Performance Management Blog

Learning Lessons on Culture from The Galapagos

There are many learning lessons on culture from visiting The Galapagos for anyone paying attention to the impacts of culture and environment on collaboration and communications. Having completed my second visit and planning a third, I wanted to share some of the simple big picture influences that I gained from my journey. So many things apply to this unique place that should be much more common in our workplaces.

I wrote a long article in early March of 2023, and I would be hard-pressed to elaborate in more detail. You can find it here or by clicking on the image below.

Here is a summary of the key points from the text:

  • Scott draws parallels between the Galapagos Islands and organizational culture, highlighting the uniqueness and diversity of both.
  • The islands are tightly protected and recognized for their global uniqueness, with efforts to expand protected marine environments.
  • The islands’ isolation and strict regulations contribute to the development and support of unique species.
  • The author emphasizes the calmness and mutual trust observed between humans and animals in the Galapagos.
  • Some animals, like tortoises, require human intervention and protection to thrive, similar to how individuals within organizations need support and development.
  • The importance of protecting culture and showing kindness is highlighted, drawing parallels between the impacts of human actions on the islands and managerial decisions within organizations.
  • Collaboration is emphasized as a key learning point, with a call for better collaboration on a global scale to address environmental issues and improve organizational performance.
  • The need for inter-departmental and inter-organizational collaboration is highlighted, with examples from the auto industry’s quality improvements and the importance of addressing competition between departments.
  • Scott encourages collaboration on critical global issues such as environmental protection, immigration, food production, and clean water.
images of Galapagos

Please click on this image to go to the more detailed article.

To illustrate the reality of disruption:

One irony is that this relatively smoothly operating environment was dramatically impacted when one of the two supply ships to the islands went into a months-long repair. The “managers” of the island apparently chose NOT to put a replacement ship into play (and all this IS tightly regulated) so there are now human shortages of drinking water, food, gas and so many other basic items for the 50,000 inhabitants of the islands, and this has had dramatic impacts on the quality of the experience for the tourists on which those residents depend. This shows the connectedness of all things and the reality that basic supplies are now in short supply is simply hard to understand. ONE person, most likely, has made the choices to affect the quality of life of many thousands of people because something went “off-budget” and no plans were made to solve what looks to be a simple problem…


Understand that this is a very smoothly operating culture for animals and humans, that the animals show no fear of humans because they are treated with respect and without interference. One can simply approach pretty much ANY of the wildlife with little problems. You can stand 5 feet from a nesting booby or a mother and baby sea lion (except in mating season when the big 9 foot-long bulls may get a little more aggressive).

Two baby sea lions in The Galapagos

You can get quite close to the baby sea lions, turtles and crabs with no fears.

The key learning lesson around the islands is that one can establish an equilibrium and culture that supports all the creatures. The people treat the animals with respect and allow the animals to perform nicely in relationship to their environment. There is little aggression between any of these species and between the animals and the people. The ecology is generally sustainable. 

BUT, it takes planning and dedication.

And, I hope that these simple insights might inspire some global leadership changes and a commitment to make things better. 


My friends had some of these thoughts about the longer article, which prompted me to write this one:

Alexandra Suchman:
Well first, I have to say how jealous I am of your trip! The Galapagos Islands are high on my list of places I want to visit, and your article confirmed why!
I had very similar reflections about the amazing balance and collaboration that exists in nature (without humans) when I went on a safari trip in South Africa in 2015 and when I went snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef in 2018. I found it truly moving and beautiful to be in the middle of an ecosystem in which humans did not factor at all, and where every creature from the largest animal to the smallest plant played a critical role. Every living creature has it’s role in the ecosystem, and as long as outside invading species keep out, there is no natural inclination to dominate or destroy just for the sake of it. Humans have a lot to learn from nature!
I think the article is great. It does seem to have two parallel points that get a little muddled, and could be separated into two articles: one on collaboration and one conservation/protection. I obviously have a bias, but I think the collaboration message has more resonance with people interested in human behavior and group dynamics, whereas the protection one has more relevance for environment concerns. These seem to be to be two different audiences ( though there is certainly lots of overlap between the audiences), so I wonder if splitting the piece into 2 would help keep the reader engaged and help you emphasis your theses better.

I hope this is helpful! Thank you for sharing!

Sue Baechler:
Well done!
I appreciated the context-setting history of the islands that set up your metaphors and learning lessons. The unique habitat and human-animal relationships are memorable storytelling elements for your lessons on cultures where collaboration, trust, kindness, respect . . . are the norm and help create positive change.
Your article/post feels like Nat Geo meets Fast Company. An exciting collaboration! I hope you can find new ways to communicate the first-hand lessons you’ve extracted from this natural, collaborative environment to raise awareness that helps people and organizations evolve.
Of course as a game maker, my mind starts connecting dots for a kid’s game or business game that helps people discover your lessons for themselves from the realities of the Galapagos ecosystem.😀
Phil Ness
Really enjoyed the read. It must have been an incredible experience to be on the island. Your insights and follow up reinforce the perspectives and actions we all need to take to win. It seems that leadership and nature are working in synchronicity here to preserve a world treasure.
Thank you for sharing!


For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools.
Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who is trying to retire!! He now lives in Cuenca, Ecuador.

You can reach Scott at

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Scott is the developer of an excellent team building exercise focused on collaboration, engagement and leadership called:

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game

Here is a link to a press release about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding exercise and its 30 years of positively impacting people and performance.

Pricing and terms are subject to change without notice.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a trademark of Performance Management Company

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of the amazing Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game and the Square Wheels facilitation and engagement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced global presenter. -- You can reach Scott at and a detailed profile is here: -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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