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Game Changer - the game theory podcast

Business & Economics Podcasts

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.




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.






Can Cash Cloud the Mind? Exploring the Influence of Incentives on Personal Choices | with Sandro Ambühl

Monetary incentives are a part of our daily lives, from work bonuses to fines for minor traffic violations. But can they lead us to make bad decisions? In this episode, our guest Sandro Ambühl presents an empirical study in which he investigates this very question. He explains what constitutes a bad decision in the economic/rational sense and how people's decisions are related to regret, information, and the size of the monetary incentive. Sandro Ambühl is Assistant Professor of Behavioural Economics of Financial Markets at the University of Zurich, where his research is focused on Behavioural Experimental Economics, Behavioural and Experimental Finance, Repugnant Transactions and Rational Inattention. You can find his paper “Can Incentives Cause Harm? Tests of Undue Inducement” here.


Clicking Against the Clock: How time pressure and regret influence our behaviour in online shopping | with Timm Opitz

In this episode, we explore how time pressure and regret can influence our search behavior as customers in the world of online shopping. Our guest, Timm Opitz, sheds light on his research paper titled "Time Pressure and Regret in Sequential Search", which investigates the impact of urgency and regret on optimal search behavior by conducting experiments in a controlled environment. He also shares some strategies we can use to overcome the influence of urgency and regret in our shopping behaviour. Timm Opitz is economist currently pursuing his PhD at the Max-Planck-Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich, Germany, where he is part of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research group. As such, his research interests are Entrepreneurship, Behavioral Market Design and Developmental Psychology. You can find his paper on "Time Pressure and Regret in Sequential Search" here.


AI and Regulation: Finding the Sweet Spot for Consumer Welfare | with Keith Chan

Join us in this episode as we explore the rise of AI technology and the complex decisions that policy makers are facing regarding the protection of privacy and fostering of innovation. Our guest Keith sheds light on how moderately loosening regulations in a competitive market environment may maximize consumer welfare. However, we also discuss how some countries, such as Russia, strongly deviate from this strategy, indicating that consumer welfare may not be their top priority. Keith Chan is Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where his research is centered on Microeconomics, Environmental Economics and Sustainable and Green Finance. You can find his paper on the tradeoff between regulations and innovation for AI here.


From Connections to Careers: On the Impact of Personal Referrals in the Labour Market | with Felix Mylius

In this episode Felix Mylius shares his insights on personal referrals in labour markets. He explains to us why personal referrals are still relevant for job search today despite the predominant use of online platforms to find jobs and how all this is linked to Game Theory and matching markets. Together we dive into firms' incentives, implications for search platforms and discuss whether this is transferable to other matching markets, like the dating market. Felix Mylius is currently finishing his PhD in economics at the University of Cambridge. His research is mainly focused on applications of microeconomics within the field of matching markets.


The doctor is in! Misguided incentives and regulation in healthcare markets | with Simon Reif

In this episode we are diving into the topic of healthcare markets together with Simon Reif. He explains to us what makes the healthcare market so special, why its characteristics call for regulation and how systems differ substantially across countries. Focusing on Europe we discuss how, counterintuitively, setting a "global budget" for hospitals leads to poorer service and how generating the right incentives could change the healthcare market for the better in future. Simon Reif is a health economist heading the research group “Health Markets and Health Policy” at the Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim, Germany. His research is focused on market structures, reimbursement and digitalization of health care provision.


Truth-telling by design: how Market Design can alleviate inequality | with Piotr Dworczak

In this episode Piotr Dworczak explains to us how Market Design can contribute to alleviating inequality by increasing accuracy of policies targeting inequality. He does so using an example from the housing market which shows that more often than not it is very difficult to ensure that subsidies actually reach people in need since they cannot be easily identified. This is where Market Design comes into play: by generating targeted incentives which have a selection effect, it makes e.g. affordable housing policies more effective. Piotr Dworczak is associate Professor at the Department of Economics at Northwestern University and Researcher at the Group for Research in Applied Economics (GRAPE) in Warsaw, Poland. He does research on Mechanism and Information Design, specifically with more applied interests in inequality-aware Market Design.


Why sometimes we are better off not knowing – on information design and Bayesian persuasion | with Emir Kamenica

In this episode Emir Kamenica introduces us to the research field of information design. He recaps the history of modelling information in economics from the 70s to today, and explains term “Bayesian Persuasion” (and if and how it differs from the term “information design”). He then illustrates how having full information e.g. as a navigation app user can lead to inefficient outcomes and what information design means in the context of mystery novels, gambling and entertainment in general. Emir Kamenica is Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and, together with his co-researchers, has founded the field of Bayesian persuasion. Beyond that his research is centered on different topics in microeconomics. During the interview, Emir mentions one of his papers on how information design can reduce congestion. You can find this paper here.


Putting your money where your mouth is – on commitment in auctions | with Vitali Gretschko

In this episode, Vitali Gretschko sheds some light on a fundamental game theoretic concept: Commitment. He explains why commitment is a crucial prerequisite of auctions and introduces different ways of generating commitment. We also explore how commitment is linked to the concept of information and discuss auction concepts which make it less likely for the auctioneer to break their commitment afterwards. Vitali Gretschko is Professor of Market Design at the University of Mannheim and head of the ZEW Research Department "Market Design". In the interview, Vitali mentions papers explaining how to use cryptography to create commitment in mechanism designs. You can find them here and here.


Auctions, bidding strategies and uncertainty | with Bernhard Kasberger

From selling on eBay over Google advertisements to buying a house, auctions are all around us! But what makes it so difficult to find the right bidding strategy? In this episode Bernhard Kasberger sheds some light on what a so called first price auction is, why it is challenging to "bid correctly" and what the recipe for the optimal bid strategy under maximum uncertainty is in theory. He explains how his findings apply to the real life and which additional related topics he is currently working on. Bernhard Kasberger currently works as a Postdoc at the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE) at the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. His research is focused on auctions, market design, industrial organization and game theory. The research Bernhard presents in the interview is detailed in this paper.


A dangerous game: On Geoengineering and moral hazard | with Gernot Wagner

In this episode Gernot Wagner explains the concept of Geoengineering and its potential role in preventing climate change. He analyses the implications of Geoengineering from a game theoretic perspective and shows the connection to the game theoretic concept of “moral hazard”. He also gives some advice on how we can all profit from the (potential) advantages of Geoengineering (and other new technologies), without falling into the “moral hazard trap”. Gernot Wagner is climate economist at Columbia Business School where his research is focused on climate risks and climate policy. He is also the author of many books about climate change and what to do against it, with “Geoengineering: the Gamble” being his latest one.


To share or not to share. Credit, incentives and competition among researchers | with Remco Heesen

To share or not to share. Credit, incentives and competition among researchers | with Remco Heesen In this episode Remco Heesen shares his insights on the trade-offs researchers face when deciding whether to share intermediate results with fellow researchers. He explains how incentive structures in research lead to a suboptimal outcome and gives historic examples of prominent researchers who have been subject to these incentives. Remco then discusses possible measures that can be taken to encourage researchers to share intermediate results with their colleagues. Remco Heesen currently works as a researcher and senior lecturer at the University of Western Australia and the University of Groningen. Starting September this year he will take on a position as Assistant Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method. His research is focused on the philosophy of science, and social and formal epistemology. In the interview, Remco mentions his PhD supervisor Kevin Zollman, who also was a guest on our show. You can listen to his episode on evolutionary game theory here.


How to bid in an auction – with Paul Papayoanou

In this episode, we discuss with Paul Papayoanou his real life experience as a consultant applying Game Theory. Paul has worked on over 150 engagements using his expertise. In our discussion we especially focus on Paul’s experience in consulting bidders participating in auctions. Paul shares how he prepares his clients when they enter an auction and what makes a good bidding strategy. Paul Papayoanou is a consultant for all things Game Theory and author of the book "Game Theory for Business: A Primer in Strategic Gaming". He has worked as a professor at the University of California San Diego and at Harvard University, and currently is a Senior Advisor with Decision Frameworks, a boutique consultancy based in Houston, Texas that serves clients worldwide.


Celebrating 50 episodes of Game Changer | with Miriam, Simon and Florian

To celebrate 50 episodes of Game Changer, we take a look behind the scenes. The hosts Simon and Florian take the role of interviewees and answer Miriam’s questions on their motivation and goals for the game changer podcast and how the episodes are prepared and recorded. We would like to thank all our listeners for sticking with us for 50 episodes and we are looking forward to the next 50 episodes and interesting insights into applications of Game Theory in business and everyday life!


‘Would you rather’ - what drives our decisions– with Shachar Kariv

In this episode, we focus on ‘decision theory’ and discuss with Shachar its connection to Game Theory. Shachar shares the three key trade-offs relevant for taking a decision. We also discuss the ‘dictator game’ and how Shachar applied a modified version of the dictator game to study preferences of decision makers in real life. Shachar Kariv is Benjamin N. Ward Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. His current research interests are focused on economic/decision theory and on social networks, social learning, personal and social preferences.


Are football players Game Theorists? – scoring the perfect penalty | with Ben Lyttleton

In this episode we talk to Ben Lyttleton about a particular topic in football: how to score the perfect penalty. Ben is an expert on penalties and has gathered a lot of insights on the ‘perfect penalty’ in his book Twelve Yards: The Art & Psychology of the Perfect Penalty. Ben shares that penalties are much more complex than initial Game Theory models would suggest. For a full understanding of penalties gathering the right data and understanding the psychology of the penalties are both critical elements. During our discussion Ben shares many anecdotes from his work with football clubs and teams. Ben Lyttleton is a British football journalist and author of news articles and books. Our discussion is based on Ben’s book “Twelve Yards: The Art & Psychology of the Perfect Penalty”.


The 2022 Nobel Prize – why the economy needs banks | with Karolin Kirschenmann

In this episode, Karolin Kirschenmann explains why this year’s Nobel Prize in economics was given to Ben Bernanke, Douglas Diamond and Philip Dybvig. We discuss their research on the role of banks in the economy and the models developed by the researchers. We deep-dive into the modelling of bank-runs and their relationship to Game Theory. Karolin Kirschenmann is deputy head of ZEW's Research Unit “Pensions and Sustainable Financial Markets”. Her research focuses on the areas of banking and (global) financial intermediation.


Why market designers love NFTs | with Scott Kominers

In this episode, Scott Kominers introduces us to the exciting world of NFTs. We learn about their fascinating properties and their potential for creating new markets or reshaping existing ones. Scott also gives a few practical examples of how NFTs can be used, both in the digital and the real world. Scott also gave us the idea of creating our very own NFT: We used the Proof of Attendance Protocol (POAP) to create a “digital badge or collectible” using blockchain technology. POAPs are typically used to digitally prove attendance of an event. In our case, we use them as a fun way to celebrate this Game Changer episode with our listeners. You can claim your very own POAP by contacting us via email at Scott Duke Kominers is Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School, a Faculty Affiliate of the Harvard Department of Economics, and a Research Partner at a16z crypto. He also advises a number of companies on marketplace and incentive design, especially in the world of crypto and web3. He is co-authoring a book about NFTs.


Do we need a price for damaging the climate? – with Achim Wambach

In this episode, we discuss with Achim how addressing climate change and economics, especially market design, are linked. Achim shares which economic incentives we should utilize to ensure we can meet our climate goal. Our discussion is based on Achim’s very recent new book publication “Klima muss sich lohnen” ( Achim Wambach is the president of the ZEW, the Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research, and professor of economics at the University of Mannheim. He was a member of the German Monopolies Commission from 2014 to June 2022 and served as its chairman from 2016 to September 2020. Achim also is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.


Talking about a revolution – how Game Theory can predict the stability of political systems | with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

In this episode, Bruce shows us how Game Theory can be successfully applied in the field of political science. In particular, we discuss the explanatory and predictive power of the Selectorate Theory, which analyses political systems regarding their properties as democracy or autocracy. Bruce explains the underlying game theoretic model of this theory, how he obtains the data, and which conclusions he can draw from the results, including predictions on coups or revolutions. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is the Julius Silver professor at New York University and emeritus senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He is a political scientist, specializing in policy forecasting, political economy, and international security policy. He is also the author of many books, like “The predictioneer’s game” and “The dictator’s handbook”, among others. You can read more on the Selectorate Theory here, here and here, and develop your own predictions using the online version of the Predictioneer’s Game software.


Dinner’s ready! On Common Knowledge and the value of information | with Christoph Kuzmics

In this episode Christoph Kuzmics explains the game theoretic concept of Common Knowledge, using fun anecdotes from his personal life. We also learn that Common Knowledge is much more than just passing information to all parties, and that in some situations, it is desirable not to establish full information. Christoph Kuzmics is professor of microeconomics at the university of Graz, Austria. His research focusses on the development of the theory of strategic interaction and its application to the social sciences. He also runs the Game Theory blog, where he shares fun anecdotes and examples of game theory from everyday life. This podcast episode is based on his blog articles “The dinner gong” and “non-secret-voting”.