Collaborate Like Your Life Depends on It

By Susan Schilke; April 1, 2016

We did one of my favorite activities in all four TeamStrength groups over the last month – a survival exercise.  The most consistent message?  Discussing your challenges with others, sharing what you know and collaborating, and making the best decisions as a group dramatically and measurably improves the quality of those decisions – in ways that can actually be life-saving!

In these activities, you’re given a scenario in which circumstances have stranded you and a small group in a challenging environment (think: middle of the Atlantic or remote and really cold).  You’ve managed to salvage 15 items, and you’re asked to individually rank them in order of importance to your survival.  You’re then put in small groups to collaborate, share ideas, and agree on a group ranking of the items.  Then, you’re given the experts’ answers on the real value ranking of the items.  Finally, you compute an individual and group survival score based on how different your answers were from the experts.

The results?  Group survival scores were consistently better than individual scores.  One member had an individual score equal to the group score, but every other participant saw an improved score on the group side – and typically, a significant improvement.  Like, the difference between life and death.

Collaboration was lively, and talking things through led to breakthrough thinking.  Sometimes this was because one member of the team knew something the others didn’t, but sometimes it was just talking it through, asking good questions and thinking outside the box that lead to the best ideas.

The members with the best individual survival scores saw improved scores after collaboration.  So even though their teammates didn’t have the same level of knowledge, the group process improved the overall decisions.


You’re a thoughtful business leader, but please remember this:  Collaboration improves the quality of the decisions you make.  No matter how smart you are, this is consistently demonstrated.  It’s why the TeamStrength Forums have been adding value to the best leaders’ decisions for 24 years.  And it’s why the best leaders are masters at collaboration.