Abstract for: Rats, Black Swans, and Personal Careers - an Investigation of “Go with the flow” and “Deviate from common behaviour” Strategies

The purpose of the paper is to provide a formal representation of the so-called “rat race”, in which the major question is whether rats should go with the flow or deviate from common behaviour. With the help of a didactic system dynamics model, various concepts from business, investment, and personal career strategies can be explained and their quantitative requirements can be determined. In an eclectic fashion, the paper draws on many scientific concepts, of which some have become widely known lately because of popular books in their fields. One finding of the simulation analyses is that—while behaviour following rational choice theory might be useful if decisions can be made without dependencies on other agents, leading to a norm-behaviour for an agent—deviating from the norm is beneficial when many agents in a system are coupled by a common resource. Furthermore, with many coupled agents, total system resources are more fully exploited when not all agents are rational. The value of the paper lies in its attempt to link different content areas with the help of a dynamic model.