Apprentice Game Theory

Here in the UK the latest season of The Apprentice started last night. It’s a classic game theory based TV show with contestants needing to co-operate and compete as they try to be the successful in attracting £250,000 of investment from Lord Sugar.

The first show always gives the contestants the dilemma of whether to become a team leader early on or whether it is better to keep a low profile at first and wait for the later shows.

Last night we saw Edward keen to be a team leader but his team lost and he was then ‘fired’ from the show. Did he follow the right strategy or not?

In the first week there are 16 contestants, so two will become team leaders and 14 will not. If you are a team leader and you lose then you end up in the boardroom along with two of your team mates. This means that a team leader has a 50% chance of ending up in the boardroom but only two team members out of the 14 will end up there so a 1 in 7, or about 14% chance. It’s pretty clear that at the start you are better off keeping out of the limelight and staying as an ordinary team member. Nonetheless, each year there are always contestants that want to lead in the first week, must be a case of large ego and small brain!

Expect to see the smarter players start to appear when there are about 10 contestants left.

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