Why an Escape Room Debriefing Matters in Team Building

2021.03.24.

Let's imagine that you've just finished playing a team-building escape room game. You will all be excited, speaking at a mile-a-minute as you discuss and dissect all the different ways you might have done things. There will be a palpable buzz in the air. It's a great feeling. And it's just another positive factor that makes escape rooms and team building such a good match. But it's not all over yet. Part of the whole team-building process is the follow-up. To enable the participants time and space in which to express what each individual, as well as the group, were able to take away from the exercise. 

If you're the organizer or the employer, you'll find a lot of useful information by just sitting and listening to the excited discussion that always follows a game. These discussions will allow all the participants to reflect on their team's performance. They will be able to acknowledge mistakes, interactions, and how the game affected them on a personal level. They can discuss their communication and listening capabilities and how they might improve them later. Once the discussion has served its course, then it's time for questions. It's so very important that all the players are feeling comfortable in themselves and also recognize the need for a safe and frank exchange of ideas and thoughts.  

At this point. it's important that whoever organized the event is able to quantify the results and set them out in a meaningful manner. We should be looking for both the positives and negatives that the whole exercise bought forth. The organizer or facilitator needs to of worked out their debriefing questions. These must connect with the group and allow for the group to express honest opinions about their gaming experience as this will inevitably lead to looking at overall team improvement in the workplace. So these questions should be designed to extract as much meaningful and relevant information from each participant as is possible. Much will depend on the maturity of the group members, with a more mature group able to lead their own discussions.

As for what the debriefing questions should be, they should ideally follow a sequence of: what, so what. and what now? Let's have a look through them individually.

What?

This is to focus on the participants and the activity itself.

1. What was your experience? What happened in the escape room game?
2. Please be more specific, with examples.
3. What made you/your team successful/or unsuccessful?

So What?

Now we have discussed what happened we need to dive deeper to find value or insights that might prove useful later.

1. What's the most important lesson you got from this game?
2. What was the mechanism for handling disputes?
3. What did you learn about yourself during the game?

Now What?

This is the conversation moving forwards to discussing new ideas or things about future projects. These questions really bring us back to the main reasons we organized a team building in the first place.

1. Can you compare any interactions or actions that mirrored actions in the workplace? 
2. How can we use what we experienced in the escape room in our daily work life?
3. As the result of these insights, what should we do differently in the future?

Before we all get too serious, please remember that tough the team building was work-related, it doesn't mean that it should suck all the fun element out of the equation. To that end, the questioning should be kept "light" without heading into deeper personal issues. To strike the right balance will be difficult as many of the feelings that came about during the game, are more related to personal issues as opposed to things from the work place.

For best results, we suggest seating everyone in a circle, This way all can make eye contact as they discuss their points of view. Also, with "equal seating" office rank will disappear allowing employees to be more frank and honest. It's important to not be afraid of long silences. You want the people in the group to dig down and be sure of what they're expressing. Never chide or ask someone to hurry or get a move on. This will defeat the whole purpose of the game's postmortem. Likewise, choose a time when there are no time limits to the meeting. Remember that a decent discussion isn't an instant thing, it takes time for the group to warm up, and many may be shy in this situation and will need some time to feel comfortable. 

Provided that the facilitator knows what they're doing then with some targeted questions and discussion, they will be able to extract the most value from the escape room gaming session. And once again, we'll repeat it again and again. Remember to have fun. Laughter is the medicine for all ailments. So be sure to have a great time.

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