Decision Making Exercise: What’s the Meaning of...?

Decision Making Exercise: What’s the Meaning of...?


It is 2075. You are on Mars. A strong solar radiation took out your communication and computer electronics and disconnected you from the rest of the world. You have no idea what happened to others on Earth and must simply carry on surviving since you might be the only humans alive.

You are now faced with many tasks, one of which is preservation of human knowledge, culture and know-how. You are in the team that works on dictionary restoration. With great difficulty, you have been able to salvage some data from the toasted hard-drives. Unfortunately, the index table that connects the words with their definitions is lost.

You have a series of words and definitions and your job is to find out which word correlates with which definition.


Match the word with its definition.

What You Need

  • Some cards with printed words and some other cards with printed definitions on them. An example list of these words is given below.
    • Cachinnate = to laugh loudly and inappropriately
    • Baccivorous = Eating berries
    • Sphenoid = Wedge-shaped
    • Torvity = Grimness; fierceness
    • Barbican = Projecting watchtower over the gate of a castle
    • Tholobate = Circular substructure on which a dome rests
    • Vermicide = Killing of worms
    • Quotennial = Yearly
    • Batophobia = A fear of tall buildings
    • Sloyd = Skilled work (usually manufacturing) which requires dexterous use of tools
  • You can obtain more examples from these sources:


  • Place all the cards in the middle of the table. For a group of up to 4 delegates use 8 pairs.
  • Ask the delegates to go through them and match the words with the definitions as correctly as they can.
  • If you have more than 4 delegates, give separate sets to each group of 4 so the search and participation becomes more manageable.
  • Once the groups are happy with their choices, reveal the answers and give a prize to the group with the highest score.


Explaining the Test: 5 minutes.

Activity: 15 minutes

Group Feedback: 5 minutes.


How difficult was this exercise? Was it possible to save humanity’s knowledge by simple guesswork? How much did the teamwork help you to achieve the task? How did you get inspired? Was there a lot of disagreement? How did you resolve team issues or conflicts?

Did anyone think that this was a pointless exercise and the unusual words were not important anyway? How would you respond to such a position when the team is confronted with the task? How can you make sure the team doesn’t break apart because of such views? How does this relate to everyday jobs, where a team is assigned to a task that some members are not willing to contribute to or think is a waste of time?

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