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Will you be ready...In case you missed it:  The Walking Dead is a TV show about the zombie apocalypse.

I’m a fan.*

(NB:  Some Season 4 plot points, no real spoilers.)

Life for survivors of this apocalypse is different than it is on Cormac McCarthy’s Road; consorting with other people offers a survival advantage.  Unlike a Gibsonian dystopia, the “haves” aren’t the 1%.

Survivors live or die on their leadership, logistics, and mad weapons skills.

Several years into the apocalypse, there’s no relief in sight.   In fact, there are new risks.  Like the possibility that zombies — called walkers — may now be transmitting a flu-like disease.

Our band of survivors is a core team, plus people who have joined along the way.

They’re organized, and fluid.  Adaptable and creative.  Everyone can kill a zombie; some people have assumed specialized roles.  The group has a culture:  there are shared values.   At this stage, nobody is involved in every decision.  Not even the leaders.

Like a start-up that has managed to scale up to 20-25 people.

They’ve also developed a screening process for new people who wish to join their community.  Namely, they ask 3 questions:

  • How many walkers have you killed?
  • How many people have you killed?
  • Why?

The first question weeds out dead weight.   Anyone who can’t take out a walker puts the entire community at risk.

Question two is a bit more subtle.  There are bad guys out there.   Most survivors have been involved in pivotal “us or them” decisions.  For better and for worse.

The third question is key.  If you’ve experienced the power of asking an open-ended question, you know this to be the most important question.

The questions reflect the group’s circumstances, experience and culture.   Group members listen for answers that reflect group values.

As the season progresses, former sheriff Rick Grimes is pulled back into the leadership position he had abdicated.   We see how he uses the questions when he encounters new people.

Unexpectedly, we then see Rick exploring the third question with someone he already knows.  One of the last living members of his core team — someone Rick has to decide whether to cut loose.

Their discussion sheds light on how each aligns with the group’s core values.

This gives Rick clarity for his decision.

What are your team’s 3 questions?

Photo:  Will you be ready, by Kenny Louie, via Flickr under Creative Commons license.  Yes, that’s the RV!   Flickr is home to some serious TWD minifig awesomeness.   Like Lego Michonne.

*stay tuned for a related blog post — a couple of brief thoughts on genre entertainment in the post-jobs/post-financial apocalypse World.