Developing team leadership skills while climbing Mount Everest

One of the great opportunities I was offered at Santa Clara University was to revamp the course called Leading Teams and Projects (MGMT 3538). One of the key choices I made was to require students to climb Mount Everest in 2 hours or less. Wait, you’re thinking to yourself, that’s impossible! But with the Harvard Business School simulation, it is possible to simulate some of the key decisions made by expedition teams.

Climbing_through_the_Yellow_Band,_Mt._Everest,_-May_2007_a.jpgHere’s how the simulation works: Each student is randomly assigned to one of six roles on a team: a leader, a marathoner, a photographer, an environmentalist,
a physician, and an observer. Students get 5 days to preview the simulation interface and make sure their laptops are ready to go. On the night of the simulation, students gather in an assigned a breakout room with a whiteboard.

Between 7:30 and 9:30 pm they make decisions together that move the team through six days of an attempt to summit Everest.

Two nights later, we debrief as a class between 7:35 and 8:50 pm, and then over the weekend, students write a paper about what they learned from the experience!



  1. I’m glad that Prof. Piderit planned this excercise for us. Just like in the real world, where we prepare ourself for a challenging scenario so when it happens we know how to handle it and emerge as winner. The Everest simulation also has set of hidden challenges which was pretty tough for the team to crack it. It tested our thought process and decision making abilities in high pressure environment and also how important it is to get the calculations right.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. The most realistic part of this simulation was the health realities and the weather changes. Fortunately there was not a massive weather change but the drops in temperature were definitely on our mind. Our Marathoner noted once that the predicted temperature for a higher up camp was going to be warmer than our current one. As a result we decided to work to move ourselves higher if possible. Health was a contributing to factor to this. In fact, it kept me (the photographer) at a lower camp to avoid being in the cold camp.

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s