Research Output
Investigating cognitive adaptability in new workplace cultures with the Imitation Game
  This paper discusses a new methodology in investigating cognitive adaptability, defined as “the ability to effectively and appropriately evolve or adapt decision policies given feedback from the environmental context in which cognitive processing is embedded” (Haynie et al, 2012). Cognitive adaptability is an example of a ‘metaskill’ – a practical application of metacognitive abilities. Metaskills are foundational in workers successfully negotiating evolving and precarious labour markets. Workers entering new workplace environments are exposed to multiple inputs at once; these can be either explicit or tacit. Tacit knowledge sharing in workplaces has been shown to require trust, as well as a practical competence. It may not be possible to make totally explicit this type of knowledge. However, practical exercises could 1) unveil existing levels of cognitive adaptability to deal with its acquisition, and 2) examine expectations placed upon new workers. The Imitation Game (Collins and Evans, 2014) is a methodological formalisation of a parlour game which seeks to investigate expressions and expectations of tacit knowledge by asking an expert judge to determine which of two participants is an ‘outsider’. This paper evaluates the deployment of this method with Scottish Apprentices to determine workers’ application of cognitive adaptability when entering new workplace cultures.

Haynie, J. M., Shepherd, D. A., & Patzelt, H. (2012). Cognitive adaptability and an entrepreneurial task: The role of metacognitive ability and feedback. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 36(2), 237-265.

Collins, H., & Evans, R. (2014). Quantifying the tacit: The imitation game and social fluency. Sociology, 48(1), 3-19

  • Type:

    Conference Paper (unpublished)

  • Date:

    25 August 2021

  • Publication Status:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Stephen, K., Hall, H., Brazier, D., & Smith, C. (2021, August). Investigating cognitive adaptability in new workplace cultures with the Imitation Game. Paper presented at BSA Work, Employment and Society Conference 2021, Online


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