Now Available Digitally

Desert Survival Situation™

Research and development by J. Clayton Lafferty, Ph.D., in consultation with Alonzo W. Pond, Survival Expert

Unlock the secret of team synergy with one of the most widely used exercises for team building and group development in the world.

The Desert Survival Situation is now available in both paper and digital format and is great for building new teams, enhancing team development, and improving problem solving and decision-making skills. 

Do your teams have what it takes to survive?

Shop Desert Now

Would you like to demo the digital Desert Survival Situation?

Schedule a Free Demo
View Trailer
Desert Survival Situation

The Desert Situation

"It is approximately 10 o'clock in the morning on a mid-August day and you have just crash-landed in the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern United States."

Your task is to rank 15 items salvaged from the plane in the order of their importance to your team's survival.

Set in an unfamiliar location, this simulation takes the participants outside of their organizational roles and areas of expertise to a situation where only their synergistic problem-solving skills will help them to survive.


“An outstanding way to prove the point that teams outperform individuals is to engage people in an exercise like Desert Survival…. The teams almost always outperform the individuals and, if they do not, the reason can usually be traced to poor functioning of the team.”

Excerpt from: The 3 Keys to Empowerment, Ken Blanchard, John P. Carlos, and Alan Randolph

How it works

The Desert Survival Situation provides a unique opportunity to quickly and objectively measure whether your group is achieving synergy. Using the activity to demonstrate the elusive concept, synergy occurs when the interactive efforts of two or more people produce a solution that is superior to their independent solutions. By measuring the quality of both individual and team performance on the single task of ranking 15 items, groups are allowed to quickly calculate the extent to which they are fully utilizing their resources—and doing so in a way that achieves synergy and enhances team development.


“Finally, the best thinking very often results from a team effort. With few exceptions, repeated research has established that groups are usually better than individuals at solving problems where no one has deep or relevant experience…. A forceful example is an exercise called the Desert Survival Situation.”

Excerpt from: Adhocracy, Robert H. Waterman, Jr.

The benefits for your organization

  • Demonstrates the need to increase commitment to team building and team development
  • Establishes a Constructive, team-oriented atmosphere in the workplace, at conferences or workshops, and in classrooms or training programs
  • Serves as a platform for team-building initiatives designed to strengthen members' rational and interpersonal problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrates and promotes synergy within groups

Make the Desert Survival Situation part of your team-building initiative

We offer two options:

  • A trained and experienced Human Synergistics consultant can facilitate the Desert Survival Situation for you. Simply contact us to find the right consultant for you.
  • You can ‘do it yourself’: receive all the information and tools necessary to complete the exercise as you dedicate somebody from your team to lead the practice.

The Desert Survival Situation is available in paper and online in our new digital format and takes 1.5 to 2.5 hours to complete.

Shop Desert