NASA Exercise Instructions
Group members should be instructed to rank the objects individually (–10 min) and then in groups (15 min.). In the group part of the exercise, all groups should be instructed to employ the method of group consensus, which requires each group member to agree upon the rankings for each of the 15 survival items before the item becomes a part of the group decision (e.g., Hall and Watson, 1970). Instructors should ensure that students interact only within groups and no cross-talking occurs between groups.
After revealing the correct answers and allowing teams to calculate their scores, record the team score and the lowest individual score from each team. Subtract the team score from the individual score; this provides the “synergy” score. Ask the students in the teams with negative synergy scores why they think their team performed as it did. Then ask the teams with positive synergy scores why they think their teams performed well. Listen for evidence of good collaboration in the teams with positive synergy.
NASA Exercise Handout
You are a member of a space crew originally scheduled to rendezvous with a mother ship on the lighted surface of the moon. Due to mechanical difficulties, however, your ship was forced to land at a spot some 200 miles from the rendezvous point. During the crash landing, much of the equipment aboard was damaged and, since survival depends on reaching the mother ship, the most critical items available must be chosen for the trip. Below are listed the 15 items left intact and undamaged after landing. Your task is to rank them in terms of their importance in allowing your crew to reach the rendezvous point.
Step 1: Without communicating with team members, rank each item in order of importance. Place the number 1 by the most important item, the number 2 by the second-most important, and so on through number 15, the least important. Record these in the column labelled “Step 1.”
Step 2: Now, as a team, reconsider the items and come up with a new set of rankings. Record these in the column labelled “Step 2.”
|Items||Step 1 Your Ranking||Step 2 Team Ranking||Step 3 Expert’s Ranking||Step 4 Difference* between Step 1&3||Step 5 Difference* between Step 2&3|
|Box of matches|
|50 feet of nylon rope|
|Portable heating unit|
|Two .45 caliber pistols|
|1 case dehydrated Pet milk|
|2 hundred-pound tanks of oxygen|
|Stellar map (of the moon’s constellation)|
|5 gallons of water|
|First aid kit containing injection needles|
|Solar-powered FM receiver transmitter|
|Individual Score||Team Score|
*take the absolute values of the difference between your rankings and the expert rankings.
NASA Exercise Answer Key
From Hall & Watson, 1970
|15||Box of matches|
|6||50 feet of nylon rope|
|13||Portable heating unit|
|11||Two .45 caliber pistols|
|12||1 case dehydrated Pet milk|
|1||2 hundred-pound tanks of oxygen|
|3||Stellar map (of the moon’s constellation)|
|2||5 gallons of water|
|7||First aid kit containing injection needles|
|5||Solar-powered FM receiver transmitter|
For the original individual task (instructions and answer key), see:
Hall, J., & Watson, W. H. (1970). The effects of a normative intervention on group decision-making performance. Human Relations, 23, 299–317.
For use of task as a group synergy task, see:
Meslec, N., & Curşeu, P. L. (2013). Too close or too far hurts cognitive distance and group cognitive synergy. Small Group Research, 44, 471–497.