Winner or loser?

As well as running an evening CyberDojo at the NDC 2010 conference in Oslo last week I also attended an excellent morning workshop run by Matthias Skarin. He used several experiential exercises one of which was a simple rally-car driving simulation. In the game everyone stands in a circle and has to choose "Hi" or "Lo". Then you find out what the person to your left and to your right chose and look up your score. For example, Left=Hi, Me=Lo, Right=Lo, check the sheet, Hi-Lo-Lo = 2 points. Then repeat 15 times, each time adding your points to your running total, and rearranging the circle lowest-score to highest-score, slowest driver to fastest driver.

The points table was cleverly structured so there was a tension between working for yourself or for the whole circle. After a few rounds I had an idea. I decided to play the game by trying to maximise the score of the person to my left even if it meant coming last. I have to admit part of the reason for this was I was only half awake, (I hadn't had enough coffee), and figured I wasn't going to do very well anyway. Each round I simply explained what I was doing to the person to my left and asked whether they would like me to pick a Hi or a Lo.. The effect was dramatic - I rapidly became the slowest car as people overtook me. And because we were standing in a circle, in no time at all, the person to my left was the fastest car. Then there was another dramatic effect - since the person to my left was gaining a significant advantage from me each round they rapidly accelerated ahead of the second placed car. At the end of the game two cars had noticeable scores; mine because it was so low, and Paul's (the person to my left) because it was so high.

Afterwards someone pointed out that I had been the driver of the slowest car. I explained how I had played the game and suggested that maybe I had been the navigator in the fastest car!?