Richard John Stapleton, PhD, CTA would spin the spinner of his Classroom De-GAMER in his classes to randomly select a student at the beginning of each class session to lead a discussion of the case assigned for the day, a case taken from a planned or operating business prepared by case writers at Georgia Southern University, Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Alabama. He taught management systems, researched, published, and conducted a small business institute at Georgia Southern University thirty-five years, 1970-2005.

All case analyses entail considering three existential questions:


A man sitting at a table in front of a computer.

Whomever the spinner of the “Classroom De-Gamer” selected when it wound down after spinning by an imaginary line of fire extending from the point of the spinner to a class member sitting in the circle classroom layout would become the “Leader of the Moment” required to answer the three existential questions shown above laying out the case to all class members.

The overall purpose of the Game-free I’m OK-You’re OK Adult-Adult democratic teaching and learning process is to produce comprehension of the relevant facts and focal points of the case among class members in order to create rational policies and strategies for successfully managing the states of affairs of the case. All humans have Adult ego states that can be cathected, even children at young ages.

Cathecting an ego state is turning on energy, cognition and emotion in the human psyche for transacting with fellow humans. There are three basic types of ego states that can be cathected: Parent, Adult, and Child.

A soft drink bottle as in playing the childhood game Spin the Bottle works about as well as a Classroom De-Gamer to randomly select the Leader of the Moment to answer the Three Existential Questions. No one can interrupt anyone once someone has the floor. Communicating overtly or covertly with individuals in the room for the whole session is not allowed. Anyone can respond to any speaker once the speaker has finished, disagreeing or agreeing with what was said, and may bring up another problem if appropriate in the context of the discussion.

How long should a discussion last? Long enough for group members to comprehend the system under consideration, a system including interrelations between relevant focal point entities of the system-relevant facts and issues comprising the problem, alternatives and recommendations.

According to R. Buckminster Fuller in his Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969) comprehension of a system entails separating the relevant points from the irrelevant points in the system under consideration. It takes time to do this. According to Fuller, Comprehension = (N2-N) / 2, where N = Number of total focal point entities in the system, counting the number of focal point facts or issues and all the inter-relationships between the focal point entities.

Comprehension required and produced expands exponentially as the size of the system increases. One has to wonder if most Earthian systems today are ever fully comprehended by Earthian humans. Rather than most Earthian human systems being managed today based on comprehension in general they are managed based on dogmas, doctrines, rules, algorithms, scripts, and the like, many of which are irrelevant. As matters now stand about the best Earthian humans can hope for is that somehow the smartest, wisest, most knowledgeable, most ethical, and most empathetic Earthian humans somehow manage to become top leaders in major systems.

When most members of the discussion group seem to generally comprehend the system it is time to stop. Most paper cases in Stapleton’s classes of about 30 students took about one hour. Real cases and systems in your organizations and groups may take more or less time, perhaps several hourly sessions for one system. Stick with the discussion until most members have comprehended the relevant problems, alternatives, and recommendations of the system under consideration as best they can. In most cases this will produce a solution considered the most rational of alternatives for most members of the group, about the best that can be hoped for at present. Perhaps at some future date supercomputers will be able to comprehend large systems well enough to develop answers that are provably true.

Since all members of the group will not have been caused to develop the same pictures in their heads about what should be done in the case before the discussion starts, a high percentage of the discussants will learn in the discussion as they comprehend what is really going on that their initial conceptions were wrong, causing both unlearning and learning. Sometimes unlearning is more important than learning for creating better Earthian human states of affairs. Unlearning, in fact, might be what is now needed most in order for Earthian humans to develop peaceful and sustainable systems around Spaceship Earth.

Most discussants will not leave the discussions with the same mental pictures they started out with caused by the greater comprehension caused by the back and forth dialectical arguing caused by the Game-free I’m OK-You’re OK Adult-Adult democratic discussion process, proving both unlearning and learning happened.

Stapleton’s De-Gaming process insured that everyone would be relatively GAME-free transacting in class discussions. They all agreed to a learning contract at the outset of the course that they would read assigned cases and would be graded on the quantity and quality of ideas sold in the class market. Anyone caught obviously unprepared by the spinning De-GAMER would lose a whole letter grade from the course grade. No one could feel or think that s/he was being persecuted or rescued if selected to start the class discussion of the day by the Classroom De-GAMER. The psychological GAME Drama Triangle roles of Persecutor, Rescuer, and Victim were largely banished from the course learning process. The actual grades received-A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s, and F’s-were relative grades, not absolute grades, Excellent, Good, Average, Poor, and Failing relative to the class. There were no numbers ostensibly proving what percentage of the course knowledge was retained in memory for so-called objective exams.

Stapleton sat in the same circle in the same kind of chair as students, and the De-GAMING rules also applied to him. If the Classroom De-GAMER landed on him he had to lay out the case just like any other student and discuss what was the problem, what were the alternatives, and what he recommended.

Grades were based eighty percent on class participation in dialectical discussions about what to do about problems and opportunities found in cases; the rest of the final grade was based on two case write-ups. One write-up was about what the student observed, researched, analyzed, and wrote about an existing business in the local environment or a business plan the student created. The other write-up was an analysis of a case researched and written by professors about a business assigned as the final exam. Cases used in his courses contained processes, problems, opportunities, and data occurring in all functional areas of business such as entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, operations management, control, management information systems, and business policy and strategy.

Published refereed journal articles and books explaining how his democratic GAME-free Adult-Adult I’m OK-You’re OK case method system works, by banishing Persecutors, Rescuers, and Victims playing psychological GAMES from the teaching and learning process, first documented in an article titled the Classroom De-GAMER he published in 1978 in the Transactional Analysis Journal. He has published seven books and over one hundred articles in various media containing cases, research data, and essays on teaching and learning and management systems, policies, and practices.

Learned and trained using transactional analysis with Martin Groder, MD; Graham Barnes, PhD; Vann Joines, PhD; and many others at the Southeast Institute at Chapel Hill, North Carolina (1975-1978).

Learned how the Harvard case method works teaching with Bernard Bienvenu, DBA and Rexford Hauser, DBA, Harvard Business School doctorates, at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in 1969-70.

Has a BS in economics (1962), an MBA in organizational behavior (1966), and a PhD in management science (1969) from Texas Tech University, and an organizational and educational certification in transactional analysis (CTA) from the International Transactional Analysis Association (1978).

Taught his own case method track at the undergraduate level in the management department in the business school at Georgia Southern University offering four or five different elective case method courses each academic year during 1970-2005 in which he led, coordinated, and graded about twenty-five or so students each year who took all or most of those case method courses in their junior and senior years, of about two hundred students who signed up for all his courses each year. He used a democratic circle or amphitheater classroom layout in all his classes. He also taught most semesters two sections of a capstone integrative business policy course he added to the business school curriculum in 1970 that was required for all undergraduate business majors that could be elected by any student in any major.  He was the only professor in the business school to use the case method in any course.

Class members agreed to a course learning contract that stipulated they would read the facts of the case before class and would lose a whole letter grade from the course final grade if the De-GAMER randomly caught them obviously not having read the case before class, if they had not slipped a note under his office door before class telling him they had not read the case, which they could do twice during the course without penalty.

About ten percent of his students made A’s and about five percent made D’s. Most made C’s, which is about right, since C = Average. There were few F’s in his courses. The main criterion for course grades was the quantity and quality of ideas sold by students in case method discussions. He used peer ratings to give students feedback showing what their fellow students thought about the quantity and quality of their ideas sold in class, having made it clear the final decision about final grades was his. He did not believe in Lake Wobegon grading.

No student was ever forced to take one of his courses to graduate, and the most hardened GAME-players in the school did not sign up for his courses after he issued his Edict of 1972 in which he clearly spelled out in his syllabi the penalty for getting caught unprepared. His Classroom De-Gamer was roundly discussed by students in bull sessions across campus every year and was labeled various things, such as The Wheel of Fate and The Death Wheel. Most students near the end of his career simply called it The Spinner.

Appreciated Georgia Southern honoring his academic freedom by allowing him control of his teaching methods, classroom layouts, grading procedures, and course books, cases, and materials, some of which he researched, wrote, and published. He was promoted to full professor with tenure at age thirty-six and was the senior professor of the university when he retired in 2005.

Solicited anonymous longitudinal research data using questionnaires in 1992 showing his case method students during 1972-1982 reported higher yearly incomes in 1992 than students electing the same courses in 1972-1982 taught by professors using the authoritarian lecture method and the militaristic row and column classroom layout, who graded students based on memorizing or calculating “right answers” for tests, indicating learners learning in Adult-Adult I’m OK-You’re OK GAME-free democratic learning processes graded subjectively became more successful in the real world of business than learners lectured to and graded using Parent-Child transactions, row and column classroom layouts, and so-called objective tests.  

Only former students who had worked in the real world of business ten or more years after graduating from the Georgia Southern business school were included in the study. The data are shown, analyzed, and discussed in full in “Evidence the Case Method Works” published in his book Business Voyages: Mental Maps, Scripts, Schemata, and Tools for Discovering and Co-Constructing Your Own Business Worlds, 2008, pg. 475. The data were also used in several refereed articles.

See also Stapleton, R.J. (1989-1990). “Academic entrepreneurship: Using the case method to simulate competitive business markets.” Organizational Behavior Teaching Review. Vol. XIV, No. IV, pp. 88-104; Stapleton, R.J., Murkison, G., and Stapleton, D.C. (1993). “Feedback regarding a game-free case method process used to educate general management and entrepreneurship students.” Proceedings of the 1993 Annual Meeting of the Southeast CHAPTER of the Institute for Management Science. Myrtle Beach, SC, October, 1993; and Stapleton, R. J. and Stapleton, D.C. (1998), Teaching Business Using the Case Method and Transactional Analysis: A Constructivist Approach”Transactional Analysis Journal, 28, no. 2: 157€”167

Ancient Greeks used a similar random-selection democratic process in the Third Century BCE to select leaders of political discussions, learning, and policy formulation in their halls of government. Such a process is called sortition.

For more information on related classroom management ethical issues in universities see Stapleton, R.J. and Murkison, G. (2001), “Optimizing the fairness of student evaluations: A study of correlations between instructor excellence, study production, learning production, and expected grades,” in the Journal of Management Education, 25(3), 269-292.

Had one of the lowest student grade point averages among professors in the business school and was one of the lowest-ranked professors as an instructor on computerized campus-wide student evaluations that weighted only instructor excellence scores up to 2000; but he was one of the highest-ranked professors in a computerized student evaluation system he designed that generated data also showing and weighting study production, learning production, and expected grades scores for each professor, published in “Optimizing the Fairness of Student Evaluations.

To read the Optimizing Fairness article in full, go to . After this research was published, Georgia Southern in 2001 added study production, learning production, and expected grades questions to the student evaluation form used campus-wide.

“Optimizing the Fairness of Student Evaluations” has by now (December 30, 2023) been cited as a reference in 89 refereed journal articles concerned about the ethics and fairness of student evaluations in several academic disciplines, including 21 new citations since April 2021, proving the article is still being read and used.

As the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein propositioned in his book Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, “The case is all there is.

If so, everything else said about Earthian human states of affairs is a rendition of what was or might be.

His latest book is As the Rooster Crows Earthian OKness Increases.

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