Vacation in the keys teamwork game


Demonstrate the concept of team synergy with Vacation in the Keys, a challenging adventure simulation that puts consensus decision making into practice.

Vacation in the Keys is a team consensus decision making simulation for management development training. Team members learn and practice the group process skills needed to achieve synergy, including problem solving, consensus decision making, and conflict resolution. Vacation in the Keys is an excellent ice breaker and energizer for any audience.

When it comes to synergistic teams, the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. This is why most, if not all, organizations today look to teams to make important decisions, strategize, and solve problems. But in order to achieve peak performance, teams must be able to maximize a collaborative approach.

Trainers can give their audiences the opportunity to experience team synergy with Vacation in the Keys. Part of the ever popular HRDQ Team Adventure Series, this classroom training exercise provides a safe, non-threatening means for teams to practice and develop the group process skills they need to reach synergy. The simulation challenges teams to work together to overcome a disaster scenario by engaging effective methods of decision-making, communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution.


Disaster strikes a group of friends on charter trip to the Florida Keys when their 43-foot sport fishing boat explodes as the ignition is started. In the blink of an eye, everyone is thrown overboard. Stranded and disoriented, the group watches in shock as their boat quickly disappears below the surface of the water. The good news is that all of the passengers are able to swim and safely reach the shore. Most injuries are minor, but one passenger is suffering from deep cuts. Now the group must work together to save themselves, care for their critically injured friend, and get rescued. The only resources available to them are the contents they retrieved from the blast – and each other. 

Learning Outcomes

Learn how to manage and resolve group conflict 

Hone group problem-solving skills 

Improve communication 

Discover the advantages of consensus decision making 

Experience the concept of synergy


Interviews with cruise line staff members and personal cruise experience form the basis for Vacation in the Keys, a survival adventure that demonstrates "team synergy" — the belief that decisions made by groups are better than decisions made by individuals acting alone (Michaelson, Watson, & Black, 1989). Groups bring a greater sum total of knowledge and information to the discussion of a problem, as well as a greater number of approaches and perspectives. The simulation can also demonstrate "process loss." This phenomenon occurs when a knowledgeable group member outperforms the group, indicating that the member's knowledge was lost sometime during the group discussion. In order for group decision making to work, unique information must be shared and absorbed by the group (Stasser, 1992).


Vacation in the Keys can be used as a standalone training instrument and ice breaker, or it can be incorporated into a more comprehensive program on teambuilding. It also makes an effective component in training programs for a variety of topics such as problem solving and decision making.

Illustrate the concept of team synergy “Break the ice” among new or conflicted teams Give teams a nonthreatening opportunity to work together Help teams practice consensus decision making Improve active listening, probing, and confronting behaviors in a realistic setting Train team leaders in team facilitation skills Open or close a learning session Introduce an organizational change, such as the transition to self-managing teams Interject a fun activity into an otherwise serious agenda Supplement outdoor experiential learning


Vacation in the Keys challenges participants to rank 15 salvaged items — first as individuals, and then as a team. Scores are compared to expert rankings and it is determined if the team outperformed each individual or vice versa. Finally, you'll lead the participants into a group action planning discussion, providing the team with the opportunity to apply the learning to the workplace.

If you are planning to use Vacation in the Keys in a classroom training session, we recommend you allow approximately 1 hour for interpretation of scores, topic discussion, debrief, and action planning. The Vacation in the Keys Facilitator Guide includes everything you need to lead a successful training session from comprehensive background information and activities, to reproducible handouts and even a professional PowerPoint presentation. It also offers an easy-to-follow workshop outline that expands Vacation in the Keys into a 3-hour program.


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