Tuesday, May 31, 2005

IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME: Online negotiation games provide entertainment and challenge

Players can “get to yes” in online negotiation gamesIn the process of researching an upcoming post about blogging in the ADR world, I stumbled across The Harvard $1 Challenge Blog, an ad hoc blog and negotiation game premised on an intriguing idea: players are invited to accept a challenge to create as much value as possible from a single dollar bill. (The concept of “creating value” in negotiation means to expand the pie and increase the value of an agreement for all parties involved, as opposed to “claiming value”, which is all about getting the biggest slice of the pie for yourself as possible and “winning” the negotiation, regardless of what that may mean for the other participants.)

The general rules of the Harvard $1 Challenge are:

1. Create as much value as possible from a one dollar bill
2. Interpret the concept of value as broadly as possible
3. Account for the interests of others as well as for our own group’s
4. Consider how we might benefit from differences in valuation and divergent predictions

One example of value creation offered on the blog is getting the dollar bill changed into four quarters, feeding four expired meters with each of those quarters, and then leaving a note requesting that the recipients of your generosity pay the favor forward by feeding four more meters.

The challenge is extended to students of a Harvard Negotiation Workshop as well as to the general public. Unfortunately at this point the blog seems to have run out of steam, since there is only a single topic posted and no ensuing discussion thread, which is too bad, because this seems an idea which could lead to rich discussion. Hopefully there will be more to come on this blog.

This only whetted my appetite for more negotiation games. Curious to find out whether there might be other such games available online, I dug around on the Internet and discovered links to four prototype games developed by Zapdramatic, a Canadian-based interactive media company which designs online negotiation games and simulations. The prototypes include three negotiation games and one mediation game, which include opportunities for players to test their skills to get a raise from The Boss From Hell or help two angry neighbors end their feud before things get ugly.

For a complete list of Zapdramatic’s other games, you can visit their web site. (You can try out episodes of their other online negotiation games for free, or pay a $5.00 fee for a month’s worth of full access to the site.)