Escape rooms have become a very popular entertainment option in the last decade, where participants play an escape game to collectively discover clues, solve puzzles and ultimately achieve the goal of escaping the room.  By the end of 2017, there were over 8000 venues worldwide.

Our consulting team at the Myers-Briggs Company saw this trend and recognized that the power of the concept could be applied to experiential learning for teams.  We devised a special Escape Room to facilitate greater communication, self-awareness and improved team dynamics.  Our Board recently completed this specially designed Escape Room and our Board room is the better for it.

Boards are unique teams.  As Directors, we are not together on a regular basis, but meet periodically.  Our interactions are around governance initiatives and strategic planning, not day to day operations.  As such, our bond with each other is different. It can be harder to gain insights about our peer directors, with such intermittent and specialized interactions.  It is even more complex when new Directors are added; board onboarding typically covers the business, not the nuances of individual directors.   Nonetheless, it is so important that boards operate cohesively and effectively— the business depends on it.  That is where the Escape Room proved to be so helpful.

Our Board of Directors at the Myers-Briggs Company is a new team, since we recently added two new Directors following the retirement of two others.  We always do a deep dive into our products at each Board offsite, so this year we decided to undergo the Escape Room experience, a product of our Consulting Team. We were randomly put into two teams of four and were faced with a critical espionage problem.  Whichever group solved the problem, and saved the world, would win.

The “escape” involved clues and puzzles, as well as misinformation and extraneous facts.  The various problems were verbal, visual, mathematical and tactile. Some were complicated, requiring more than one person, while others were more straightforward. The exercise was fun, at times frustrating, and ultimately highly illuminating. The competition was fierce, as both teams wanted to be the first to escape.

The true insights came from the way the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was integrated into the game. Our type was instrumental in showing what we brought to our team and to the process of solving the escape problem.  Given my type (an ENTP) I was good at coming up with new strategies to find our escape, especially after we went down the wrong rabbit holes, aided by the misdirection inherent in the game.  One of my teammates, (an ISTP) was the perfect one to figure out a tactical puzzle and stay on task until the correct result was achieved. The ENTJ in our group was the one who focused on the time and whether we were making enough progress to be able to finish within the deadline.

After the exercise, both teams debriefed on what had happened and the interactions that occurred.  Our facilitators showed us that the behaviors we exhibited were very natural, given our type.  By the end of the session, all of us had a better understanding of each other and the ways in which we could contribute to productive board discussions. Most importantly, the new Board members no longer seemed so unknown, and became highly integrated into our Board team.

I can’t imagine any Board not benefitting from such an exercise.  Just like we, as Directors, need to invest time in the business, we also need to invest time in the Board  I think, and not just because my team won, that the Escape Room is a great investment.

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