The desert island survival game

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Members quite often ask about a desert island survival game on TrainingZone. Well here it is, with thanks to Michael Mallows. Do you have a different version? Have you used this successfully in a training session? Add your comments below.

A survival game for a group of players. When working with teenagers Michael Mallows said he might choose a scenario with: a 15 year old single parent; a drug user; a priest; an 88 year old survival expert; a gay person; and the mother of three children who had recently abandoned them due to depression. You get the idea!

With the life boat exercise, depending on how many participants, he will have observers, each sitting outside the boat, each focusing attention on one person in the boat. Observers also double up as sharks who are swimming around waiting for lunch - so no swimming along holding the boat, which has a massive hole and it is impossible to stop the water flowing in.

The only way any of them can make it to an island (where they could survive and thrive) is for one of them to be thrown (no volunteers!) overboard. If they do not do it in an unspecified time, they will all be sharkfood. He allows no escape hatches. He wants to make the 'point' that, in real life, we often jettison other people - be it their ideas, their values, their hopes and dreams - in pursuit of our own 'survival'. Or we experience being outcasts because people don't value or support our dignity or dreams.

The process of making the decision (eg ganging up, taking sides. focusing on the immediate, rather the future) will tell them something about the culture they are likely to create on the island. That is the way many teams, and other relationships 'work'. The boat usually sinks. If there is time, he gets the observers to give feedback on what worked and what didn't, then have them swap places and repeat the exercise (with a different set of characters). The second group usually act the way the first did - but the second time around most of them really 'get it'!

With thanks to Michael Mallows

About Susie Finch

Susie Finch

I'm a writer and editor - and a former Editor of TrainingZone! - specialising in L&D. 

I also do PR & marketing for the Charity Learning Consortium.


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