Have you ever been locked in a darkened room with only 60 minutes to escape?
No? Then you’re missing out! I am of course speaking of the phenomenon that is escape rooms. If you’re not familiar with escape rooms, then think Crystal Maze, but in one room, and with your whole team in there with you.
Weirdly there’s something truly fun about being locked in a room with a small group of friends (or family, if you’re feeling particularly brave) and attempting to work well together to solve all of the puzzles and get the final key to leave, all as a timer is conspicuously ticking down.
I’ve been lucky enough to do four escape rooms now, and there’s a few lessons I’ve learnt along the way that have made each successive one easier (we got out of the last one in half the time!!) and fun:
Communication – kind of obvious, but letting each other know what’s going on is pretty key if you want to stand a chance of getting out in time
Documentation – it’s amazing how much easier things are if you record the right level of information (all those possible clues, where they’ve been tried, if they’ve already been used) so that everyone can access it and understand what’s going on
Experience – people who’ve done it before can help those who haven’t: give pointers on what to expect before things get started, suggest ways to approach the tasks to speed up completion, and make sure that tricks learnt from previous games are carried forward
How it makes you feel – after my first room, we got out in time but it all felt a bit anti-climactic. After thinking about it, we realised it was because of how we interacted together – we all got so wrapped up in the goal of getting out that we didn’t really check in on how we all felt and if we were all feeling included and valuable. We put task before relationship. For future rooms, I made sure to keep us operating as a team, rather than as a group of obsessive individuals
Working as a team to solve problems in a high pressure environment with a deadline looming. That must be ringing bells for some of you. Does it sound like your working environment? Like the last project you were on?
If it is, then you’re probably already using some of the things I learnt in escape rooms. But if you’re not, don’t forget to: communicate continuously, make sure to keep everyone on the same page through appropriate documentation, and bring in an expert where it’s useful to do so.
But most importantly, think about how your working environment makes you and those around you feel. Are you just driving for a goal with no consideration for bringing people on the journey with you? Is your team burning out, or feeling less engaged?
Just think, people pay good money to be put through a high pressure, goal oriented, team experience in escape rooms. Maybe you should go and experience it yourself to see what you can pull from it and use to improve how you and your team work together.
And let me know if you get out in less than half the time!