Subarctic Survival Situation™

Research and development by J. Clayton Lafferty, Ph.D., in consultation with the Canadian Armed Forces

Take your teams further than they’ve ever gone before with one of our most popular team-building simulations.

The Subarctic 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. 

Can your team work well enough together to survive? Find out with our exciting and engaging subarctic survival team-building exercise.

Would you like to demo the digital Subarctic Survival Situation?

The new digital format of our subarctic survival exercise can be used for in-person as well as virtual team-building sessions.

The Subarctic Survival Simulation

“It is approximately 2:30 p.m., October 5, and you have just crash-landed in a float plane on the east shore of Laura Lake in the subarctic region of the northern Quebec-Newfoundland border.”

Your task, in our subarctic simulation, 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 winter survival exercise (sometimes referred to as the arctic survival team-building game) takes 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.

“Why a simulation? Because wisdom cannot be told. Action/involvement is vital to how people learn. We learn by doing.”

Excerpt from: Subarctic Survival Simulation, Elaine Bernard, Ph.D. Labor & Worklife Program, Harvard Law School

How does the subarctic survival scenario work?

The Subarctic Survival Situation provides a unique opportunity to quickly and objectively measure whether your group is achieving synergy. Using the activity to demonstrate this 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 task of ranking 15 items, groups are able 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 . Far more than just a subarctic survival game, the Subarctic Survival Situation is a proven problem-solving activity for team building and process consultation.

“I have found that the Subarctic survival simulation is fun and naturally encourages student participation. It is a good ‘icebreaker’ for a freshman orientation class, and since the simulation is interactive and team-oriented, students gain an understanding of what is involved in the group decision-making process (group dynamics). Students learn that in order to ‘survive,’ they must cooperate and support one another, that the collective is greater than the individual, and that teamwork is necessary for enhancing their success in their academic and professional careers.”

Excerpt from: Survival Simulations, Mark Tufenkjian, Success 101

The benefits for your organization

  • Demonstrates the need to increase commitment to team building and team development
  • Provides a non-threatening venue for assessing group processes with surveys such as the Group Styles Inventory.
  • 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 Subarctic Survival Situation part of your team-building initiative

We offer two options:

  • A trained and experienced Human Synergistics consultant can facilitate the Subarctic 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 subarctic exercise as you dedicate somebody from your team to lead the event.

The Subarctic Survival Situation is available in paper and online in our new digital format and takes 1.5 to 2 hours to complete.