Team Building Activities for Survival Scenarios

by Douglas Hawk; Updated September 26, 2017
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Exercises and activities aimed at team building are designed to help bring together individuals into a functional and cohesive unit that usually consists of four to 15 members. Team building scenarios that feature dangerous circumstances or dramatic situations that risk the survival of the team offer a high degree of flexibility for all participants. The survival scenario promotes positive interaction among group members, encourages cooperation and supports the combining of individual experience and expertise to achieve a solution.

Stranded

“Stranded” is a survival scenario in which a group of "passengers" are involved in a "plane crash" in a remote forest during a terrible winter storm. The nearest town is many miles away, and the passengers' cellphones have no bars. The plane is burning, and no one is wearing winter clothing. The team goal is to survive until help arrives, and the group has only a few minutes to gather items before the plane is engulfed in flames. Each team member is given a copy of a list of about 40 items available on the plane. Working alone for five or 10 minutes, each member marks 10 items they feel will help them survive. Then, for up to 45 minutes, the team determines the 10 items that will be gathered. This scenario encourages group interaction, cooperation and communications.

Egyptian Desert Survival

A survival scenario entitled “Beyond the Valley of the Kings” features a group touring the Egypt by hot-air balloon. The balloon is inexplicable caught by a fierce wind and blown into the vast Sahara Desert. After a hard landing, the team must decide what to use to survive. The group must determine two key pieces of information: 1) an image of a hot air balloon and the names of its parts; and 2) the expected Sahara Desert conditions. The exercise emphasizes achieving team consensus as to how the group will survive, developing leadership skills and assessing individual skills and abilities.

Outdoor Survival

A more involved team-building exercise, which takes the team outdoors for a half-day or an entire day, is an excellent method for developing problem-solving techniques. Scenarios can feature direction-finding, building a fire, making a shelter or locating water and food. Direction-finding involves a map and compass and develops communication skills among the group. Erecting a shelter encourages team members to work together to erect a structure that will protect them from the elements and tests their resourcefulness and creativity.

Who Dies?

A harsh survival scenario in a team-building exercise involves the hypothetical detonation of a nuclear weapon. Shelter that will protect people from radiation poisoning is nearby; however, it can only accept six people. Who will survive? The team must establish a time frame for the exercise and name a time-keeper in the group to make certain the decisions are made within the time allotted. While there are no “right” answers, this exercise stimulates intense emotional responses and often reveals individual biases and prejudices. In debriefing the team, you will want to know, among other things, how decisions were achieved; who impacted the decisions and how they did it; did team members listen to one another; what roles did individuals play; and how did the team manage disagreements?

About the Author

Douglas Hawk has been freelance writing since 1983. He has had articles appear in numerous Colorado newspapers and in a wide variety of national magazines. Hawk has sold three novels and one short story, which won an award from the Colorado Authors' League. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Adams State College and master's degree in mass communications from the University of Denver.

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