Survival Simulation Series exercises require team members to work together effectively to deal with life-threatening situations. These simulations can be used as icebreakers, to establish Constructive norms within a new work group, or to introduce members to the value of synergy or to gauge their synergistic problem-solving skills.

How Simulations work

Synergy occurs when the interactive efforts of two or more people have a greater impact than the sum of their independent efforts. Synergistic problem solving is achieved when groups maximize their use of available resources, knowledge, and task skills by exhibiting Constructive (as opposed to Defensive) interaction styles. It is further promoted when members approach problems in a rational, interpersonally supportive manner.

The outcome is an effective solution—one that is both accepted by members and of higher quality than their individual solutions.

Compare individual versus group performance

Human Synergistics International’s Simulation Series requires participants to solve a specific problem in a limited period of time—first individually, then as a team. As participants work together in this team-building activity, they will draw upon their experiences and knowledge in search of the best answers. They are challenged to successfully integrate the expertise of all group members. By comparing individual and team solutions to the recommended solution, participants can see whether, as a group, they were able to take advantage of what each member had to offer and contribute.

Strengthening synergistic problem-solving skills

As members work to complete the simulation, they begin to see their own roles in shaping the quality of the team’s performance. This understanding deepens as the simulation is scored and the impact of group processes on performance is discussed. Equipped with these insights, members can decide what they can do to enhance the team’s functioning—and get the results the team needs to succeed back at work.

Interested in using a Survival Situation?

I am a Human Synergistics Accredited Practitioner. Contact me for more information.

Source: Human Synergistics International

7 thoughts on “Team Development – Using Simulations

  1. Hi Karl,

    It’s to learn that there’s an organization the exists that specializes in creating these “SURVIVAL SCENARIOS” for the purpose of team-building and demonstrating the power of COLLABORATIVE THINKING.

    Decades back now, I was introduced to a similar SURVIVAL GAME that was developed by NASA for use in astronaut training. As I experienced it, there was a hypothetical trip to the moon with an intended landing near to an established moon base. Instead of landing as planned, the ship crashed some distance from the base. The surviving crew had to figure out how to make use of a list of items that were salvaged from the crash. Since multiple teams were competing, the team with the highest number of points accrued from making the correct choices happened to be the winner or the team that was able to make it the base.

    That said, I’d be interested in learning more about the offerings that are available from Human Synergistics International and what you happen to like working with and why.

    PS – Based on your last posting that contained material developed by “STEVE,” I’m curious to learn how you came across his work and whether or not you know him personally?

    1. Hi Jay,

      I am pleased my post served as a lead to a new resource.

      I have seen many variations of these survival exercises as well. What I particularly like about the Human Synergistics International (HSI) exercises is the way teams get to see that the sum of their individual scores is (almost always) worse than their collective score. It is an excellent way to demonstrate the power of collaboration. I will often extend this by demonstrating that if they use Interest Based Problem Solving,​ they will get closer again to the ‘experts’ score, which is used as a standard.

      The thing what really sets HSI apart for me is:
      1. Their circumplex model of human thinking and behaviour behind most of their assessments ( and
      2. Their how culture works model (

      The circumplex model is the only one I have found that works at an individual, team, organisation and customer level. It also has a developmental aspect to it in that the vertical axis goes from security to satisfaction (think Maslow), and the horizontal axis deals with the age-old leadership dilemma of task orientation or people.

      There is so much more I could say, and I have a lot more to write. Perhaps a video call at some stage?

      I have had a video discussion with Steve aka “Squire to the Giants” some time ago ( For me, his blog is right up there with Dr Kelvyn Youngman’s resource on TOC ( I suspect you will enjoy them both.

  2. Hi Karl,

    Thanks much for the info/feedback about HIS’s offerings. Yes, I agree that Steve produces some exceptionally good (i.e., detailed and insightful) content. And I recall your affinity for Kelvyn Youngman’s work in the TOC arena. Our exchanges in on LinkedIn go back a number of years; prior to its sale to Microsoft and when there were many active blogging communities… including one related to TOC.

    1. You are welcome.

      Steve is currently working in the government sector in NZ. I hope his contribution is well received because I believe it could be very positive for NZ as a whole (it is just a larger system after all).

      I now live in the same city as Kelvyn and have the opportunity to do coffee in person from time to time. His latest work is worth exploring. He is presenting at the next TOCICO conference in July.

      Our connection does go back some time and I expect we have both learnt and contributed a great deal along the way.

      I look forward to continuing the great discussions and debate.

      1. Hi Karl,

        Thanks again for the info about Steve. The fact that he’s currently in NZ is quite a coincidence. Not more than 4 weeks ago, I made the on-line acquaintance of a person from NZ who is attempting to create a global community of CI/OpEx practitioners. Based on what I’ve been able to surmise thus far, the endeavor is likely to be a very challenging one. In that regard, having local resources who are as well versed as Steve happens to be on a wide range of topics – but CI and Systems Thinking in particular, could be of some value to this person.

        If you’d be interested in making this person’s acquaintance and potentially making an introduction to Steve, I’d be happy to share this person’s name and contact info. You can send me an e-mail reply to

      2. Thank you. It is a small world. I believe I am having an introduction video discussion tomorrow morning with that person :-).

      3. Hi Karl,

        AMAZING!!! Doesn’t surprise me in the least… Tell that person I said hello and see what the response happens to be. Also, let me know how your conversation goes.

        On another front… Just looked at some of Kelvyn’s PPT materials on SYSTEMS & STRUCTURES. Believe it or not, I did find what I and (Dr. Russell Ackoff) consider to be a BIG NO-NO; particularly when it comes to pursuing and achieving superior levels of overall SYSTEM performance. It has to do with the notion of being able to [super]optimize the parts in order to get [super]optimized performance of the whole. That notion happens to be a MAJOR fallacy; at least according to Dr. Ackoff. Here’s what he has to say about it in his would be TED Talk video…

        Key points include:

        1) A SYSTEM as a WHOLE, cannot be divided into independent parts;
        2) the essential or defining properties of any SYSTEM are properties of the whole, which none of its parts have,
        3) whenever a SYSTEM is taken apart, it loses its essential properties,
        4) a SYSTEM is NOT the SUM of the behavior of its parts, it’s the PRODUCT their INTERACTION(S)… [Note: Optimizing the performance of each part is NOT the same as optimizing the interactions between the parts.],
        5) any system-of-improvement that’s directed at improving the performance of parts taken separately/individually, you can be ABSOLUTELY sure that the performance of the WHOLE/SYSTEM will NOT be improved,
        6) the performance of a SYSTEM depends on HOW THE PARTS FIT [TOGETHER], NOT how they perform separately,
        7) when it comes to making improvements… when you get rid of something you don’t want (e.g., defects), you don’t necessarily get what you do want/need,
        8) finding deficiencies and getting rid of them, is NOT a way of improving the performance of a SYSTEM,
        9) an improvement program MUST be direct at WHAT YOU WANT/NEED, NOT at WHAT YOU DON’T WANT/NEED,
        10) And determining WHAT YOU WANT requires REDESIGNING the SYSTEM – for the RIGHT NOW, NOT for the FUTURE – and asking yourself… IF you could do anything you wanted/needed to do RIGHT NOW, what would that be?
        12) One never becomes a leader by continuous improvement alone, you only become a leader by leapfrogging those who are ahead of you.

        And if that’s not sufficient to convince Kelvyn otherwise, here’s what Deming had to say:

        “A system is a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim [purpose] of the system.”

        “If the various components of an organisation/system are all optimised, the organisation/system will not be. If the whole is optimised, the components will not be.”


        You’re welcome to share this info with Kelvyn the next time the two of you get together for a coffee. Hopefully, he’ll – at least – get a chuckle out of it… recalling our past exchanges.

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