How are your teams collaborating – really?

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December 16, 2013 by b2bwest


Figure out your Real Team Dynamics – Using the “Prisoners Dilemma”




To achieve more co-operative behaviour between team members who are pursuing shared goals.


Why is it useful?


It sounds simple. A group of project people are given a clear objective by the CEO or project director. They must elect their own team leader and produce an optimum result within a tight timeframe.


In the event of not being able to select a single leader, they have the option of splitting into two teams and electing two leaders, but the same workload and timeline applies. The CEO wants the optimum result and winning team and team leader(s) will be recognised.


The prisoner’s dilemma demonstrates how individuals are often more concerned with winning for themselves rather than achieving an optimum result. This activity:




  • Explores the issues of risk and trust between team members and the effects of trust betrayal.
  • Demonstrates the effects of competition between teams.
  • Demonstrates the potential advantages of a collaborative approach to solving problems.
  • Demonstrates the necessity of establishing the purpose of any activity.




Prisoner’s Dilemma is a ‘game’ which demonstrates whether people display win-win (co-operative) or win-lose orientation (selfish competitive) in a situation which offers the possibility of both. The game is in PowerPoint format that can be downloaded from Nick Martin from the link below this article.




Using this method, team members contrast their actual behaviour with their expressed intentions, i.e. do people who say they support the group goals and objectives actually carry it out when the real work begins? If they do, the underlying group dynamic will be that the group objective is the priority and that personal agendas are secondary. It also reveals that individuals working in a team will be equally concerned that the other party’s needs are placed before their personal gain.



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