It is 10:45 A.M., May 8. The six of you are standing together somewhere in the Mojave Desert in the Southwest United States. You are looking at the charred remains of the twin-engine plane you were riding in 20 minutes ago. Identify your four greatest problems and the best strategy for your survival. Then, decide on the criticality and best use for 16 items salvaged from the crash.
This scenario is common in survival simulation team building exercises. But beyond developing interpersonal and teamwork skills, you learn that group-think surpasses individual brainpower almost every time.
In fact, 80-90% of groups score higher than that of any individual in their group. So if you weren’t already realizing just how powerful group thinking is, these games are a fun way to settle the issue.
So why don’t we as business owners share more of our company challenges with our staff? Why don’t we get everyone working on how we will achieve a 40% gross profit? Or how we’ll sell and produce $750,000 this year? Or how we can streamline the sales to production handoff? Or how we might create an incentive for our staff?
For a few remodelers this openness comes naturally. But for most it is a very scary proposition. For years they’ve been hiding their financial reports because if their employees found out about their 3% net they will revolt.
Even more prevalent is the misconception that the simplest, quickest and most efficient way to solve a problem is for the owner to do it alone.
Though it may be quicker initially to put a new system in place, you lose time in selling it to your team. If they don’t “own” it then there is no buy-in. In fact, there could even be resistance.
If we look at the entire process of devising a solution, applying it, improving it, making it a habit, then the most efficient way is to involve everyone from the start. Not only that, but the group is likely to come up with a better solution!
Beyond Problem Solving
If you haven’t tried them before, I highly recommend doing one of these survival simulation exercises with your team. They are a lot of fun and teach important behaviors that lead to successful teamwork—such as consensus. How does a group of varying opinions get to a final decision after they have heard all the different ideas? These exercises force you to figure it out.
These games also teach the importance of developing the right strategy before you start answering what you think is the question. The rankings of the salvage items change drastically depending on whether the group decides its best survival strategy is to send the two strongest members for help; or that all will stay together and wait to be discovered or all members will hike together.
And of course, the largest benefit to fully utilizing the collective brainpower of your company is it frees you up as an owner. So share the good, the bad, and the ugly with your staff. Then stand back and prepare to be surprised by just how well they do.