Select two players. Preferably people whom you know and preferably a man and a woman. Ask the selected players to come to the front of the room and ask one person to stand on your right and the other person to stand on your left.
Give $20 to each player. Give the amount in one-dollar bills. Do it with some fanfare to attract the attention of the other participants.
Give an envelope to each player. Tell them that they can put as much of the $20 in the envelope as they want—and give the envelope to the other player.
Explain the details. Use your own words to clarify the procedure:
You can place as much of the $20 in the envelope as you want. You then give the envelope to the other player. Once you have given the envelope to the other player, you cannot get your money back.
The other player will give you her envelope with the amount of money she wants you to receive. You get to keep this money.
Remember, you may place any part of the $20 in the envelope. You may give the entire $20 to the other player. You may give no money at all by delivering an empty envelope. You may place $5 in the envelope and put the remaining $15 in your pocket.
Explain the doubling principle. Use your own words to convey this message:
Please listen carefully to this important piece of information: After you have exchanged the envelopes, I will open each of them and double the money inside. This bonus money belongs to the person who received the envelope. For example, if you gave $20 to the other player, I will give her another $20, making the total $40. If you gave an empty envelope to the other person, I will match it by giving her nothing more. If you gave her $5, I will give her another $5. The extra money you get depends on the action of the other player. Keep this doubling principle in mind when you decide how much money you want to place inside the envelope.
Ask the two players to talk to other participants. Say something along these lines: Let's tap into the wisdom of the crowd. I will wait for 2 minutes while you have conversations with your friends in the audience. Get as many suggestions as you want. These suggestions may contradict each other and you have to make the final decision about how much money to put inside the envelope.
Pause while the two players mingle with the other participants.
Exchange the envelopes. As the end of 2 minutes, bring the two players back to the front of the room. Ask them turn their backs to each other and secretly place whatever amount of money they want to give to the other person. Ask them to hide the rest of the $20 in their pocket or purse. When ready, ask the two players to exchange the envelopes.
Double the money. Go to one of the players and take the envelope she received. Build up a little bit of suspense and open the envelope. Count the money inside (if any). Immediately count off an equal amount and give the packet of cash to the player. Repeat the same procedure with the other player.
Explain this activity is a variation of the classic Prisoner's Dilemma game that explores competition and collaboration between two players. Conduct a debriefing discussion among all participants to explore collaboration and competition. Ask questions similar to these:
- What is your reaction to the process and outcome of this activity?
- What interesting things did you observe during the activity?
- What did you learn from this activity?
- How do the events in this activity reflect the events in your workplace?
Ask the two players these questions. Let other participants react to their responses:
- What different types of suggestions did you get from the audience members?
- Which suggestion did you choose to implement? Why did you choose it?
Ask “What If” questions. This activity becomes exciting when the two players behave in different ways. In most situations, however, this jolt may produce bland results because both players simply place the entire $20 in the envelope. To expand the range of learning, pose and discuss the following types of “what-if” questions:
What if the two players had to use their own money (up to $20) instead of using the money you gave them?
What if each player was given $500 instead of $20?
What if no money was given to the players but they were told to place their own money—up to $500—in the envelopes?
What if the activity involved two teams (whose members make a joint decision) instead of two individuals?
What if the activity involved two people who have never met before? What if the two players had known each other for a long time?
How would gender differences affect this activity? What if both players were women? What if they were both men? What if the activity involved one man and one woman?
How would generational differences affect the players' decisions and actions? What if they were college students? What if they were high school students?
What if the two players came from different countries and different cultures?
What if there were no audience members observing this event?
What if this activity was broadcast on network TV?
What if the amounts in the envelopes were not revealed to the audience members and the final settlements were made only after everyone left the session?
What if this activity was conducted on the Internet and the true identities of the players were never revealed?
What if each player was assigned one or two advisors?
What if both players exchanged empty envelopes? What if they both exchanged $20? What if one player gave an empty envelope and other gave $20?
What if the two players had a day to think about how much money they wanted to put in the envelope? What if the players had to make their decisions in 30 seconds?
What if the players were accountants and they conducted a cost-benefit analysis before deciding how much money to place in the envelope?