There are many lessons that can be learned from playing team building games, and we feel that our products generate more than their share of great learning opportunities. Reactions are as varied as the groups of people that play and the kinds of cultures they represent. It works for very large groups as well as really small ones. Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is quite flexible in how it is delivered.

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One neat thing about Dutchman is that the organizational culture will show itself measurably and clearly — if people are highly competitive with each other, we see it in the dynamics of play and the lack of measured collaboration. If the culture is analytical, we see that in the inventory numbers at the end. If there is distrust among people, that shows itself clearly in that people will resist the help of other teams or even the game leadership. It is easily discussed in the debriefing and those issues can be challenged and alternatives discussed for implementation.

My Team, My Team color

If you are interested in the possibility of using Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine as a team building or motivational exercise for a retreat, large event or even purchasing it for use within a training program, I can help you make a good decision in a few-minute conversation about your group, your goals, and your desired outcomes. If Dutchman is not a good fit, I would certainly offer other recommendations that might mesh with your goals with some other vendors and consultants. There are many good options for corporate team building events and workshops out there.

These are some of the most common and important issues and outcomes from the play of The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine:

Collaboration, even when it is encouraged, can be difficult to actually achieve, much less implement:

  1. There is a big difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. Safety does not generate good results and it can measurably sub-optimize results
  2. Many people will choose competition rather than collaboration as a strategy and a few of those on a team will make the team less collaborative
  3. Openly encountering and assessing the risks involved and seeing a clear benefit is vital to generating collaboration in both the game and in the workplace
  4. Making these issues visible and somewhat uncomfortable is a good first step in generating the cognitive dissonance that is important for behavioral change and choice

There are three “Most Important Resources”: Time, Information and Each Other

Time:

  • Decisions made up front often have the greatest impact on final results. Planning time is often time well spent; do-overs in business are often fairly costly and sometimes decrease the likelihood of change
  • Strategies and plans are often forgotten when in the midst of pressures for results – “plans often do not survive the first contact with the enemy”

Information:

  • We must understand the challenge, plan for necessary resources, prioritize our activities and value our resources in order to optimize results
  • Decisions, no matter how good, are made based on considered alternatives; if little or no information is available, good decisions are impossible.
  • Alternative choices and analysis of cognitive biases can often lead to improved decision-making

Each Other:

  • Activity is no replacement for productivity and accomplishment; Peer support is often an essential component of critical thinking and action
  • People can add better perspective to risks and barriers to performance; shared risk is more easily endured
  • Alternative choices often come from people with different views and viewpoints. Perspective is a valuable tool for performance improvement

Decision-making, combined with clear understanding of the goals and objectives, will often help to optimize performance, productivity and results.

  • Team consensus generally leads to better decisions if it is focused on clear goals and desired outcomes and results; unfocused consensus leads to mediocrity and compromise
  • Your past experiences will color your decision-making and risk taking and teams will often take more considered risks than an individual. Confirmation bias can be a real sub-optimizer of future results
  • The best goals are  specific, attainable and realistic, measurable, clear and agreed-upon by your teammates

In the Lost Dutchman exercise, the goal is clearly presented: “…to mine as much gold as WE can.” It is common, though, based on the above factors, that tabletops will often frame “we” as “My Team, My Team, My Team” because that is commonly how things work in their workplaces. Each team is often designed to be an independent one, and thus collaboration is not actively encouraged nor managed.

My Team, My Team color

In the game, as well as in most workplaces, performance is optimized when cross-functional and interdepartmental teamwork is the norm. The exercise reinforces that, clearly showing the costs of competition.

My Team needs to be OUR Team,
and “ALL of us” is much more impactful than “most of us.”

This is delivered elegantly well with Dutchman, since this team building exercise so clearly and measurably rewards collaboration and communications with leadership and with other teams. Collaboration was a main design feature in how the game was constructed. We can neatly measure collaboration in different ways.

Many of our users tell us that  Dutchman is the best team building exercise in the world, and we have a lot of testimonials that support that conclusion. It will soon be 20 years that this game has been in play (and in continuous continuous improvement).

Frankly, talking about Lost Dutchman with prospects and users is one of the best things that I can do in a day. I feel really fortunate that we could put all this together into such a well-playing team building simulation that fits worldwide. It generates clean results and very actionable ideas for implementation. And users have told me that the, “ah ha’s!” continue to happen long after the session.

You can find out more by clicking on this link or on the game board below:

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If we can help you with anything about this exercise, let us know,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement products. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who designs simple, powerful learning tools.

See another great teambuilding game: The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO® Group®

 


Also published on Medium.