One of the games Carolyn Nilson included in her book, The Complete Games Trainers Play Volume II (McGraw-Hill, 1998), is rooted in a memorable experience she had about 15 years ago. Having applied for a position with Connecticut's National Institute of Education, Nilson was summarily subjected to what she calls "a horrendous interview process like nothing you could ever imagine." The 20 applicants were sent to a resort—"Survivor" style—for a weekend of trials and tribulations. At the end of their stay, and after a series of competitions that pitted the applicants' skills and wits against each other, only four would be chosen for the plum positions.
At one point, the applicants were instructed to play the game called "Pass The Number Row." Sitting in a circle, one person starts the game by stating a number between 1 and 10. The person to his or her right continues by stating another number that becomes the second item in a patterned series. It may be a series of odd numbers like 1, 3, 5, 9, 11. The rub is, any player can change the pattern, either by multiplying, squaring, adding four, subtracting 12, etc. It's incumbent upon the next person in line to catch on to the change in the pattern.
After several rounds of increasingly difficult pattern changes, Nilson decided to throw a curveball toward the end of the game. "I wanted to see if anybody would go along with me," she says. "I took a huge risk to do this because everything else was going well in the game, and I was the horrible person changing it."
Fortunately for Nilson, the person sitting next to her picked up her change, which is just what the potential employer was looking for. "They were looking for somebody who was willing to take a risk at the appropriate moment," explains Nilson. "It was pretty tough, but I got that job, and that's the game." —J.B.