Friday, September 05, 2003

Desert survival and culture

I used to use Desert Survival a lot in the 80's. It was part of an 'organisational culture change' program that we were implementing in the global subsidiaries of a multinational -- I must have run that particular excercise in multiple groups in more than 30 countries. I wish I had taken detailed notes, because the way different nationalities approached Desert Survival was fascinating.

The decision making processes, creativity, deference to seniority, interpretation of priorities, and even acceptance of the 'expert answers' varied dramatically depending on whether the group was Argentinian, Korean, Swedish, French, or Australian. And if you had a lot of people in the group who had actual desert combat experience like in South Africa or Israel, the 'expert answer' was invariably challenged and rejected - which in itself made for a useful excercise.

These pseudo-simulations can be used successfully for purposes other than those intended by the authors. I have used them as opening exercises in sales training to extract examples of effective and ineffective persuasive communication, and to illustrate the need to understand decision-making processes and roles.

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