Development

J. Clayton Lafferty, Ph.D. (1928-1997), Founder of Human Synergistics International

J. Clayton Lafferty, Ph.D.A pioneer in the psychology of achievement and human effectiveness, Dr. J. Clayton Lafferty founded Human Synergistics in 1971 to provide organizations and consultants with research-based materials for individual, leadership, and team development. Dr. Lafferty’s background in clinical psychology, both practical and theoretical, and his knowledge of organization and leadership in ancient and modern cultures, provided him a broad and unique perspective for addressing the problems facing contemporary businesses, managers, and society in general.

He and his associates researched and developed a multi-level series of diagnostic instruments—focusing on self-assessment, achievement thinking, and responsible decision making—that encourage effective personal and leadership behavior. Perhaps the best-known diagnostic is the Circumplex-based Life Styles Inventory, measuring individual thinking and behavioral styles. Dr. Lafferty also developed the Desert Survival Situation, the innovative team-building simulation demonstrating synergy, which has since evolved into one of the most widely used training tools in the world.

Dr. Lafferty attended Hillsdale College and earned his doctorate in psychology from the University of Michigan. He received numerous awards, most notably the 1983 American Society for Training and Development Award for Excellence in Professional Competency for his work with a Fortune 500 company. Dr. Lafferty was also listed as an honored member in the 1991 edition of U.S. Registry’s “Who’s Who in Leading American Executives.” He was a member of the American and the Michigan Psychological Associations (serving as President of W.P.O.), the American Management Association, and the American Society for Training and Development.

Dr. Lafferty passed away in 1997, but his dedication to creating materials and programs that promote excellence in organizations has earned him an enduring international reputation. With the support of Human Synergistics International, Dr. Lorraine Lafferty established the J. Clayton Lafferty Chair in Leadership with the Dow Leadership Center at Hillsdale College in honor of her late husband.

Expert Consultant

The experts for the Subarctic Survival Situation are the Canadian Para Rescue Specialists of the 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron. This squadron, which is stationed at Summerside, Prince Edward Island, is responsible for air and sea operations in Quebec, Newfoundland, Labrador, and the arctic regions. The specialists have received rescue and survival training in both the subarctic and arctic.

Is improving leadership really as simple as maximizing extroversion? Empirical evidence is actually far more mixed than the HBS curriculum might lead one to believe. For example, in one team-building exercise at HBS [Harvard Business School], students engage in a role-playing game called the Subarctic Survival Situation.

Why a simulation?

  • ‘Because wisdom cannot be told.’
  • Action/involvement is vital to how people learn. (We learn by doing.)

The most memorable example of the power of teamwork in solving problems was from an exercise I participated in over 16 years ago. It was such a compelling lesson about teams solving problems, I still have the exercise booklet. The exercise is from a company called Human Synergistics and was a ‘Subarctic Survival Situation’.

I would recommend this experiment highly. It does a great job of showing how to improve team work and communication. It is also a great way to get to know your team better!

Lesson: If you don’t have the expertise, figure out who does; if you do have the expertise, say so. Communicate or die.

To be honest, I also thought the Subarctic Exercise was quite instructive…

I have found that the sub-arctic survival simulation is fun and naturally encourages student participation. Students learn that in order to ‘survive,’ they must cooperate and support one another, that the collective is greater than the individual, and that teamwork is necessary for enhancing their success in their academic and professional careers.

Human Synergistics International thanks trainers, practitioners, consultants, and educators across the globe for making our team-building simulations the most widely used and acclaimed in the world.

Team-Building Simulations from Human Synergistics

The Subarctic Survival Situation is one of our most popular group problem-solving survival exercises. Developed by Dr. J. Clayton Lafferty and his colleagues, the simulation places participants in an isolated area of northern Canada where their plane has just crash landed and challenges them to rank, first individually and then as a team, 15 salvaged items in order of their importance to their survival.

Human Synergistics’ team-building simulations provide a unique opportunity to quickly and objectively measure whether your teams are achieving synergy. They are designed for team building, developing more constructive group processes, and demonstrating the impact of communication and collaboration on solution effectiveness. HSI offers a wide variety of team-building simulations in four series.

The Business Series
  • Project Planning Situation™
  • Meeting Effectiveness Situation™
  • Customer Complaint Situation™
  • Envisioning a Culture for Quality™
  • Cultural Change Situation™
  • Turnaround™
  • Coach – Co-achieving


Visit Human Synergistics’ website for more information.

All of HSI’s team-building simulations can be administered using a Leader’s Guide and one Participant’s Booklet for each group member.

Please note that all HSI simulation materials are copyrighted and may not be reproduced.
The Challenge Series
  • Organizational Change Challenge™
  • Critical Thinking Challenge™
  • Ethical Decision Challenge™
  • Constructive Negotiations Challenge™
  • Strategic Planning Challenge™
  • Performance Management Challenge™
  • Project Management Challenge™


Visit Human Synergistics’ website for more information.

All of HSI’s team-building simulations can be administered using a Leader’s Guide and one Participant’s Booklet for each group member.

Please note that all HSI simulation materials are copyrighted and may not be reproduced.
The Safety Series
  • Fire Safety Situation™
  • Back Injury Safety Situation™
  • Tornado Safety Situation™


Visit Human Synergistics’ website for more information.

All of HSI’s team-building simulations can be administered using a Leader’s Guide and one Participant’s Booklet for each group member.

Please note that all HSI simulation materials are copyrighted and may not be reproduced.
The Survival Series
  • Desert Survival Situation™
  • Desert II Survival Situation™
  • Bushfire Survival Situation™
  • Reef Survival Situation™
  • Tsunami Survival Situation™
  • Subarctic Survival Situation™
  • Cascades Survival Situation™
  • Earthquake Survival Situation™


Visit Human Synergistics’ website for more information.

All of HSI’s team-building simulations can be administered using a Leader’s Guide and one Participant’s Booklet for each group member. Some simulations have optional DVDs, which bring the situation to life by showing the outdoor scenario followed by the expert’s ranking and rationale.

Please note that all HSI simulation materials are copyrighted and may not be reproduced.