You need a team effort to win, and mathematicians are proving that the team effort is your best chance of winning.
Quadzilla puts a little black hat / white hat terminology on a unique problem reported by Sara Robinson that mathematicians and coders are trying to figure out. It’s called the hat problem and was created by Dr. Todd Ebert of California State University.
And it works like this …
The Hat Problem
You put three players in a room and you put a red or a blue hat on each person’s head. The color of each hat is determined by a coin toss, and the outcome of one coin toss has no effect on the others. Each person can see the other players’ hats but not their own.
Other than a initial strategy session before the game begins, no communication of any sort is allowed. Once everyone has had a chance to look at the other hats, the players must simultaneously guess the color of their own hats or pass. And the group shares a million dollar prize if at least one player guesses correctly and no one guesses incorrectly.
Can They Win?
Mathematically, they have a 75% chance of winning if every player passes unless they see two hat of the same color and guess the opposite color for their own. If you play the same game with 15 people, a strategy can be devised where the team wins 15 out of 16 times. Which is almost 94% of the time. Not perfect, but pretty good odds.
Lets Segueway This Into Sports
From ’76 to ’79, the Montreal Canadiens won the the Stanley Cup four times in a row. From ’80 to ’83, the New York Islanders won it all four times and then the Edmonton Oilers had their famous run where they won it five out of the next seven years. Since then there’s the odd team that has won the cup two years in a row, but for the most part it’s been in the hands of a lot of different teams.
The reasons for who wins and who doesn’t are always highly debated, but lets look at a couple facts:
- Salaries and endorsement deals have risen significantly since that golden era. Both these things reward individuals, not teams.
- Great players don’t stay with a team as long as they used to … see fact one.
So, today in sports, what you see is that you can build an amazing team, but next year you might lose some of the members of that team. Or someone else might come along and build a better team. Or both. Mathematically and statistically, a strong team always has a better chance of winning.
And the biggest hurdle every team faces, is sticking together.