| HBS Working Paper Series
Performance Responses to Competition Across Skill-Levels in Rank Order Tournaments: Field Evidence and Implications for Tournament Design
Tournaments are widely used in the economy to organize production and innovation. We study individual contestant-level data from 2,796 contestants in 774 software algorithm design contests with random assignment. Precisely conforming to theory predictions, the performance response to added contestants varies non-monotonically across contestants of different abilities, most respond negatively to competition, and highest-skilled contestants respond positively. In counterfactual simulations, we interpret a number of tournament design policies (number of competitors, prize allocation and structure, divisionalization, open entry) as a means of reconciling non-monotonic incentive responses to competition, effectively manipulating the number and skills distribution of contestants facing one another.
Motivation and Incentives;