There is a growing belief that computer-based tools can and should be used to improve quality and productivity. But studies show there is a wide gap between theory and practice. Few investments in computerisation resulted in a measured improvement in profit. Companies have difficulties in integrating technology, organization and people especially when initiating and implementing new computer-based tools for engineering design work. Few studies have simulated social behaviour and used the engineers’ language to understand complex social phenomenon. A question raised in this paper is if a competitive context is more productive than a co-operative context when learning new computer-based tools? The paper discusses theoretical more closely what competition and co-operation does to us and presents the results from modelling and simulation of two individuals/groups that learn new tools in cooperative — compared to competitive — engineering context.

When mathematical tools are used, people implicitly assume a great deal of accuracy from the tool. A lot of the criticism when mathematical modelling is used in new areas stem from the fact that the area is to be considered to complex to be analysed with the accuracy expected from mathematical tools. This criticism does not, however, take into account that verbal mental model are nevertheless used which are no more accurate than a mathematical model is. In this paper it is illustrated how learning new tools in co-operative compared to competitive environment is better for productivity. The results show the importance of an external stabilising loop to handle a potentially competitive context and transform it into a co-operative one. Management must handle the looses in a competitive context. Deming supports our results and he wrote that one of the manager’s roles is to understand the benefits of co-operation and the losses from competition between people and between groups. Our simulations show this clearly. Co-operative and competitive systems are defined in mathematical terms. Two kinds of competitive systems are identified; under-critical and over-critical, where the over-critical competitive system is destructive in the sense that it leads to collapse of some of the participants. The presented example shows that simulation can be used to enhance and illuminate the reasoning of organisation and behaviour of groups. Furthermore, it ensures that the reasoning and description is stringent and sharpened because of the fact that it must be translated into mathematical terms. On the other hand it must be emphasised that the result is no more valid than the underlying assumptions, but this is true for all analysis being mathematical or purely verbal.

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