Desert Survival

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The following is a list of goals the online Desert Survival Situation has been designed to address:

[pic] To demonstrate that teams are able to produce decisions superior to individual decisions. The phrase "two heads are better than one" sums up synergistic decision making—the concept that groups of people working together make better decisions than individuals working alone. The Desert Survival Situation enables participants to experience this phenomenon first hand.

[pic] To teach the interpersonal and rational skills involved in synergistic problem solving. Synergistic problem-solving is function of: 1) Working with others cooperatively; and 2) Using the knowledge and expertise of members to rationally plan a course of action. Working together to complete the Desert Survival Situation allows participants to practice and study the use of both interpersonal and rational skills.

[pic] To demonstrate the challenges and pitfalls of working in virtual teams. One of the key advantages of virtual teaming is the ability of an organization to leverage competencies and skills from geographically dispersed members. As a result of this great diversity of experience and skills, virtual teams are often considered to have the capability to solve very complex problems and open up possibilities for substantial process creativity and innovative solutions. At the same time, managing virtual teams is not without it’s challenges. In this exercise, we will explore the unique challenges in managing virtual teams versus a face-to-face team.

[pic] To facilitate examination of group dynamics. Using the written record of the teamwork discussion (a group "memory"), groups can explore the interpersonal aspects of their behavior and the rational skills they used to solve the problem. In addition, during the debrief phase of the exercise the instructor will pose questions to help diagnose team effectiveness.

[pic] To provide constructive feedback on team performance. The Desert Survival Situation provides the opportunity for immediate and specific feedback on how well teams performed. By identifying group process strengths and weaknesses in a non-threatening environment, members of intact work team can modify the way they work together to improve performance on the job. Overview

In this simulation, you are a member of a group that has survived a plane crash in the Desert. Your group is left with 15 items from the crash, and your challenge is to rank those items according to their importance to your group’s survival. At the end, each group will evaluate an objective measure of their performance. Because very few people have ever found themselves stranded in the Desert, the problem is one about which group members usually know little and therefore, each group starts out on equal footing. Differences in performance across groups will primarily reflect differences in group process rather than differences in the expertise of the members of various groups.

Admittedly, the Desert Survival Situation is a simulation and not reality. As a manager, hopefully you will not find yourself having to react to such a life-threatening situation with individuals with whom you have limited experience. However, managers have found that simulated scenarios provide them with an opportunity to:

[pic] Experiment with and practice new influence tactics without the anxiety of having “real money” on the line

[pic] Gain feedback on the impact of their influence styles on group culture and performance. This simulation is especially useful to managers, because they find it more difficult to assess their impact on group phenomena than on individual motivation and performance.

You and your fellow group members will be asked to act under three conditions analogous to those managers face every day: You must make important decisions from incomplete and often ambiguous information and must live with...
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