Bear or Grylled Fish: Is The Island a sea of change?


Bear Grylls The Island isn’t just a TV show of inspiration (e.g. Hannah, Army Veteran) and horrific gigantic gender generalisations (e.g. Simon, The Salesman), it shows raw team dynamic and all elements of building a team from scratch when faced with adversity…and its bloody entertaining!

For me it highlights the two natural reactions to change and can teach us a lot about recognising these reactions. Some react like bears in battle, aggressive, confronting, big actions and noises and quite frankly by not using the human brain we have been blessed with (Simon and Erika). Simon came into the girls camp and quickly left on all fours to take up the battle stance of a bear, snarling with generalisations which were received simply as bear noise, no one had any idea what he was saying! However Erika acted in the same way, admittedly prompted by Simon’s actions, by proving she could be a bear too, but Erika remained for the most, on all fours and refused battle at first.

On the other hand some, not many, took up the position of ‘grylled fish’, just laying happy to feel the heat but not get involved at all, just sat watching or removed themselves from the equation completely. Sound familiar? The classic fight or flight response.

Change on The Island happens regularly as it does in business, sport and life. It is happening all around us all of the time, but do we know why we have the reactions we do? Essentially a reaction to change is natural, the two reactions are:


  1. See the change as a threat
  2. See the change as an opportunity


Did you notice that some (Hannah and Dr. Daniel) saw this as an opportunity? With the thought process of many hands means lighter work, new faces, morale etc.

Whereas some instantly saw the change as a threat (Erika, Simon and Riz) and had reactions very different to the opportunist amongst the newly forming team.

But why I hear you ask?

When an individual experiences a threat response it triggers a series of events inside their body 1, interestingly the process itself uses more oxygen and glucose. Both oxygen and glucose are vital for working memory capacity. This is needed to for creativity, thinking analytically, problem solving and retaining short-term information. With these impaired it is no wonder some couldn’t see how this may help make a better shelter, find more food etc.

What now? How to deal with it:

  • The best thing to do within your team or as a leader is to educate people that the threat response exists, awareness is everything, and you don’t know what you don’t know

  • Once people are aware that it can be hampering their efforts in many ways then they are in a position to do something about it

  • Simple discussion through what each person feels the threat is will often reduce the intensity of the threat to them, but for some this takes longer to reduce

  • Proactive communication: If you see a potential threat response coming discuss it, when it arrives it seems less threatening.

What now for The Islanders?

Do you feel like you are on the island? Essentially if they have a team discussion now about the new change things will undoubtedly take a turn for the better…effective communication through change is crucial, don’t be a bear!



1 Bran, A (2015) Neuroscience for Coaches, Kogan Page, London.

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