As owners of a Colorado-based mobile escape room our passion is to bring the escape room experience into a corporate setting where we’re able to observe teams as they endeavor to escape. Beyond being a mobile escape room our unique value add is the post event discussion. We will typically spend at least an hour decompressing the energy around the successful moments and reflections on the inevitable stumbles. These facilitated discussions nearly always uncover multiple opportunities for growth. If you’re local to Colorado then BustoutColorado would love to provide you with these facilitated discussions. If you’re not local to Colorado then I would strongly encourage you to find an escape room venue that is proficient in these discussions. You can find a list of qualified companies here.
I can’t stress enough that you should look for someone trained in facilitation to maximize the experience, however we recognize that might not be possible due to location and/or cost challenges. Therefore, we would like to share some simple, yet powerful suggestions for someone that might be doing a self-facilitation. Prior to reading the rest of this article I would encourage you to read this helpful article by Tyler Hayden and Andrew Gipson. Their article does an excellent job of explaining the steps to create a self-facilitated experience. With their permissions, we have then extended the concept of the facilitated discussion within this article so that it might provide additional support for the self-facilitator.
We present four basic observation points that can be used by anyone to start the facilitated discussion:
Celebration – As the team is working their way through the event be keen to notice how the team celebrates when an interim puzzle is solved or they have a breakthrough. Typical celebrations will last for 10-20 seconds with loud exuberance by all parties. Signs to look for:
- Minimal Celebration – If a team does little celebrating and moves quickly to the next puzzle then point out the observation and ask if it parallels work celebrations, often they do. You can describe a typical celebration and ask why theirs might be muted. Among other reasons this can be caused by a poor culture, a culture of extreme execution focus, or lack of specific personality types such as DiSC I type.
- Lack of participation – If one or more members fail to participate in the celebration then carefully pointing out the fact and ask for opinions on the root cause.
- Excessive celebration – If the team celebrates too much at the cost of getting puzzles solved then dig into why there is a reduced sense of urgency.
Communications – As noted many times in previous articles, successful communications during the experience is crucial for success. As the experience unfolds notice who’s speaking the most/least, who’s talking but not being heard by the others, who’s communication is having the biggest impact. When the experience is concluded the facilitator can derive questions from these suggestions. If nothing stands out then we have two favorite questions for this area, “Who felt like they were talking but not being heard?” and “<Bob> your communications seemed to always help the team along, what was your strategy for this event?”.
Leadership – We’ve never had a team that didn’t get stuck at some point in the experience. This is where a key skill is needed on the team. As a facilitator watch how the team reacts when they lose momentum and start to flounder. Does someone step up, call timeout, regroup the team and brainstorm? Are there multiple uncoordinated leaders? Does the team get demotivated and loose interest for the rest of the event? Any successful team needs a combination of an emotionally intelligent leader as well as team resilience. During the debrief a good question for this condition might be, “I noticed you got stuck on puzzle X, what technical and leadership skill areas would have helped us unstick sooner”? Note that we don’t make this a personal attack on any de facto leader.
Clue Overload – Any well-designed escape room will contain many props and clues that are distractions. What’s interesting to watch is the amount of emphasis people put on these fake clues. A well-oiled team will have the ability to sift through the noise and efficiently gather the important clues. Watch closely for a team or team members that focuses too long on the wrong clues. If this happens then a useful debrief question might be, “I noticed you got stuck a bit on X tell me how many distractions this team encounters at work and how are they handled?”. This question usually leads to several ideas for improvements in team productivity.