Please complete the exercise

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Stranded in the Desert: An Exercise in Decision-Making

Introduction: The goal of this exercise is to examine effective group decision making. In this exercise, students work individually and in groups to decide which gear is essential to surviving a week in the desert.


  1. To determine the effectiveness of individual versus group decision-making


  1. Individually read the scenario and complete the “pack item ranking sheet”. You may not consult with anyone else inside or outside the class. You must make the decision alone.
  1. Form into groups of 5 and review the rules.
  • Present your position, but listen carefully and weigh others’ positions as well.
  • Avoid changing your mind just to reach consensus.
  • Don’t use techniques such as: flipping a coin, majority rule, or bargaining.
  • Don’t assume there is a winner and a loser. Work on compromising: finding the most acceptable solution for everyone.
  • Make sure everyone has a say.
  1. Each group member then computes the difference between his or her ranking of each item and the group ranking. Individuals record this number in the column marked “influence” (an example is below). This number represents the extent the individual influenced his or her group to his or her way of thinking. The lower the number, the more influence the individual had in the group decision-making. Individuals compare this number to the other group members. Compute an average group influence score.

Example influence score:

Subtract the group ranking from the individual ranking.

My ranking for flashlight: 8

Group ranking for flashlight: 4

Difference/influence score: 4

Avoid using positive/negative numbers use the absolute value.

My ranking for denim jacket: 3

Group ranking: 10

Difference/influence score: 7

A recorder for the group must post the following group answers and all the scoring information on Canvas by the deadline.

  • Which items did the group rank as most important?
  • Based on the influence scores, did your group make an effective decision?
  • Which group members had the most influence on your group’s decisions? Why?

Stranded in the Desert

You and your four friends decide it would be fun to spend a nice spring weekend hiking in the Sonoran Desert. Excitement is high as all five of you squeeze into your Jeep and head for the wilderness. As you drive you enjoy looking for wildlife and trying to identify the types of cactus. Several hours have gone by when the road suddenly ends. A recent storm washed it away and even with the Jeep’s four-wheel drive you can’t cross. One of your friends points to a rocky hill just on the other side of the road and suggests a hike to “survey the terrain” and find a good place to camp. You don’t want to haul all of your gear until you find a spot to camp and so you leave it in the Jeep. You hike about a mile until you find a nice flat spot on the side of the hill. When you return to where you parked your Jeep, you find only tire tracks and a few scattered items which used to be in your packs. You and your friends discuss your situation. You estimate you drove the jeep 30 miles before the terrain was too rough for it to go any further. The desert reaches a high of at least 90° in late spring and drops to 50° at night. You realize no one from home knows where you are and you are unsure you have cell phone reception. You and your friends estimate it will take 4 or 5 days to walk to the highway, taking in consideration time to sleep and breaks. The terrain is also very rough heading back and doesn’t flatten out until you near the highway. You decide your best option is to start walking right away considering it’s almost nighttime and you don’t have any sleeping bags or blankets. One of your friends gathers the scattered gear and lays it out in front of you. You have:

A flashlight

A Swiss Army knife

One canteen filled with water

A denim jacket with a pack of cheese and peanut butter crackers in the pocket

Three dented cans of soda

½ gallon of whiskey

Approximately 8 feet of nylon rope

A water purification kit

A pack of matches

A compass

A cellphone with one bar of power

Pack Item Ranking Sheet


  1. Individually rank the remaining pack items from 10 (most important to survival) to 1 (least important to survival). Record these rankings in the “individual ranking” column.
  2. As a group rank the remaining pack items from 10 (most important to survival) to 1 (least important to survival). Record these rankings in the “group ranking” column.
  3. Compute the difference between your individual ranking and the group ranking and record this number in the “influence” column.

Pack items

Individual ranking

Group ranking



Swiss Army Knife


Denim jacket



Nylon rope

Water purification kit




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