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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How social controls/academic rules reduce freeloading at IIM-A

At the outset, I define free riding to happen when someone does not use his abilities to the fullest extent for the group. A person's abilities may not allow him to 'pull his weight' in the group but that is not free riding.

A major disadvantage of working in groups(in an academic setting) is that where everyone gets the same grade, there is ample incentive to free ride. The free riders know that the responsible members among them will get the assignment done, in all circumstances. So a purely economic logic would dictate that the free rider maximize his personal utility(use free time in parties, card games etc) by reducing time spent on group work. This, when sustained for a long time would lower the output of the group.

But thankfully, this process is arrested in some ways;-
  1. Reformation of study groups:- Study group reformation(for 1st yr students) is allowed by the PGP Office(overseeing academic activities). To balance individual choice(a person should be allowed to pick his study group), management skill building(people should learn to work in groups they did not entirely choose) and equality(all study groups should have roughly equal capabilities), around 2/3rd of the study group is voluntarily formed and the balance 1/3rd is formed by random selections and interest surveys. The voluntary formation process generally excludes free riders and gives them a wake up call
  2. Reputation/Networking:- Whether it be standing for elections, interviewing for entry into a club or teaming up for a contest(all on campus) or seeking a connection from an alumnus(off campus), the reputation one builds on campus does stay for a long time. As a senior eloquently puts it on her blog(link here), free riders will take a long time to erase that initial bad impression. This social control is perhaps the stronger of the two(unless people are so thick skinned as to ignore insults, scorn and appeals to their better sense)
So why isn't free riding fully eradicated here? Sometimes, groups remain intact due to the emotional bond/friendship which overrule rational decisions. Also, some people turn free riders later(after reformation) due to depression, give-up mentality etc.

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