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Posts tagged ‘Conferences’

The Pirates’ Game (part II) – Solution

The solution to the challenge published a few days ago can be found here. Wikipedia provides more details on the allocation.

The intersting learning from this game is that to come up with the ideal solution, the proposing pirate needs to think in terms of the other
pirates (want would they need to accept this deal) instead of focusing on his perspective and as such, the optimal allocation is:

A: 98 coins
B: 0 coins
C: 1 coin
D: 0 coins
E: 1 coin[1]
  • A: 98 coins
  • B: 0 coins
  • C: 1 coin
  • D: 0 coins
  • E: 1 coin

The Prisoner’s Dilemma: Applying Game Theory to Agile Contracting

Behavior of the Homo Economicus

Behavior of the Homo Economicus

At Isabelle’s request, I agreed to attend Simon Bennett’s session on The Prisoner’s Dilemma: Applying Game Theory to Agile Contracting. Before getting into the content of the presentation, I must say that after recently reading slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, Simon’s visual presentation was outstanding. It has been a while since I attended a presentation with such quality visual material – too bad I can’t link to it.

Through a series of games, Simon demonstrated how traditional software development contracts are not appropriate for Agile projects and since I don’t have his legal (Corporate Law) or Economics (Behavioural Economics) background, I will quickly jump to the games that were played during the session.

The Prisoners Dilemma

If you are not already familiar with this game, here are the basic rules. More information about this game can be found on Wikipedia.

Requirements: Two people are required to play this game.

Scenario: The two of you have been arrested with regards to a crime. You are both kept in isolation for interrogation and have no way of communicating with each other.

How to win: In order to be released from prison, both of you need to say that your accomplice is innocent.

Rules: If one of you says the other person is guilty, the innocent person walks away while the guilty person stays in prison. If both of you say you are guilty, you both stay in prison.


While the optimal scenario would be that both of you say you are innocent, chances are you (and most probably your accomplice) will say the other person is guilty in an attempt to be released from prison. Unfortunately, this behavior leads to the worst case scenario which has both of you staying in prison.

This game is interesting and demonstrates why contractual agreement has the potential to results in an optimal deal but leads most of the time to the worst possible scenario.

The Pirates’ Game

If you are not already familiar with this game, here are the basic rules.

Requirements: Five people are required to play this game.

Scenario: As a group of pirates, you have just found a chess than contains 100 gold pieces.

How to win: The objective of each of the pirate is to maximize the number of coins they will receive and the decision to split the coin is democratic – each pirate gets to vote and the majority (or tie) proposition will be accepted.

Rules: Each pirate has a seniority level – pirate A is the most senior pirate while pirate E – the fifth pirate – is the most junior pirate. In order of seniority, each pirate proposes to the group how he wishes to split the coins and then asks everyone (including himself) to vote on the proposal.

When a proposal receives 50% or more of the vote, it is then accepted BUT if the proposal receives less than 50% of the votes, the proposing pirates is thrown overboard to the sharks.


While pirate A would wish to keep the 100 coins, there is no way for him to make this proposal without being thrown to the sharks. His challenge then becomes how to please other pirates in order to keep as many coins as possible, without risking his life.

Go ahead and try this game to see what happens. The solution to the game can be found in this post that will go online on September 8th.

The Bidding Game

I unfortunately do not have the documentation (and permission) to share the details of the bidding game but the conclusion are once again very obvious. People trying to maximize their compensation or reward always leads to less than optimal and sometimes to the worst possible outcome for both parties.

As is stated in the Agile Manifesto – “Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation” would almost always give better results than aiming to maximize individual rewards. Unfortunately, our irrational (and sometimes greedy) nature doesn’t allow the maximum outcome to be reached.

The 6 Types of Attendees at a Conference Exhibition Hall

After spending 4 days helping out manning our booth at the Agile2009 conference in Chicago, I came to the conclusion that there are 6 types of visitors to the exhibition hall where various companies have a booth showcasing their products and services. Below is my summary of the various types. It is obvioulsy impossible to tell in which category an individual falls in unless you spend time talking them. The list below should help you qualify your potential leads.

  • The Genuinly Interested: Having a booth at such events represents an important expense for many organizations and most people expect (at least hope) to cover their expenses by getting people to purchase their products or services. The Genuinly Interested attendee is exactly the type of individual companies target when they choose to rent a booth. The Genuinely Interested attendee demonstrates a positive reaction to your presentation, typically followed by one or more questions about the product. If an individual spends more than 10 minutes in your booth talking to you about your product, then requests further information and even offers to give you their business card – see our thoughts in opt-in marketing – you have a good potential. Needless to say, although this never guarantees a quick or even a direct sale, it is a great opportunity to educate your visitors who may potentially become a spokesperson for your product which would eventually lead to sales generation.
  • The Skeptical: The initial behavior of the Skeptical is similar to that of the Genuinly Interested individual with the exception that the Skeptical is a little more difficult to handle as he seems more interested in pointing out the weaknesses of your product than he is in purchasing it. Although you may not enjoy the experience and you may wish the Skeptical to go away, that would be a mistake as the Skeptical is actually providing you useful market information. Let’s face it, people don’t have time to waste so when someone stops by your booth and actually spends time prodiving feedback, you should take advantage. As with the Genuinly Interested who may not purchase right there, the Skeptical will most probably talk about your product and the way you handle his feedback will likely have an impact down the line on your sales.
  • The Toy Collector: These individual come in various shapes and forms. The more benign Toy Collectors simply walk to your booth and ask an attendee for the goodies – “I would like a t-shirt please”, “Can I take a mug?” – and then walk directly to the next booth with the same request. The trickier ones are those who stay to listen to your elevator pitch, node, might ask a question or two and then wait for or simply ask for the goods. It is only at the last minute you realize your visitor was simply interested in getting promotional toys. Once again, this behavior might be disappointing but you are also missing an important opportunity here. The main purpose for promotional items is to give visibility to you product or service and anyone who walks aways with an item that displays your company name, your company logo, and your web site should be welcomed at your booth.
  • The Pesty Competitor: After you have been in your booth for a while, you start to see competitors come by and ask questions about your product or service and although you may wish to keep your competitive advantage hidden from your competitors, information exchange is a normal part of doing business – shame on you if you aren’t doing it. The Pesty Competitor is someone who takes so much of your time and attention that you are no longer able to talk to Genuinly Interested attendees. You could think, once again that this is a bad thing. Quite the contrary. You certainly don’t want competitors to take all of your time, but otherwise this is an amazing opportunities to discuss cooperation and potential partnership – assuming you are not competing for the exact same market segment.
  • The Friend Seeker: This individual comes to your booth with no interest in your product. The Friend Seeker starts with simple questions and then moves on to more personal questions – “Where do you live?”, “Do you have any kids?”, “What are you doing after duty?”. Based on my experience, these individuals are rare and explaining to them you need to be working typically takes care of the visitor without any negative consequence unless, of course, you are also looking for friends to share dinner with.
  • The Zombies: Finally, the Zombies are individuals who may walk through the exhibit hall at a fast pace while avoiding eye contact or simply do not even come near the exhibit hall. Needless to say, unless they already own your product,  they are unlikely to become customers in the short term.

Meeting so many people is always interesting and pleasant and making sure we deliver the most compelling messages to capture our visitors’ interest while remaining transparent is critical to stay true to our values and commitment toward the customer experience.

As a final note, exchanging stories and experience with so many people during the conference has proven to be interesting, informative, and thought-provoking. Once in a while, we need to remind ourselves that such events are great opportunities to bring back great ideas then it’s up to our organization to decide how we will deal with these ideas.

Urban Turtle Booth at Agile 2009

Urban Turtle Booth at Agile 2009

Why aren’t you collecting email addresses?

Many of the exhibitors at the Agile2009 conference in Chicago are using the traditional scanner that lets them scan the attendees’ badge (access card). One of the nearby exhibitor (who meant well) approached us asking “Why aren’t you collecting email addresses?“. He couldn’t understand why we weren’t using such a device to obtain the email addresses of hundreds of attendees.

If you are not familiar with the badge scanning concept, here’s how it works. In exchange for letting an exhibitor scan your badge, they will typically offer you to participate in a draw to win an iPod, a Wii, or any other potentially appealing gizmo’s. So for the cost of the reward (usually less than $300) they obtain a large number of valid email addresses that they can later use to send relevant (?) documentation, promotional offering, information about upcoming events, etc.

While this strategy may sound appealing, the fact that we don’t use such scanning devices could appear counter-intuitive. The reason we refuse to scan badges is that we do not believe in building a “spam-list” – let’s call a spade, a spade! We do not believe that the names of people who simply agreed to participate in a draw to win something should be used for other purposes. These people weren’t specifically asked to opt-in an e-marketing campaign and since we truly live our values to treat our customers (even the potential ones) with respect, we do not collect email addresses unless the individual explicitly agreed to be contacted by our organization in the future and we do this with a simple question. “Would you agree to give us your business card so we can send you information about our products in the near future?“.

In our opinion, people who knowingly agreed to provide personal information are more likely to pay attention to the incoming emails they would receive from our organization.

Call it counter-intuitive if you wish, we call this “the customer experience“.

4e Salon Business Intelligence in Montreal

Yesterday, Dominic and I attended the 4th Business Intelligence Conference held in Montreal (4e Salon Business Intelligence in Montreal) and despite the situation with the economy we were pleased to see that the number of attendees was fairly similar to previous years. Talking with people who have been attending this yearly conference since the beginning, the organization of the conference was better this year and the quality of the speakers has apparently improved.

While visiting the various booths in the exhibit hall and talking to other attendees, we were very surprised to see how few people actually thought of using Agile principles in the Business Intelligence / Data Warehouse arena. Interestingly enough, those who knew a little about agility were convinced that Agile and Scrum could not be applied to BI, yet they couldn’t explain why.

As I was reconciling this perspective with an interesting statistic presented by Jean-François Ouellet from HEC Montreal (only 12% of the companies in Quebec are satisfied with their Business Intelligence application) I realized that an Agile Business Intelligence practice will be an uphill battle but I believe the industry needs a better approach in order to increase the success rate of BI projects. I am confident we have something good to offer.