Team-Building Exercises – Problem Solving and Decision Making

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Offline Sultan Mahmud Sujon

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What You'll Need

Up to five people in each group.
A large, private room.
A "lost at sea" ranking chart for each team member. This should comprise six columns. The first simply lists each item (see below). The second is empty so that each team member can rank the items. The third is for group rankings. The fourth is for the "correct" rankings, which are revealed at the end of the exercise. And the fifth and sixth are for the team to enter the difference between their individual and correct score, and the team and correct rankings, respectively.
The items to be ranked are: a mosquito net, a can of petrol, a water container, a shaving mirror, a sextant, emergency rations, a sea chart, a floating seat or cushion, a rope, some chocolate bars, a waterproof sheet, a fishing rod, shark repellent, a bottle of rum, and a VHF radio. These can be listed in the ranking chart or displayed on a whiteboard, or both.
The experience can be made more fun by having some lost-at-sea props in the room.

Flexible, but normally between 25 and 40 minutes.


Divide participants into their teams, and provide everyone with a ranking sheet.
Ask team members to take 10 minutes on their own to rank the items in order of importance. They should do this in the second column of their sheet.
Give the teams a further 10 minutes to confer and decide on their group rankings. Once agreed, they should list them in the third column of their sheets.
Ask each group to compare their individual rankings with their collective ones, and consider why any scores differ. Did anyone change their mind about their own rankings during the team discussions? How much were people influenced by the group conversation?
Now read out the "correct" order, collated by the experts at the US Coast Guard (from most to least important):
Shaving mirror. (One of your most powerful tools, because you can use it to signal your location by reflecting the sun.)
Can of petrol. (Again, potentially vital for signalling as petrol floats on water and can be lit by your matches.)
Water container. (Essential for collecting water to restore your lost fluids.)
Emergency rations. (Valuable for basic food intake.)
Plastic sheet. (Could be used for shelter, or to collect rainwater.)
Chocolate bars. (A handy food supply.)
Fishing rod. (Potentially useful, but there is no guarantee that you're able to catch fish. Could also feasibly double as a tent pole.)
Rope. (Handy for tying equipment together, but not necessarily vital for survival.)
Floating seat or cushion. (Useful as a life preserver.)
Shark repellent. (Potentially important when in the water.)
Bottle of rum. (Could be useful as an antiseptic for treating injuries, but will only dehydrate you if you drink it.)
Radio. (Chances are that you're out of range of any signal, anyway.)
Sea chart. (Worthless without navigational equipment.)
Mosquito net. (Assuming that you've been shipwrecked in the Atlantic, where there are no mosquitoes, this is pretty much useless.)
Sextant. (Impractical without relevant tables or a chronometer.)