“Seemingly-Beneficial” Interventions

Harish Guda, Milind Dawande, Ganesh Janakiraman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Organizations routinely introduce hitherto-unexplored interventions to improve their supply chains. Consider a principal (e.g., a firm) that implements a “seemingly helpful” intervention: For any fixed actions of the principal and the agents (e.g., consumers), the principal's payoff is higher in the presence of the intervention than in its absence. While one would expect such well-intentioned interventions to benefit the principal, several papers within the operations management (OM) literature show that the principal's equilibrium payoff can be hurt, even ignoring the intervention's implementation cost. While this conclusion is often based on analyzing a single-shot, simultaneous-move game, repeated interactions can also serve as an appropriate environment in many cases. A fundamental question arises: Does this conclusion hold even under repeated interactions? We study this question using the framework of infinitely repeated games and the notion of a precommitment equilibrium from the literature on reputation in repeated games. We identify two key characteristics that determine whether a seemingly beneficial intervention helps, or can possibly hurt the firm: (i) nature of the intervention (ceteris paribus, does it induce agents to react in a manner favorable to the principal?), and (ii) extent of interaction (single shot at one extreme and infinitely repeated at the other). Interestingly, we demonstrate the following two possibilities using settings analyzed in the recent OM literature: seemingly beneficial interventions can (a) hurt the firm in a single-shot analysis but benefit under repeated interactions, and (b) continue to hurt the firm under repeated interactions. We also obtain easy-to-interpret conditions under which the benefit of such interventions is guaranteed under repeated interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3337-3353
Number of pages17
JournalProduction and Operations Management
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • precommitment equilibrium
  • repeated games
  • seemingly beneficial interventions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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