Perfect Pairing; The Beauty of Using a Survival Simulation with the GSI

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In an industry saturated with any number of team building activities, the Human Synergistics Desert Survival Simulation™ is the single most popular training tool in the world. It has been used around the world in every possible industry for 50 years. The Subarctic Survival Simulation™ is a close second. Why are these and other survival simulations from Human Synergistics so popular among workshop and seminar leaders, as well as consultants and university professors? The simple answer is that they are fun! But there are more, complex reasons for their popularity.

One reason is that they are relatively easy to use and debrief. At the start of my career, many years ago, one of the first workshops I conducted was a teambuilding session, using Desert Survival. All of the participants in the room were more senior in the organization than I was. It would be an understatement to say that I was a little nervous. But the first part of the exercise practically runs itself. I was able to get through the first 90 minutes of the program, saying very few words. By the time it came for me to debrief the exercise, everyone in the room (including me) was relaxed and they were eager to hear my take on their group work.

When used with the Group Styles Inventory (GSI), participants leave with new teambuilding strategies that can be easily transferred to the workplace. The GSI (administered immediately after the teams’ meeting) measures the groups’ styles that enable or hinder the use of various problem-solving skills by the members. The GSI adds a layer of real learning outcomes to a fun activity.

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1Another reason that they are so popular is that they teach valuable KSA’s to the participants. The Knowledge of how teams work, and the importance of effective teambuilding is invaluable. Participants also learn the skills of participation, listening, supporting and differing. By combining the simulation with GSI, teams learn about the valuable group Attitudes that influence members’ use of their teambuilding skills.

Survival Simulations tap into our primal survival instincts. We have all imagined ourselves in some difficult situation such as stuck in a snow storm or lost in the desert and wondered if we “have what it takes” to survive. This desire to test ourselves in a safe environment is another reason for the long-term popularity of the simulations.

Being able to survive in simulated, adverse conditions is a problem that is relatively neutral. We seldom see an expert in the group, and everyone knows something about the situation. Unlike many case studies and other workshop events, simulations allow all participants to engage on a level playing field.

Using a survival simulation with a GSI has an excellent Cost/Benefit ratio. The per participant costs are low and the benefits are extremely high. The workshop costs are also low, as the complete program, including new strategy development, can be accomplished in four hours.

And finally, the simulations are memorable. Over the years, I have participated in the facilitation of some very intensive week-long training sessions that taught a variety of leadership and management skills. Years later, when participants talk about the workshop, they always mention the survival simulation and how enjoyable it was.

There are two components to a great training session – Was it fun and enjoyable – and did the participants gain new Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes? By using a survival simulation, with GSI, you will score high in both areas. And, the program is easy to run.

So, do yourself a favour; and schedule a teambuilding workshop today. 

About the Author

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Allan Stewart

Allan Stewart has been the president of Human Synergistics Canada since 1996. His unique background combines a successful general management career with extensive workshop training experience and a varied academic career. Allan has conducted training programs for organizations in retail, finance, mining, manufacturing, energy, athletics, education, health care and various sectors of the government. He was a senior executive with Sears Canada Inc. and has been a professor at McMaster University and Sheridan College. He received his B.Com. from Queen’s University and his M.B.A. from Wilfrid Laurier University. Allan has over 30 years experience in developing and conducting training workshops. His past clients have included some of the largest and most successful organizations in Canada. He has trained executives, first-line supervisors, trainers, sales-people and line workers. He has been an instructor with the Executive Development Programs at McMaster, York Universities and the Ontario Police College. He has been a key-note speaker on television and at a number of professional conferences. He is considered a leading expert on organizational culture and development. Allan’s dynamic training style and practical approach make him a popular workshop facilitator who has helped people throughout Canada and internationally. He has written articles and workbooks on a variety of subjects, including culture, leadership, stress management, change leadership, entrepreneurship and selling. As well, Allan Stewart is a skilled consultant, interacting with individuals, teams and companies.  As a volunteer, Allan has conducted leadership skills workshops for youth in Canada's native communities and in third world countries. He has lead several charitable organizations, coached minor sports for over 20 years, counseled elite athletes, and developed and lead young entrepreneurs' programs.