Editor’s Note: James Bennett posted this on the Escape Room Enthusiast Facebook Group and it was a great article detailing the difference between “Team Building” and “Team Activities”.
If your pulse is pounding, the door is locked, a zombie is chained to the wall, and the only way out is to solve a puzzle then you know you’re in an Escape Room.
It’s the latest craze to capture the interest of companies that want a unique team building experience. Many escape rooms are advertising their experience as a “team building” opportunity.
It’s true that escape rooms require groups to communicate, collaborate, vie for leadership, solve problems, and produce results under pressure… But the shared experience alone is not enough to have a true impact on your team and their workplace performance.
In team building, the experience is only a vehicle. Whether you’re escaping a room or assembling bikes for charity, the true impact occurs when teams reflect on their experience: why they made certain choices, how they communicated, who stepped into leadership roles, what language they used.
”Team building” occurs when the group reflects and finds meaning in the experience, and applies it to their patterns of behavior in the workplace. An escape room can be a valuable tool for team building when utilized properly.
Making an Escape Room a True Team Building Experience
Partner with a Professional Facilitator: A facilitator will work with the escape room to explore challenges the team will be facing, methods of observation, and formulate a plan for processing the experience. Following the team’s escape the facilitator will help the group reflect and draw meaning from the experience.
Book More Time: Most escape experiences last about an hour. If you’re partnering with a facilitator consider tacking on at least an extra hour to debrief the experience.
Consider 2 Escapes: After the first room your team will be armed with new insights that they can test in the second escape. A second escape creates more data that will help illuminate behavior patterns, breakdowns in communication, or team strengths.
Is an Escape Room Right For Your Team?
Escape rooms are not a perfect fit for every group. It’s a tool or sometimes a pleasant distraction and should be fitted to the group. Here’s a few points to consider when escape rooms are an option:
Puzzles, Puzzles, and Puzzles: The people drawn to escape rooms are puzzle people because escape rooms focus on puzzles. In a corporate event you’ll have a mix of people that love puzzles and those that don’t. Because this is a “work event” your non-puzzlers can’t opt out. If they’re not engaged then they can become a distraction or at the very least feel like they can’t contribute.
Require People to “Pretend”: I love a good theme but it shouldn’t cross the line into acting. When I approach any event design I make sure we’re designing for the group personality and not an individual’s. I’ve found that most group personalities do not appreciate being asked to “pretend” or suspend disbelief. I get the most rolled eyeballs from people when they recall an event where they had to pretend to be secret agents or cross a river of lava.
Can We Supersize That: Consider that most rooms have a participation cap of 3-10 people. You will occasionally find some with 15 and the rare one that can handle 15+.
Escape rooms are a great way to engage and challenge your team in a unique environment. If handled properly they can be a great tool for team building. Before you face down the zombie consider what it might represent in your business. What rooms has your team locked themselves in? What does escaping the room represent on your team’s journey?
Disclaimer: I fully support the escape room experience as an amusement. If your team just wants gratuitous fun you will not be judged by me. =)