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Copyright © 1997, Sivasailam Thiagarajan. All rights reserved.

The check may be in the mail, but in this game, the cash is in the envelope.

You have to take a risk and trust your team members. In EASY MONEY, the team makes a profit if its members trust each other.


To explore trust among team members and its impact on team profits.

Learning Topics

Skills: Planning, predicting, decision making with incomplete information.
Concepts: Trust, ambiguity, decision making.
Contrasts: Private vs public decisions, advising vs deciding, personal vs team benefits, quantitative vs intuitive decision making.

Play Time

Minimum: 12 minutes
Maximum: 15 minutes
Best: 15 minutes

Debriefing Time

Minimum: 10 minutes
Maximum: 30 minutes
Best: 20 minutes.


Minimum: 2
Maximum: No limit
Best: 12-25.


11 blank envelopes
11 $10 bills

Flow of the Game

Distribute the 11 blank envelopes randomly among the players. Explain that the players who received the envelopes investors who will directly participate in the game. The other players are advisors, observers, and spectators.

Specify communication constraints. The investors cannot talk to each other. The advisors and spectators may talk to each other and to the investors, but they should not transmit information from one investor to another.

Explain the investment procedure. Each investor should place some money inside his or her envelope. The investment amount may vary from zero to thousands of dollars.

Explain the consequences. You (the facilitator) will count the money inside the envelopes and keep it. The investment money will not be returned. However, you will give each investor $10, if the total amount of investment in the 11 envelopes adds up to at least $79.79. You are not interested in individual investments, so even those who gave you empty envelopes will get $10. However, if the total investment is less than $79.79, none of the investors get any money. You will not even return their investment amounts.

Pause while the players reflect on the rules. Answer any questions by repeating the information from the previous paragraph.

Give final instructions. Explain that the investors will have 3 minutes to make their decision, secretly place the investment amount inside the envelope, seal it, and write their initials on the face of the envelope. Remind the investors that they can hold discussions with the advisors and spectators, but they should not communicate the other investors.

Collect the envelopes. Do this after 3 minutes. Make sure that the investors' initials are written on each envelope.

Conduct an audit. Give the envelope to one of the players (the auditor) and ask him or her to count the money inside each envelope, record the amount on the face of the envelope, put the money back in the envelope, and compute the total.

Ask for predictions. While the auditor is counting and computing, ask the other players to predict the total amount. Ask the players to justify their predictions.

Announce the results. Ask the auditor to report the total amount of investment in the envelopes.

Ask the auditor to read the investment amounts in each envelope, without identifying the investor.


We use a seven-phase model for debriefing. Here are some suggestions for each phase. You don't have to follow all the instructions and ask all the questions. Be flexible.

Phase 1: How do you feel?

Begin with a broad question. Invite the investors and the others to share their feelings about the play of EASY MONEY and the results.

Explore specific feelings. Ask the players whether (and when) they experienced these feelings:

Discuss feelings toward different types of people. Identify specific roles in EASY MONEY. Ask the members of each group how they feel about the members of the other groups -- and about themselves.

Phase 2: What happened?

Begin with a broad question. Ask the players to recall important events from the play of EASY MONEY.

Ask questions about specific events. Remind the players of these events, and ask them to report significant things that happened during each event:

Ask questions about specific types of events. Use questions similar to these:

Phase 3: What did you learn?

Present some generalizations. Begin with a generalization from the list below and ask the players to discuss data from the play of the game that support it or reject it. Encourage an open discussion. Invite the players to offer their own generalizations. Restart the discussion by presenting another generalization from this list if there are long periods of silence.

Phase 4: How does this relate to the workplace?

Begin with a broad question. Use either of these questions:

Discuss specific events. Use the list of events from the previous phases. Ask the players to relate each event to their workplace experiences.

Discuss objects used in the game. Ask the players to find the workplace analogues to these:

Discuss specific roles. Ask the players to identify individuals or groups in the workplace whose roles and behaviors are similar to these:

Discuss specific principles. Use the generalizations from the previous phase. Ask the players to discuss how each principle relates to their workplace experiences.

Phase 5: What if ...?

Present some scenarios. Begin with a what-if scenario from the list below and ask the players to speculate how it would have affected the play of EASY MONEY. Encourage an open discussion. Invite the players to offer their own scenarios. Restart the discussion by presenting another scenario from this list if there are long periods of silence.

Phase 6: What next?

Ask for improved game strategies. Invite the players to discuss how they would change their strategy if they were to play EASY MONEY again.

Encourage workplace application. Ask the players how they would behave differently in their workplace as a result of the insights gained from EASY MONEY.

Discuss specific generalizations. Recall these from the previous phases and ask the players how each of the generalizations apply to their workplace situations.

Phase 7: Final words

If the investors did not meet the minimum requirement, return the envelopes (with the money) to the appropriate investors. Warn them that they may not be this lucky in real life.


Too few players? If you have fewer than 11 players, give an envelope to each. You will have to act as the auditor yourself. Here are the suggested minimum investment requirements:

Number of PlayersMinimum Requirement

Too many players? If there are more than 25 players, divide them into 11 teams and distribute an envelope to each team. Play the game as before, except that teams should make investment decisions instead of individuals. Let the team members decide how to divide the investments and profits. Members of a team may not talk to the members of the other teams.

Not enough time? Conduct the game in 3 to 5 minutes. Limit your debriefing to a few critical questions. Be sure, however, to reserve at least 10 minutes for debriefing.

Plenty of time? After explaining the instructions, invite the players to talk to each other. Encourage them to persuade, negotiate, and make deals. Also, offer time for any player to make a public announcement. However, insist that the investment should be placed secretly in the envelopes.

Players don't have cash? Offer to take checks. Ask the players to place a check inside the envelope.

Want everyone to participate? Give an envelope to each player. Compute the total payoff (which equals 10 times the number of players), subtract the maximum amount you are willing to give away, and deduct a little more change to create an odd number. Announce this as the minimum requirement. Example: If you have 217 players, and can afford to give away $50, the minimum requirement is $2,119.73. If you are attempting to conduct this game with such a large group of players, be sure to initially select several monitors and auditors to help you.

Don't have envelopes? Ask the investors to wrap their money in a piece of paper and write their name on the paper.

Feel uncomfortable about telling the players that they will lose the money? Eventually, you are going to return the money (or give them a bonus) anyhow. If you are still uncomfortable, announce that if the minimum requirement is not met, the players will get their money back instead of getting $10. However, the players are unlikely to take this variation seriously.