A Compromise that Sent 150 Strangers to the Beach!

JetBlue recently engaged in a social experiment of sorts aboard one of its aircraft: the result was an interesting lesson in both social dynamics and the value of working together for the best results.

As related in an UpWorthy post last month, The 150 passengers on Flight 603, bound for Phoenix from Boston, were asked if they would like a free trip to anywhere JetBlue flies. Well, that’s a no-brainer you might say, but there was a big catch – the entire plane had to agree unanimously on the destination.

The planeload of strangers had 97 options to consider, or to put it mathematically a 9.354306 x 10-297chance of everyone instinctively agreeing. In other words, infinitesimal.

The passengers were given a short amount of time to talk among themselves and figure it out. First, would it be a domestic or international destination? After some discussion the choice was narrowed down to an international destination. With the clock ticking down—and despite the obvious incentive that everyone only wins if they all agree to compromise—the passengers found themselves in a stalemate between Costa Rica or Turks and Caicos.

With only minutes to spare — and still no agreement — a few individuals rose to their feet to address their fellow passengers. One said, “The quality of life is amazing, the dollar is strong, you get a lot for your money. So switch over to Costa Rica!”

As the plane approached its point of descent – the deadline for a decision — the passengers cast their ballots. Here’s the YouTube video on what happened:

It was unanimous for Costa Rica.

Ok, so maybe it’s not a perfect example of game theory in action. But it’s telling nonetheless: as John Nash demonstrated, the best result comes from everyone in a group doing what’s best for themselves and the group.

You probably know how hard it can be for a panel of business people—who presumably know each other to some degree—to agree unanimously on a course of action.

So the lesson from the 150 passengers on Flight 603 confirms my belief that

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