Since I keep writing about this Personal Mastery workshop simulation (like here, and here) where the workshop leaders turn the rules of the game over to the players, I thought it might be a good idea to explain it.
It was called StarPower. People would trade chips with each other for awhile, having a good time. Every so often we’d divide them up into three groups, based on the value of the chips in their cup, and we’d give them badges so they’d know who they were trading with. Then, suddenly, we’d announce that the rules of the game were now in their hands, and that we were no longer available for consultation (it was at this point that the only flowers my husband ever gave me, a dozen roses for my 50th birthday, arrived).
After they tested us a few times to be sure we really weren’t going to respond, this is what almost always (based on a hundred or so of these workshops) happened: the “Top” table would try to figure out how to not only hold on to their power, but gain more power (taxing the rest of the group was a common tactic); the “Bottom” table would become more and more resentful, and cohesive, against the Tops (sometimes even throwing things at them); and the “Middles” would look back and forth, not saying much to anyone; tuning out.
This would happen no matter who was in the workshop, or who ended up where. The CEO could be at the bottom table, and he or she might say “We need a union!” Or the union guys could be at the top, and they’d be scooping up power.
The longer we let the game go on, the angrier everyone got (except the Middles, who by then were usually reading newspapers) – at each other, and especially at us.
How dare we make them play a game that had no rules? What were they doing in this workshop anyway?