lot was published ten years ago, on December 14th, 2009. Over a thousand posts were published since, and happily enough sortition has made great strides in the public sphere worldwide.

This year, in addition to the yearly summary of the sortition-related ongoings, I would like to publish a decennial summary. You are all invited to register your input as to what are the important sortition-related things to note – over the last year as well as over the last decade. Please either post your input as a comment to this post or send it to me via email.

For previous years’ summaries see: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.

Fienberg: Randomization and Social Affairs: The 1970 Draft Lottery

A 1971 Science article by Stephen E. Fienberg, professor of statistics at the University of Chicago, deals with the problematic 1970 draft lottery and places it in a wider context of randomization in social affairs.

Ontario’s pot shop lottery

The Ontario government (in Canada) has allotted the first 25 pot shop licenses by lottery.

Nearly 17,000 applicants participated in the lottery to win the right to apply for a licence to run one of Ontario’s first cannabis shops.

[…]

The province has temporarily limited the number of stores to 25 because of a shortage of pot. Politicians decided that a lottery was the fairest way to decide who could first apply for the licences.

The lottery was a blow to entrepreneurs who already had plans to open shops under way. Some had signed leases and completed branding and store designs.

At least half a dozen companies, including Ottawa’s National Access Cannabis, planned pot-shop chains or franchise operations.

Those big players found themselves at the mercy of chance, just like everyone else who paid $75 to enter the lottery. It didn’t appear that any of the big players won the lottery.

The DNC to allot primary debate slots

The Democratic party has announced its planned schedule for primary debates for the 2020 presidential race. To handle the possibility of there being many candidates, the DNC plans, if necessary, to split the field into two groups, and having those groups debate in two consecutive nights. The split will be at random:

If necessary, depending on the number of candidates who meet the threshold, the DNC is prepared to split the first two debates in June and July into consecutive nights, said DNC Chairman Tom Perez. If that happens, the lineup will be determined by random selection, which will take place publicly.

“It’s conceivable that we have a double-digit field,” Perez told reporters on a conference call. “That is why we are planning for that contingency.”

Pacific Standard magazine gives some background and analysis:
Continue reading

2018 review – statistics

Below are some statistics about the ninth year of Equality-by-Lot. Comparable numbers for last year can be found here.

2018 Page views Posts Comments
Jan 2,655 2 65
Feb 3,165 12 211
Mar 2,216 9 163
Apr 2,038 5 30
May 2,570 13 118
June 2,421 11 178
July 2,095 2 64
Aug 1,961 6 43
Sept 2,490 6 109
Oct 7,746 15 80
Nov 3,286 8 106
Dec (to 25th) 2,423 6 25
Total 35,066 95 1,192

Note that page views do not include visits by logged-in contributors – the wordpress system does not count those visits.

Posts were made by 16 authors during 2018. (There were, of course, many other authors quoted and linked to.)

There are currently 377 email and WordPress followers of this blog. In addition there are 347 Twitter followers (@Klerotarian) and 67 Facebook followers.

Searching for “distribution by lot” (with quotes) using Google returns Equality-by-Lot as the 3rd result (out of “about 30,200 results”). Searching for “sortition” returns Equality-by-Lot as the 6th result (out of “about 140,000 results”) – preceded by the sortition entry at Wikipedia, links to Brett Hennig’s Sortition Foundation, and a link to Tim Dunlop’s article in the Guardian.

Happy holidays and a happy new year to Equality-by-Lot readers, commenters and posters. Keep up the good fight for democracy!