Jamie Jackson, the Vice President for Programming at a large software company, is meeting with Allison Shore, one of the programming managers. Allison’s team has been working on a “virtual casino” computer game. Jamie is concerned about negative internal reviews of the Casino prototype, and about the way in which Allison has been managing her programmers. Allison, on the other hand, is insulted by some recent unfriendly treatment from her colleagues and the negative reaction to Casino. She is also convinced that she is paid less than her male counterparts. Though the main objective of this meeting is to determine the fate of the Casino program, the various side issues should make the meeting interesting.

This case is particularly well-suited for use in connection with the book “Difficult Conversations,” also available through the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center.



The parties’ instructions require at least 15 minutes to read and analyze. Negotiation can take 30 minutes; review can last anywhere from 30-60 minutes.



  • Those parties willing to consider the perceptions and interests of the other party as relevant can usually engage effectively in mutually beneficial joint problem solving.
  • The skills involved in separating the people from the problem are especially apropos in this negotiation as emotions between formerly friendly people may run high.
  • If the participants choose to try to resolve workplace environment difficulties, they must face the difficulties of ordering the behavior of those around them.



In this updated version of the original simulation, Casino Two explores the complex role that gender plays in workplace dynamics. Jamie and Allison are both employees at Digital Development, a male-dominated Silicon Valley start-up that makes profitable phone apps. Jamie is the vice president for Programming and recently promoted Allison, moving her from the kids and family app team to the gaming team. Jamie feels that Allison has not been performing well in her new position. The two are meeting to discuss her performance and then negotiate next steps. The Casino Two simulation, as compared to the original Casino, features updated technological references and a new teaching note.



BATNA; Disclosure; Issues of difference; Fairness; Interests, dovetailing; Interests, internal ordering; Objective criteria; Partisan perceptions; Power imbalance

Mouse Exercise


Mouse Company, the world's largest entertainment conglomerate, and the French government have signed an agreement for Mouse to create a "EuroMouse" development a short distance from Paris. Major debate and great tension have developed between Mouse and the four municipalities within whose jurisdiction the development will occur. To improve relations and to work out some form of agreement, representatives from the national government, Mouse, and the mayors of the four municipalities have agreed to meet.



  • The primary goal of this exercise is to give participants an expanded understanding of the variety of elements that arise in mult-party, multi-issue negotiations, particularly when held in an international or multicultural setting.
  • Participants should recognize the increased need for preparation and sensitivity in terms of understanding the viewpoint/ values of counterparts from other cultures.
  • The exercise is structured so that each party will have certain expectations of the other parties which may or may not be correct. These expectations will include general impressions of what it is like to negotiate with the French or with the Americans, as well as more specific pre-conceptions about the other parties.

Oil Pricing Exercise


Alba and Batia are two unfriendly oil producing nations that sell a significant amount of their production to nearby Capita. Anti-dumping agreements and Capita's alternate supply options limit Alba and Batia to prices per barrel of $10, $20, and $30. Each country's monthly profit can vary from $2 to $18 million per month, depending on the two country's relative prices and consequent Pricing Board of Alba or Batia. They are instructed that maximizing their own country's profits is their sole objective.



This is a group exercise, with several people on each country's Oil Pricing Board. It is possible to have as few as three or as many as ten members of each Board. The exercise is run in 8 or more rounds, corresponding to months, and takes 2 1/4 to 3 1/2 hours to run and review.



For all parties:

  • General Instructions and Score Sheets
  • Monthly Price Report Message Forms


Teacher's Package

  • All of the above
  • Teaching Note (English version only; non-English versions do not include teaching note)



Assumptions; Commitment; Communication; Competition v. Cooperation; Compliance; Constituents; Credibility; Decision analysis; Education, as a means; Ethics; Game theory; Group process; Group-think; Joint gains; Managing uncertainty; Meaning of "success"; Message analysis; Misrepresentation; Recurring negotiations; Risk aversion; Risk perception; Trust



This is a so-called "social trap" exercise, in which long-term maximization requires unenforced mutual trust where significant short-term gains are possible by breaking that trust. In most rounds, communication must be implicit, and is hence highly ambiguous and subject to misinterpretation, usually by the projection of negative and adversarial intentions that don't actually exist. At certain points, the parties are given the opportunity to communicate explicitly, and may choose to reach pricing agreements or not (and subsequently, to honor those agreements or not).

The exercise highlights the frequency with which we make imprecise and inadequately supported assumptions, suggesting the importance of making and keeping assumptions explicit and testing them periodically.

The danger of self-fulfilling assumptions is also illustrated. Parties can turn cautious competitors into the cutthroat adversaries they fear by proceeding with pre-emptive ruthlessness.

The difference between reacting to the other side's moves (or one's perception of what those moves mean or will be), and acting purposefully to influence the other side to (re)act constructively, is easily illustrated by comparing the experience of different teams. The monetary variation tends to be dramatic between cooperative and competitive games, and analysis usually suggests that to establish the former, some teams have to take a risk. Players face the tension between seeking high short-term gains and low short-term risk inherent in a competitive strategy, and lower but more stable long-term gains inherent in a cooperative strategy.

The exercise presents rich opportunities to observe, analyze, and critique intra-group dynamics and decision making.

Negotiation Pedagogy Video Series, Part III
This unscripted video, available separately, shows PON faculty member Sheila Heen running and debriefing the "Oil Pricing" exercise, interspersed with excerpts from a post-workshop interview with the instructor.
Order the video here.