Game Changer

TWS Partners

In Game Changer, the podcast by TWS Partners, we want to share our enthusiasm and passion for game theory and its applications.

We invite guests from business and academia to discuss how they use the power of game theory in their profession to make a difference – and to learn some fun anecdotes, useful facts and valuable insights along the way. Join us on this journey, and find out that game theory is much more than a topic for ivory tower discussions.

All Episodes

In this episode Paul Hünermund explains why the Nobel prize in Economics this year was given to the three researchers David Card, Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens and what companies can learn from their research. We talk about how natural experiments sparked an empirical revolution and how machine learning can help us establish causal links to find the answer to everyday questions.   Paul Hünermund is assistant professor of Strategy and Innovation at Copenhagen Business School. In his research he focuses on how firms can leverage new technologies in the space of machine learning and artificial intelligence for value creation and competitive advantage. In doing so he employs a wide variety of tools from econometrics, machine learning, and the field of causal inference.

Nov 23

23 min 8 sec

In this episode, we are talking to Jos Cozijnsen, carbon specialist at the Carbon Neutral Group. Jos explains how knowledge from Game Theory and Mechanism Design can help reduce carbon emissions. He explains in detail the cap & trade system in Europe which makes carbon credits tradeable. This market has introduced CO2 reduction certificates which are issued for a project where additional CO2 reductions have been accomplished. Such carbon credit or CO2 reduction certificate can be used to compensate own emissions. At the time of the recording the Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow is happening which Jos also attends.   Jos Cozijnsen is carbon specialist at the Carbon Neutral Group, he holds a Master in Law. Jos is supporting companies to lower their carbon footprint and their impact on the climate. He is well experienced in the carbon market and carbon pricing. He has recently published an article on this episode’s topic here.

Nov 9

26 min 45 sec

In this episode, we are talking to Kevin Zollman, professor of Philosophy and Social and Decision Sciences. Kevin explains how to use game theoretic concepts to study non-verbal communication between animals (and humans). From this perspective, seemingly useless or even costly features like the cumbersome tail of a peacock can be explained as costly (and therefore fraud resistant) signals to potential mating partners. We also discuss the limits of these concepts and alternative explanations that form the current state of research on this topic.   Kevin Zollman is professor of Philosophy and Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University in in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His research interests include many fields such as game theory, its biological applications, and the philosophy of science. He is also author of the recently published book “The Game Theorist's Guide to Parenting: How the Science of Strategic Thinking Can Help You Deal With the Toughest Negotiators You Know: Your Kids”

Oct 25

29 min 26 sec

In this episode we are talking to Eva Donnerhack, Director, Specialist for Modern and Impressionist Art and Head of Sales Germany at Sotheby's. Together we take a look behind the curtain of preparing an auction in the world of art, discuss the importance of timing, stories and cultural differences and learn what art auctions and concerts have in common.   Eva Donnerhack is Director, Specialist for Modern and Impressionist Art and Head of Sales Germany at the auction house Sotheby's. As such she contributes to many of Sotheby's most promising auctions in London, Paris and New York and is well seasoned when it comes to all things auctions in the world of art.

Oct 11

31 min 30 sec

In this episode Scott Page, professor for Complexity, Social Science and Management at the University of Michigan, explains the value of models and their uses in different environments and disciplines including economics and in particular game theory. We talk about what to consider when setting up a model, how models capture "real life" and how to best apply them in a business context using game theory.   Scott Page is professor for Complexity, Social Science and Management at the University of Michigan. In his research he focuses on complex systems, collective intelligence, teams, and political and economic institutions. He is also the author of the book “The Model Thinker: What You Need to Know to Make Data Work For You”, explaining the value of models when it comes to making sense of data and complex phenomena.

Sep 27

27 min 9 sec

In this episode, we talk to Oliver Viehmann, Principal at TWS Partners, and explore the application of game theory to pricing strategies and negotiations in the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry. We discuss how pharmaceutical companies engage with regulators across the world to determine drug prices using two broad mechanisms: regulatory cost-effectiveness pricing and competitive procurement mechanisms (e.g. contracting or tendering). With reference to the highly publicized "Volume Based Procurement" program in China, we delve into the game theoretic complexities and challenges for both payers, who create auction designs, and manufacturers, who compete to win contracts. Oliver Viehmann is Principal at TWS Partners and supports clients in the pharmaceutical sector, in addition to a range of other industries.

Sep 13

17 min 49 sec

In this episode we talk to Philipp Heller, expert on mergers, antitrust and competition to elaborate on why game theory is relevant to merger analysis. We discuss how game theory can help predict effects of market consolidations for some of the most prominent examples in recent years. While the intended merger of Vonovia and its largest rival Deutsche Wohnen, which would have formed the largest residential-property company in the whole of Europe, was recently rejected by shareholders, the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) gave its blessing to the transaction. We explain some ideas from game theory that are useful for antitrust authorities like the FCO when analysing this and other mergers.    Philipp Heller is an Associate Director at NERA Economic Consulting. There he has focused on topics such as cartel damages litigation, national and international merger notifications, and regulatory procedures. Previously Philipp completed his PhD in Economics at Humboldt University of Berlin.

Aug 2

30 min 6 sec

In this episode Julien Combe, professor of Economics at École Polytechnique, walks us through the intricacies of finding the right matching mechanism for kidney exchanges. We talk about general challenges when trying to find a match, the impact of different regulations in different countries and how a single altruistic donor can set off a whole chain of successful exchanges.   Julien Combe is professor at the Department of Economics at École Polytechnique in France. In his research he focuses on market design and especially the design of efficient allocation mechanisms in various environments. Among other things the results of his research help inform policy makers and regulators in France when it comes to matching markets.

Jul 19

37 min 21 sec

In this episode Marc Robinson, strategy and risk management expert, takes us back to when he first applied game theory to real-life business problems at General Motors. He shares his insights on how to identify problems well suited for game theoretic tools as well as benefits and common misconceptions when applying them to negotiations of all kinds.   Marc Robinson now works as an independent strategy and risk management consultant, following a career as an internal consultant and economist at General Motors. It was there that he first introduced game theoretic concepts and tools, applying them to a vast range of applications such as strategic product or investment decisions, or negotiations with partners, suppliers, and unions. He also taught at UCLA and Stanford and worked on the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush.

Jul 5

27 min 12 sec

In order to advance the “green revolution”, the EU has set some ambitious goals to drastically increase renewable energies in their energy portfolio. Part of that strategy is to award “support” (i.e. state subsidies) to renewable energy projects. Today’s guest Marion Ott explains to us how these subsidies are allocated, which rules are discussed to improve this process and their (unintended) effects. In particular, we are discussing “endogenous rationing”, which tries to increase competition in the subsidies tenders by artificially reducing the supply.   Marion Ott is researcher at the  ZEW and member of the research department "Market Design". Her work is focussed on auction and market design. You can find details on her current research activities on her homepage. In particular, Marion recently published two papers on endogenous rationing, which you can find here (in English) and here (in German only).

Jun 21

20 min 45 sec

In April this year some of the best European football clubs announced their plans to create a "Super League". Plans which were crushed unanimously by both players and fans alike only a couple of days later. In this episode we talk to Jan Eeckhout, Professor of Economics, about the Super League from an Economics perspective. We discuss which economic considerations may have influenced the idea to create a Super League, how the League could have impacted market power, and how these effects translate more generally to labour markets with dominant players like Amazon. Jan Eeckhout is Professor of Economics at UPF Barcelona with a research focus on labour markets and author of the book "The Profit Paradox. How Thriving Firms Threaten the Future of Work" (theprofitparadox.com).

Jun 7

28 min 45 sec

From the prisoners’ dilemma to the Chicken Game: we all know the entertaining and powerful stories from game theory that help us to quickly identify the strategic core of a given situation. Today’s guest David McAdams explains to us that - while these simplified stories are very useful – they might lead to wrong predictions and recommendations when used in the wrong context. David also gives some practical examples from his work as a professor and consultant (e.g. on vaccine distribution in the current pandemic, and the fight against antibiotic resistance of so-called super-bugs), and we see that choosing the right underlying story and collecting the correct initial data are crucial prerequisites to the success of a game theoretic analysis.   David McAdams is Professor of Economics and Professor of Business Administration at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, and author of the book “Game-Changer: Game Theory and the Art of Transforming Strategic Situations”. David mentions several interesting research topics in the outlook of the interview. Here are the links to the corresponding papers (some behind a paywall): Learning through the grapevine: The Impact of Message Mutation, Transmission Failure, and Deliberate Bias: https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3391403.3399521 Social Networks and the Market for News: https://sites.duke.edu/rachelkranton/files/2020/04/Social-Networks-and-the-Market-for-News-Kranton-McAdams-April-2020.pdf Viral Social Learning: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3299129 In addition, you can learn more about David’s current research activities on his homepage.

May 24

39 min 33 sec

In this episode we are talking to Vitali Gretschko, professor of economics and market design. With him, we explore how moral behaviour affects decisions in market environments. We discuss a recent research project in which he jointly with colleagues designed an experiment to understand details on the relevance of social norms for market interactions. We also discuss how markets can be set up and designed to increase moral behaviour.   Prof. Dr. Vitali Gretschko is head of the ZEW Research Department "Market Design", Professor of Market Design at the University of Mannheim, and a member of the Research Unit "Design and Behaviour" at the German Research Foundation (DFG). Vitali’s team published a working paper on the research project he mentions in the interview  - you can download it at https://www.zew.de/publikationen/social-norms-and-market-behavior-evidence-from-a-large-population-sample

May 10

26 min 50 sec

In this episode we are talking to Anouar El Haji, behavioral economist and the founder & CEO of Veylinx. With him, we explore how game theory can help to identify how customers truly value new products and services. We touch on why it is crucial for companies to obtain reliable insights before making major investment decisions and why so many companies struggle with this. The standard practice of conducting market research surveys is ineffective because participants don’t have skin in the game. But by taking a different approach using game theory, participants can be incentivized to reveal their true interest in services and products that might not even exist yet. Anouar El Haji is the founder and CEO of Veylinx (veylinx.com). Before founding his company Anouar completed his PhD at the University of Amsterdam applying his knowledge in game theory and behavioural economics to the field of Marketing.

Apr 26

28 min 52 sec

In this episode we are talking to Robert Idel, economist and expert in the energy sector. With him, we explore the effects of zero prices and how a market design approach can help tackle the challenging properties of the energy sector with limited storage capacities and lack of incentives to invest. Ironically, after recording this episode, the fragility and flaws in the current energy market that Robert describes became drastically apparent, when a winter storm led to long lasting and widespread power outages (find the corresponding article under https://www.bakerinstitute.org/research/winterization-and-texas-blackout-fail-prepare-prepare-fail/). Robert Idel is an expert on the design of electricity markets and more generally regulation of the power sector. Robert is currently pursuing his PhD at the Baker Institute's Center for Energy Studies in Texas. https://www.bakerinstitute.org/experts/robert-idel/

Apr 12

26 min 23 sec

In this episode, Christina Gravert shares her personal experience from using online dating apps and how she applied game theoretic principles to maximise her chances for finding the perfect match. It turns out that the use of dating apps like tinder can be modelled as a game, leading to useful insights for your best “swiping strategy”. We also discuss the link between dating apps and game theoretic concepts like “cheap talk” or the “optimal stopping” problem.   Christina Gravert is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Copenhagen and the cofounder of Impactually, a behavioral science consultancy. Her research is field is behavioural economics with focus on environmental sustainability, health and charitable giving. If you want to know more about her academic work, you can check out her homepage. Our interview with Christina is based on her article at behavioralscientist.org, which also contains some interesting links on related articles.

Mar 29

20 min 20 sec

In this episode we are talking with Jacob Larsen, expert on digital Procurement, about the nuts and bolts of e-auctions and why companies are still struggling to realize their full potential. We discuss the key ingredients needed for a successful e-auction, common misconceptions surrounding the topic and how to avoid looming pitfalls when first getting started with e-auctions. Jacob Larsen is an expert on Procurement in the digital age and author of the book "A Practical Guide to E-Auctions for Procurement". Currently the Head of Digital Procurement at Maersk, a danish integrated shipping company, the largest of its kind, Jacob knows the practical side of e-auctions like the back of his hand and summarized this knowledge together with the theory behind it in his book. If you want to discuss how the concepts introduced in Jacob’s book can help your organization to increase the use of e-auctions, you are welcome to reach out to him via LinkedIn or email (Jacob.larsen@maersk.com). You can also find the book e.g. on Amazon 

Mar 15

31 min 38 sec

In this episode we are talking to Nafa Ben Haddej, behavioural scientist, about his latest insights on the value of game theory in both individual and group decision making in professional environments. Together we explore how setting the right incentives can reduce (often unconscious) cognitive biases in corporate decision dynamics and promote better customer outcomes.   Nafa Ben Haddej is a behavioural scientist who has devoted his professional life to understanding human interactions within companies and across their interactions with their customers. After graduating in Behavioural and Economic Science from The University of Warwick, Nafa took different behavioural science roles spanning both the private and public sectors and is currently applying his passion for behavioural science at NatWest Group, working in behavioural risk audit.

Mar 2

26 min 38 sec

In 2020, the Nobel prize for economics was awarded to Robert Wilson and Paul Milgrom for their contributions to complex auction formats. In this episode of Game Changer, Stephan Knapek, Managing Partner at TWS Partners, talks about frequency auctions as a practical application of such complex auction formats. He explains why the state uses auctions to allocate frequency bands to telecom providers, and how these auctions are structured. He also gives insights to the strategies of the bidders, and shows how some of them exploit flaws and loopholes in the auction ruleset in order to send signals to their competitors. If you want to read more on this topic – and if you are fluent in German – you can check out Stephan’s articles in the German newspaper Handelsblatt, where he commented on the developments of the German 5G frequency auction in 2019: https://www.tws-partners.com/about-us/media/press-news/handelsblatt-5g-auction-in-germany/

Feb 16

26 min 37 sec

Ratings, reviews, stars and points – we all strongly rely on online reviews when we shop online. But can we really trust them? And is there something we can do to make them more reliable? The research of Paolo Turrini, associate professor at the university of Warwick, is focussed on mechanism design of social networks. In this episode, he explains why ratings are so important in online markets, how they are often manipulated, and how clever game theoretic considerations can make them more trustworthy. In the interview, Paolo mentions the spoof restaurant “the shed at Dulwich”, which made to the top of the TripAdvisor list despite being non-existent. You can check out their homepage here: https://www.theshedatdulwich.com/menu You can find more on Paolo’ research on his homepage: https://www.dcs.warwick.ac.uk/~pturrini/

Feb 2

23 min 59 sec

In this episode Christian Paul, principal at TWS Partners, explains why many companies are struggling to reach their targets in reducing carbon gas emissions. He argues that this challenge is fundamentally connected to how companies set their internal targets and how the mechanisms are designed to reach these targets. Here, game theory can create incentive structures to effectively reduce carbon emissions – and more importantly - internally identify opportunities to reduce these emissions at the lowest internal costs. Christian mentions the annual letter from Larry Fink, CEO of the investment company Blackrock (you can find the letter here: https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/investor-relations/larry-fink-ceo-letter). We were talking to Christian last year, so he is referring to Larry Fink’s letter from January 2020

Jan 19

18 min 29 sec

We discuss with researcher Tobias Riehm which economic reasons cause long waiting lists for parents to find daycare centres for their children in Germany. We find that knowledge from game theory can help to develop a significantly smoother allocation which can help all: children, parents and the daycare centres.

Jan 5

17 min 1 sec

We discuss with TWS Partners’ CEO Marcus Schreiber which economic reasons led to the impressively short development time for a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. Marcus describes that risk mitigation and clever incentive structures set by the governments significantly contributed to this success story. This can be seen as a prime example for market design, a subfield of game theory. For our German listeners: You can read more on this topic in Marc’s column in the Handelsblatt (https://www.handelsblatt.com/meinung/kolumnen/expertenrat/schreiber/expertenrat-marcus-schreiber-gut-dass-staaten-die-impfstoffentwicklung-nicht-allein-dem-markt-ueberlassen/26663870.html)

Dec 2020

20 min 34 sec

We discuss with Professor of Economics Abhinay Muthoo, University of Warwick, a fundamental model of game theory: the Prisoners Dilemma. We not only explore its theoretical background but even more how it can demonstrate and explain rather complex behaviours in business and everyday life.

Dec 2020

34 min 17 sec

We discuss with TWS Partners’ Managing Partner Sebastian Moritz how applying knowledge from game theory has helped to eliminate a severe disease. An important part in this discussion will be to understand that setting the focus on prices of drugs alone may not always result in a functioning market, let a alone the desired outcome.

Nov 2020

19 min 50 sec

With our guest Prof. Achim Wambach, PhD, president of the ZEW, we discuss what this year's Economics Nobel Prize laureates Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson have contributed to game theory and auction theory. Here, we look at both: rather theoretical concepts but also their direct applications.

Oct 2020

19 min 1 sec

We discuss with the CEO and co-founder of TWS Partners, Marcus Schreiber, how game theory as a pure academic subject can also be applied in the business context. We also talk about the journey of how he founded TWS Partners as a consultancy specialised in game theory.

Sep 2020

24 min 52 sec