Imagine you and your officemates leave work and are dropped into the Amazon rainforest. Or, what about being transported to a psychiatrist’s office in the 1960s? How would your team fare in a totally foreign environment where the playing field is leveled and the surroundings are unfamiliar?
Team-building harnesses the power of removing individuals from their comfort zone to learn new, different, and better ways to work together. Team leaders may choose to seek out team-building activities, but the classic trust falls and between-the-knee balloon passes can be more awkward than inspiring. What if your team could be intensely immersed in an engrossing interactive puzzle that harnessed each member’s problem-solving skills in a dynamic and fun environment?
An escape room, essentially a series of logic-based puzzles with a specified goal that the entire group must focus on to win, may be just the thing to activate the potential of your team. Escape rooms build many of the crucial skills necessary for a team to work effectively: communication, engagement, observation, problem-solving, and time management.
Communication is one of the major points that is always a key to victory. In working toward a common goal, it is imperative that each team member expresses what they are doing or have done in relation to the project at hand. If one person is stubbornly trying to take all of the work in their hands, they may become stumped when they encounter an issue beyond their skillset, and halt the group’s progress by keeping key information away from their teammates.
Whether the group is large or small, team engagement is crucial, but it can be easy to get stuck in a rut with coworkers within the routine of the workplace. “I think the fun and intensity of being in an escape room helps a team’s dynamic because the environment is so different from what employees experience day to day. It’s so different, and so engaging, it forces you to lower your guard and to buy in quickly to the common goal: solve the puzzle!” says Caitlin Ceci, one of the partners of Red Herring Escape Rooms. Their rooms are designed to engage different intelligences and learning styles.
Observation and problem solving are vital in tackling an escape room challenge. The first step to tackling any problem is to observe the individual components. Then, you must determine what is needed to solve that problem, and what resources are present to do so. Objects may have more to them than meets the eye, making it necessary to observe your surroundings from a new perspective to come up with a creative solution, always keeping an eye out for connections between different elements.
Time management is also vital for teams to master. Players have one hour to escape, and battling the clock highlights the efficiency of working together, in the escape room and without. Realizing this, those who might be falling behind on work will be more willing to ask for assistance from those in the team who may be better suited to helping with their problems. If one approach isn’t working, the team may need to re-evaluate whether there isn’t something else that needs to be completed first.
Escape rooms are an effective way to improve upon and evaluate these skills. Whether you win or not, your team will walk away with a unique frame of reference to gauge what aspects of teamwork they did well in and where they may have fallen short. Then, you can work towards refining those skills for success in future endeavors, in and out of the office.