Practice taking risks

By on / Daily, Negotiation Skills

The Clearinghouse at PON offers hundreds of role simulations, from two-party, single-issue negotiations to complex multi-party exercises. Win as Much as You Can is a four-person, simplified, iterated prisoner’s dilemma exercise.

SCENARIO: This exercise is analytically similar to both the Oil Pricing and Pepulator Pricing exercises. Participants’ sole objective is to maximize their own points with complete indifference to the other participants. Participants are to play either an X or a Y and, depending on other participants’ choices, a payoff is awarded each round. Only before rounds five, eight and ten are players allowed to confer with each other.

MECHANICS: This exercise is played in ten quick rounds. Players are divided into groups of four. Explanation of the exercise should take no more than 5 minutes. The ten rounds should take about 15 minutes, while debriefing can take from 30 to 45 minutes.

TEACHING MATERIALS:

  • For all parties:
    • General instructions
  • Teacher’s Package:
    • All of the above
    • Teaching note

PROCESS THEMES: assumptions; commitment; communication; competition v. cooperation; compliance; credibility; decision analysis; game theory; group process; joint gains; meaning of “success”; message analysis; risk aversion; risk perception; trust.

MAJOR LESSONS:

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. 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.

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 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 team has to take a risk.

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

To purchase this role simulation, click here.

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