A few years back, I participated in a great Team building exercise that I still think about today very often.

I would now like to organize the same exercise for my team, and thus would like to find the exact rules to make sure I do it properly. However, I do not know the name of the exercise and google has been of no help (because of the way too extensive source material for better known exercise).

Here is how I remember it, maybe someone could recognize it and help me find some sources online:

For big groups (20+) + two facilitators

The team is divided in two groups, each group is in a different room, and has their own facilitator. The teams cannot see each other and cannot communicate. In each room, the facilitator explains the rules :

You are two different countries who cannot communicate with each other except through me. You both have an atomic bomb pointed at each other, and both have the freedom to shoot. There will be X rounds, in each round, you will have X amount of time to discuss and tell me (the facilitator) if you want to push the button or not. I will then communicate alone with the other facilitator and come back with the other team's decision.

In each round, points are earned as follow:

  • None of the team push the button = Both teams earn +5 points
  • Both teams push the button = Both teams loose -10 points
  • If team A pushes the button but team B doesn't = team A wins +10 points

In the end, if both teams have a negative total amount of point, they both loose.

If I remember correctly, the fact that the aim of the game is stated as such (if both teams have a negative...) is supposed to be a trick, for the end of the game, when both teams will have try to have the most points and probably both end up in negative, to remind them that 'having the most points" was not the goal. It made some kind of point about the point how one reads a goal when competition is involved and how group members influence each other. It is also very good to start a discussion about logic, anticipating the unknown, transparent communication, working with assumptions, etc. (as well as being very fun).

Does this ring a bell to anybody ? I am specially not sure of the hard rules (points, number of rounds, time per round, etc.)

Thanks and sorry for the long post.

  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is not a workplace related problem/question. It's like asking what is the manufacturer of my keyboard, simply because I use it at work.
    – espindolaa
    Sep 16 '19 at 15:28
  • You could look up "game theory" more generally. Interesting that when your group did this they tried to maximise their own "winning" rather than considering the broader picture, other's perspective and motivations, etc. I would have thought more people would have a more innate 'strategic' sense! Sep 17 '19 at 19:10

This game is called Prisoners Dilemma, based upon the concept of the same name.


  • 2
    Yes! Thank you so much. I knew it was based on a famous principle and twitched by our manager at the time to be more war-themed because he loved Dr StrangeLove. Thanks again, found everything on google - and thanks for the URL, perfect page. Sep 16 '19 at 13:18

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .