Loyalty in fish markets

In Tsukiji Wonderland, a documentary about the great Tokyo fish market, it is suggested that sellers choose their buyers based on their merit. “I love prawns so I only want to sell them to people I like”, says one seller in the trailer (at 1:12).

Beautiful, but is it true? Perhaps. Or, maybe, owing to complex economic interaction, it just turns out to be good business. I remembered this documentary today, as I finished reading the chapter on fish markets in the book Complex Economics, by Alan Kirman. It turns out that under certain market structures, such as those found in Tsukiji (it seems to me), loyalty is also profitable. Not only this holds empirically elsewhere (as in Marseille), but there are good computational reasons – explained in the book – for the non-obvious phenomenon.

This is a great example of applied computational reasoning. Of course, not everyone cares about fish markets, but surely the same kind of method can be used to understand  many organizational processes, thereby raising the possibility of making them more efficient. Or should I say less broken? In any case, as far as I can tell, no one does that in industry. So, contrary to what many think, the future of organizations has not arrived yet. The good news is we can invent it.

Leave a Reply