Trapped in the prisoner’s dilemma? Just take a dip in the lake!

Written on January 19, 2009 by uwe.spangler@ie.edu in General

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The Lake Simulator is used in online and face to face masters by 1500 students in some 40 classes around the world.

“It is much more powerful for students to find themselves trapped inside a collective action problem or prisoners´ dilemma, than to just study the theory behind it.” David Bach.

“The simulation is a great way to help students get into the mindset of thinking about public goods and how we manage them collectively. Each group represents a firm that is pursuing its own objectives, learning how its actions impact on the public good (the lake) and their profits. Students explore the relationship between individual and collective behaviour.” David Bruce Allen.

This is what strategy professors David Bach and David Allen think about the Lake simulation, also called the Uncommon Value simulation. The simulation is presented in a very simple format where students have to manage a common natural resource, “the lake”. Class sections are separated into 8 groups, each taking charge of an industrial plant, and are exposed to the struggle of achieving good business performance whilst maintaining the water quality of the lake, which affects directly the industrial process. It is not only professors that highly value the experience, but also students: “These types of games are very useful because they give us a real view of how things are going to be: although everyone in class knew which the right choice was, no one followed it.”

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