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Friday, January 20, 2006

The Management Card Game

My father Christoph Lenssen’s job is that of a technical/ social consultant to help companies better structure their internal processes. He travels all over Europe for that. Sometimes, he uses interesting games to make a point. Some of the games also serve the purpose of getting people into a “we can tackle every challenge with the right attitude” mood for the rest of the day, as there will often be tough company problems ahead.

For example, in one game Christoph is handing out a deck of shuffled cards to a small group of people – usually five people, and usually management. Now four of the people get four cards each*, and their common goal is for each to get four cards of a kind (while holding exactly four cards at any time). But there is one additional rule; they must not speak with each other during the game.

The fifth person in the group who is not holding any cards is now asked to be the group leader. He may only hand “silent” notes with written orders to the other players. The players may only act upon these orders.

Usually, people will now start to keep quiet as requested, and exchange single cards with other players based on the orders from the group leader. This may take a while, and mostly nothing much gets out of it. People get frustrated, but they can’t seem to find a better solution. Maybe a single player will hold four of a kind, but not all players will, no matter how much they exchange cards. The whole thing turns into a mess.

After a while, my father will hand the group leader a sheet with an informal note written on it. The note reads:

“Players may openly reveal the cards they hold.”

After the group leader realizes no rule disallows the players to show their cards, he will hand them an order to put their cards on the table... and the seemingly complicated game will now be solved quickly, as players simply exchange the cards needed!

*At the beginning, the cards are sorted like this; the first person gets Ace - Ace - Ace - Seven, the second person gets Queen - Ace - Seven - Queen, the third gets Queen - Queen - Seven - Seven, and the fourth gets Ten - Ten - Ten - Ten.


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