Survival Skills in the Office

There are few things that are more desperate and frightening than being lost in the wilderness with few supplies and no way of knowing how long you’ll be lost. This is when you have to rely on survival skills to weather the situation until you can be found.

Survival is when you find yourself in a situation where you are lost, have little to no resources, and time is a factor. It’s an unknown puzzle where you don’t know where the pieces are found, let alone how they are supposed to fit together. It’s the exact same situation when you are trying to survive in the office. Projects hardly ever go the way you want, and it’s a constant struggle to keep your work afloat.

The same concepts that are used in wilderness survival can be applied to the office.

What Is Survival About?

In survival situations, there are some high-level sets of rules that have to be followed to increase chances of being found in time. These rules are intentionally designed not to be precise. They are meant to allow flexibility and a measure of interpretation. This allows the person to only take what is needed and ignore nonapplicable parts.

It’s About Using the Available Resources

Explorer in pith helmet looking over a cubicle wall at an employee


In survival situations, you have to do an assessment check. What do you have on you? What is in your immediate area? What is in the nearby area? You have to weigh your resources against your situation. You have to be on constant watch for new tools and resources that can be utilized for your objective.

 It’s About Adapting

Man in a pith helmet trying to start a fire by rubbing two pencils together in front of a whiteboard.


In survival situations, you have to think of creative ways to use your limited resources. You have to know your immediate objective and the long-term objectives. Once you have an idea of what you need to do, you can figure out how to use your resources in new and original ways to achieve those objectives.

As an example, in survival, a bandanna can be used in a variety of ways. It can be used as a bandage, tourniquet, sling, binding, cooling wrap, rescue flag, trail markers, tinder, etc. In the same way that a bandanna can be used in a variety of ways in a survival situation, in the office a developer can be tapped as a technology expert, digital creative, functional expert, workflow optimizer, business case creator, etc. In both instances, understanding your objectives and understanding what your tools and resources bring to the table will provide everything you need.

It’s About Staying on the Move

Intrepid explorer warming his hands on a TV fire


In survival situations, being stationary is tantamount to failure. Resources are almost always limited in any one area. Knowing how to be frugal and resourceful will allow you to move as needed. Having a plan of what you need for the situation will help you dictate when you have found the resources you need to survive and be rescued. Stagnation without all the resources you need will put you in a game against time. The more time taken, the more resources are consumed and the chances of failure are increased. If you keep moving when you need resources, that forward momentum will provide you the opportunity to find what you need.

In the office, you need to stay moving on a project to ensure success. The needs of the project are in constant change. Though your current resources seem sufficient today, they may change tomorrow. That’s when you have to move to find the resources and tools you need to meet the new objectives. Keeping to one path will rarely allow for success. You must always move and adapt to ensure that the work is completed successfully.

The skills used in survival situations are the same skills used in the office. Knowing how to use resources and tools in new and creative ways, constantly adapting and moving forward, will not only save your life in the wild, but it will allow you to achieve success in the office.


Images courtesy of Shawn Ewert

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