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Subarctic Survival (in Boston)

September 22nd, 2008 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

I just came back from a learning team meeting where we debriefed on a group activity that took place Friday.  Now that I look around the web, there seems to be a lot of variants on this same activity, but we did one called the “Subarctic Survival Situation“:

Subarctic Survival Booklet

Subarctic Survival Booklet

The excercise essentially works as follows:

  1. A video sets the scene: you and your team crash landed in the arctic.
  2. You individually rank 15 items in accordance to their importance.
  3. Then you meet as a group and attempt to reach a consensus on the ranking…
  4. …while being watched by an observer and tape-recorded.
  5. You then find out how your individual and group scores compare against the “correct” answers.

The idea being that you’re given a chance to analyze how you interact with a team.  I have mixed feelings on the excercise.  My individual score was the best of the group (off by ~10%), while our consensus team score was not-as-good (off by ~30%).  So, does this mean I should’ve been more assertive in the team meeting?  Or maybe just more convincing?

It’s hard to say.  It would be fascinating to conduct this group experiment with different incentives.  For our situation (and most), I’m not sure the pressure is strong enough.  On the other hand, if they had offered a $1,000 reward to the winning team, I bet that would’ve completely changed the dynamic of our group — and been a more realistic simulation of a work environment.  As it was, the incentives were skewed.  It was a great way of showing how you might interact in a group when… deciding on dinner location, possibly… but not very indicative of the way you might act when choosing an acquisition target.

Still, this was interesting, and I’m glad to see that HBS offers “experiential” type learnings every so often.  Something like this sticks with you far longer than an abstract lecture on group dynamics.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Karthik


    This is one of the best blogs about HBS. I am glad to have bumped into yours. My deep appreciations for having earned your admission to HBS. 🙂

    I am applying for the class of 2011. I Hope to make it to Boston next fall. 🙂



  • admin

    thanks, Karthik! good luck with your app.

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