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!