Performance Management Company Blog

Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Category: team building event ideas (Page 2 of 3)

Team Building Followup – Maximizing Impact with Cartoons

This is our 20th year of selling team building games and we are pleased to have so many great customers. In particular, we get tremendous feedback about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. This focuses on leadership and inter-organizational collaboration as well as anything we have ever encountered. And we have the testimonials to prove it.

teambuilding image

Another one of our special tools revolves around our Square Wheels illustrations and the toolkits that we developed for facilitating organizational improvement. As many people know, we started up a separate blog just for cartoons and poems — that has been FUN!!

square wheels image of how things work

These two things came together when a good customer asked if we had used any of the Lost Dutchman cartoons as poems for followup with individual participants, since so many of the debriefing discussions focus on themes of, “What will you do differently when you get back on the job?” and similar questions. Good question, the result of which is me playing with illustrations and doing more rhyming. I never thought of myself as a writer, much less a poet.

The result is that I am building up a big base of poems around all sorts of issues of organizational behavior. My goal is to have a complete set of illustrations that users could grab to send in regularly scheduled followup with clients or that clients could use with the game participants themselves as a way of throwing some mud at the fence and getting people to continue thinking of the choices they make around collaboration and problem solving.

I thought to share a few of the ideas here. Research has shown that images are retained better than words AND that simple poems and phrases add to the impact. So, the idea was to combine the images and some poems into a graphic that users of the game would be able to embed in followup emails or use in other ways,

Here are some of the first of these illustrated poems:

Dutchman Game Followup 1

Dutchman Game Followup Jeep 3

Dutchman Game Followup Teams 4

Dutchman Game Followup music 5

Dutchman Game Followup Top 6

Dutchman Game Followup Mud 7

Dutchman Game Followup Mud 8

One of the things that has been amazing is the quality of user feedback and testimonials we get about the overall effectiveness of the exercise. You can see some of what our users say in this blog post summarizing our owner survey.


Lots of times, we generate Action Plans from the debriefing in our sessions and we can all be pretty assured that we can do some things to improve on the likelihood of implementation because of the nature of the comments that are generated. I am hoping that cartoons, poems and questions might be another tool.

I hope that you find these of some interest; we are always looking to collaborate as well as to optimize the impact and effectiveness of our materials,

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

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

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.


Annotated Abstracts of Management Team Building articles

Many of my posts are descriptive of ideas for business management team building exercises and posts on how to use training events to impact engagement and involvement for workplace improvement. This seems especially true for those focused on executive development, since the actions at the top have so many impacts as they cascade down through the organization.

One of my basic beliefs on these kinds of motivational team building exercises is that these events can be fun but that they can also be inexpensive and tightly linked to specific organizational objectives. One of the things we do is to deliver such sessions and then sell the client the simulation to run themselves through training or other kinds of developmental initiatives. They are really good when bundled into a strategy rollout kind of strategy.

What I did for this blog was simple: I searched my posts on “Motivational Team Building” and came up with about 20 different articles among the 275 in the blog. Then, I selected 5 that seemed most relevant to someone searching for that kind of information.

LDGM 1 80

1 – In Lessons from The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a game on teamwork and collaboration, we focus on some of the key learning points in our teambuilding exercise. One is that collaboration, even when it is encouraged, is really hard to generate. People choose more often to compete even when it sub-optimizes results. It is also easy to see that the three most important resources are Time, Information and Each Other. We also then talk about the issues of My Team, My Team, My Team and how we can help organizations improve overall collaboration and engagement.

My Team My Team haiku

2 – The post, “Maximizing Team Building Impacts with Senior Managers,” addresses how to involve and engage the top managers of an organization with the goal of cascading the teamwork and alignment down. In many organizations, the phrase interdepartmental collaboration is an oxymoron, and it exists because of exclusive measurement systems and the competition between leadership – causing the silos. This article focuses on working with senior management and shares some thinking about how to implement this initiative throughout an organization.

3 – Innovation, Strategy and Motivation is focused on my thinking about the overall effectiveness of a program I did in Mumbai, India for a group of very senior managers. It was focused on my friend Robin Speculand’s approach to strategy implementation and wrapped around my Square Wheels illustrations as tools for generating alignment and engagement. I include links to Dan Pink’s materials on intrinsic motivation and also relate to other resources for impacting people and productivity.

Rat Cage More Better Faster

4 – Does Teamwork Work? Issues and Ideas for Improvement is about the basic design of team building programs and their linking to organizational improvement. There are a lot of activities out there representing themselves as team building that may or may not be truly effective in linking to real organizational improvement initiatives and business process improvement. Many might have aspects of collaboration or team thinking involved, but are they really designed to facilitate a powerful debriefing? Dutchman was designed to link to issues of optimizing performance results.

5 – In Workplace Motivation – “I Quit! Nevermind. Whatever…“, there is a solid review of the data and statistics on workplace motivation, which anchors really well to what we can do differently to better involve and engage individuals and teams for performance improvement. The data show that there are just so many people going through the motions of working, and that they could accomplish a lot more if the workplace was more situationally engaging. People can do more, and they will if you allow them. It is a lot about Intrinsic Motivation.

These are a few of almost 300 articles in my blog, ON PERFORMANCE. I hope that you find some of these ideas of use and benefit as you move things forward in your organization or for your clients.

Plus, I am just starting up a blog of poems, quips, one-liners and other illustrated cartoons with captions and slogans. You can check it out at

SWs One - things you will see border copy 2

We believe that we have some of the most useful tools for communications and organizational development that exist. Our team building games are simple and effective and our Square Wheels toolkits easily involve and engage people to share and implement their ideas for improvements.

Have FUN out there!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Team Building and Poems on Performance – Cute Visuals on Collaboration and Goal Setting

Teambuilding is about generating alignment to shared goals and visions and also about involving and engaging people in collaborating for optimized results. The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is our tool to teach along the lines of competition and collaboration as well as planning and doing. Basic to its unique design is that sharing information and resources helps tabletops to optimize overall results for the group.

To set the stage, understand that the goal is to mine as much as WE can and optimize the Expedition Leader’s Return on Investment (ROI). The role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful. We feel that these two factors model the desired outcomes of most leaders operating in most organizations. The reality is that teams more often choose to compete rather than collaborate and that they seldom ask the leadership for help, advice or even resources to generate maximum results.

LD 2 slides - We Can and Help teams

So, with this as a basic entry point, here are some poems and illustrations that help to illustrate the issues and opportunities. Teams can make better choices in a variety of different ways. So, here goes…


expedition leaders lead expeditions

collaboration is a key to decision making

So, the planning now completed, teams begin to play the game and see the results of their planning and their choices. The goal is to mine as much gold as we can.

strategic planning lends itself to performance

teamwork is essential to optimized results

teamwork policies and procedures

Now, the play is almost done and teams are looking about and making comparisons about their performance to the performance of other tabletops. Some chose to collaborate, some chose to get advice from that Expedition Leader and some might have even asked for some resources to help optimize ROI for the table and for the group.

intrinsic motivation is about succeeding

my team, my team, my team

LD Celebration is key poem

So, now we can take the time to reflect on things and turn the game into a powerful learning event where we discuss past choices for the game and future choices for the organization. It lends itself to reflect on things that are done well and things that need to be improved. It is a chance to reaffirm the goals and directions, share the visions and to pull things together.

reflection on choices

challenge is to mine gold

what did you learn from your experience

Have FUN out There!

celebrating success and results

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

Thoughts on Team Building – Cross-Cultural Impacts of Lost Dutchman

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine really works well cross-culturally and I was reminded of this when my associates in India sent me their new marketing flyer. In the past year, they have developed a great base of multinational clients and have delivered both leadership development workshops as well large group events.

I was really impressed when they sent me their new flyer for the game.

Google ChromeScreenSnapz002

Google ChromeScreenSnapz003

From the beginning, I have always seen Lost Dutchman as a simple tool for organizational development, one that links to some of the real issues of interdepartmental collaboration, leadership and alignment, and how to motivate people to work together for improved results.

It is always great when other people also “get it.”

I just finished a significant update to all of the handout materials and our debriefing slides. If you own an older or smaller version than Lost Dutchman Professional Edition, you would find these materials of interest, since they are not included in the materials furnished with the game. There are a lot of new files added to the handouts, also.

If you are just simply interested in ideas for facilitating teamwork, you would probably also find these materials helpful, since they represent different templates and frameworks for generating engagement and involvement in general, and they focus on the ideas that we use within all of our team building games for generating perspective on issues and opportunities for improvement.

You can download these materials at this location on the Performance Management Company website.

Take a look and see if these materials can be useful for you.

Have FUN out there!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Having an Off-Site Company Meeting? Ideas for Success

There are some good tools out there to optimize the success of an off-site meeting. The list of Don’ts is pretty obvious to most of us if we spend 2 minutes thinking back to either the “Most Memorable Bad Meetings” we have attended or try to remember all the sessions that we forgot – many of these corporate gatherings leave nothing but a hole in time. My goal here is to share some alternative approaches to this problem.

Gaining negative examples is especially easy and brainstorming with four of your senior managers on the Bad Ones might actually even be fun (if, and only if, none of them were directly involved in the “planning” of that event!)

LD Campfire

It is kind of fun to sit by the fire and tell stories!

In a nice blog by Bob Frisch and his team (see it here), they share a number of good ideas about Big Picture Planning for Events. The blog was a shorter version of an HBR article by Frisch and Chandler that expands things a bit more.

Their tips include the requirement that there be some pre-planning focused on desired outcomes and key goals for the meeting.

Typically, it seems like the CEO says, “Let’s have a meeting” and defines who will attend. A list of top leaders is generated and maybe an outside expert. Budget limitations define venues, numbers and activities. Golf gets expensive and bowling is too goofy. Airfares, room rentals, cars and meal costs add up quickly and there needs to be some ROI in order for this to make sense. And when all these things come together, the outcomes of the meeting should be apparent and the changes driven from the commitments should be meaningful.

This does not mean the generation of a list of characters who should be there because they are bosses’ bosses or that kind of thing nor should it simply be a list of people who do good PowerPoint presentations, because the reality is that much of that kind of content can be webcast or podcast these days and need not be part of the travel-time agenda. And also envision the normal glazed eyeballs and distracted looks in the dim room during the last session you attended…

After all, how many PowerPoints IS it possible to watch and survive?

(Some surveys say 3, but my personal experience is sometimes ONE. Yes, when I have a scheduled delivery of one of my team building experiential exercises, I will sit in on other presentations and will often observe participant reactions rather than listen to content. I can remember some good ones, but the reality is, “more are quite bad than somewhat good.” They don’t call it “Death by PowerPoint” for no reason, right? A search of “Death by PowerPoint” (in quotes) generated 346,000 results and without quotes, it was 27,100,000!)

powerpoint poisoning

Message: Fewer Lectures by Senior Managers without vetting for engagement and interest!

People can sit at their desks and review powerpoints either by going through the file, as a podcast or even a webinar. Why pay the costs of airfare and hotel and then have them sit basically isolated and hopefully listening?

What do you want them to Do Differently as a result of sitting there?

We look at such events as the only time that you can get these people into a room to interact and engage each other, to dialog face to face to build more collaboration and cooperation, or to solve real business problems and take away an impetus to do something differently.

The reality should be that we do a better job at the front end in designing the desired back end and the behavioral outcomes we desire. The program itself should be engaging, or have engaging components. People need to interact and develop a sense of ownership and commitment.

Let’s take the situation of the top management team that has developed a new strategy that needs to be rolled out. Who are the key players who will determine the steps to successful implementation and who are the people who NEED to know first-hand about the strategy so that they can begin communications? Who needs to attend to help us develop the roll-out plan and the timelines? Where do we focus and what do we need to change or eliminate from our measurement systems so that we can add some new behaviors that support the desired changes?

It is these kinds of questions (and more) that will help us define the plan and drive better outcomes.

Our approach looks more at involving and engaging participants to generate some ideas for innovation or improvement and doing different activities to teach and practice facilitation / motivation skills that the participants can use with their staffs or to do some team building to identify real ideas to improve collaboration or to design strategy interventions.

Other consultants and trainers in our network do sessions specifically designed to focus on Creativity or Leadership Development or Strategy Implementation.

But the goal and desired outcome is to enable change. This will not occur if you sit there and observe the scoresheet, any more than a basketball team will take practice time to sit and go through the Box Score of the game from two nights ago. Reviewing information is not going to improve skills or interactions and it is certainly not going to develop a level of ownership commitment needed to do something differently.

A couple of days ago, I got an email from a young engineer who is part of a planning team designing an event for 250 people. From the information I could gather, this was to include a one-hour interactive team building session for 1/3 of the group at a time and for tables of 8 – 9 people since this was how the rest of the program was apparently designed.

I referred him to my blog post on team sizes and optimal outcomes which basically reviews a lot of research that indicates that small groups perform much better than larger ones and that supports my 25 years of playing with tabletops no larger than 6 to drive behavioral change. Plus, devoting ONE hour to teambuilding at a multi-day conference was highly likely not to change one small thing, even. But at least they were looking for some experiential learning to accomplish this as opposed to doing DISC or something…

My suggestion to him was at the NEXT conference, they do something like our Lost Dutchman team building exercise, do it for the entire group, and spend half a day participating AND working on ideas for improvement and change. The desired outcome should be to generate some plans for doing things differently and for developing a followup plan to make it more likely that things will actually change and improve. It will not come from some senior manager standing at the front of the room talking about The Mission and The Vision and The Strategy. We need to paint the picture for people about where we are going:

Square Wheels View from The Front of the wagon image

The view at the front of the wagon, which is different than the view at the back!

Alignment will come from the active engagement of participants and the detailing of specific desired changes — and ideally measuring those improvements in a meaningful way.

After all, Nobody Ever
Washes a Rental Car!

People must have an ownership commitment in order for them to be expected to take care of things and do the maintenance and other tasks necessary to take care of the business.

What I do is designed to be an excuse for a targeted debriefing — all my activities are designed to generate perspective and discussion and engagement so that tabletops can reframe situations and generate ideas for improvement. The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a 2 hour game that we can debrief for days — seriously. If I am asked to deliver a session, I want 90 minutes for the debriefing and also the active participation of the Most Senior Manager, who I get to lead, What does Mining Gold mean for Our Organization (and what will we choose to do differently to mine more gold!)

If I use the Square Wheels as an approach, we will always get into a discussion like this one. (You can download and view a pdf version of the worksheet below by clicking on this link: SW – RWs worksheet) SWs-RWs Worksheet

There are many interactive games that you can use to teach collaboration skills (like Collaboration Journey) or creative, innovation and implementation processes (like Innovate & Implement). And lots of other vendors sell useful and effective products that can link to real behaviors and engagement.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

Why have anyone sit and watch? What would YOU prefer to do?

The goal is to involve and engage people for some change in behavior. This is a lot easier to do at one large event with a focus on facilitating and involvement than to do one-on-one in rollout. Companies can deliver powerpoint show in many different ways at a lot less cost than at some venue.

Getting people off their seat and on their feet and involved with discussions of potential improvement or an analysis of the critical factors necessary to implement some new strategy is ONLY accomplished at such events.


This came from the Haines Center’s newsletter – Strategic Management Insights (April 25, 2013)). It added some solid additional perspective and ideas:

8 Tips for a Successful Management Retreat

Accomplish strategic planning, team building or simply have great conversations about the business, with a successful retreat. Regardless of the size of your organization, bringing senior managers together for a well-planned retreat is a smart business decision. Conducted properly, corporate retreats can be a great investment that helps move your company in the right direction. They can be a great opportunity for strategic planning that will enhance performance and foster overall growth. Follow these eight tips to assist you in planning a successful senior management retreat:

  1. Decide on the focus. Every organization has its unique dynamics, goals and challenges. Are you designing a retreat for strategy or just team building? Do you need to improve office morale? Do you just want to relax? Your agenda may vary depending upon the focus of your retreat.
  2. Find a suitable venue. Pick a location with comfortable accommodations, a variety of meeting facilities and easily accessible local attractions. Be sure to consider what your senior managers would benefit from. Aim to make your decision based upon the overall quality of the experience offered, not just the price.
  3. Select appropriate participants. If you fail to select the right players, your retreat will be unproductive. Identify key people. Consider the benefits of including executives, managers and top-performing employees. Invite only those that can actively participate in achieving your focus. No more, no less.
  4. Set an agenda. Customize your retreat based upon your key objectives. Be sure to fill each day with a well-balanced mixture of business and fun.  Distribute the agenda before the retreat so your managers can begin to think about the topics and prepare themselves to participate in any activities.
  5. Bring information. Before the retreat, ask your senior managers to compile a list of relevant information, data and research about your organization and its business environment. Use the list as a starting point for discussions and to promote the sharing of ideas.
  6. Begin with a group activity. Plan an informal event to kick off the retreat. Use this as a way to introduce new faces, minimize tension and encourage group interaction.
  7. Retreat now. Repeat. You will be amazed at what you will accomplish with a well-planned retreat. Repeat the events as often as possible to ensure that leaders don’t go ‘back to business as usual’. The investment will be worth every penny.
  8. Engage a facilitator. Find someone from outside the company to facilitate the retreat. Maintain your goals and vision, but allow a seasoned professional to manage the process of achieving them.

A successful senior management retreat will help you to gain a better understanding of your most important leaders. Contact us to plan the retreat that may help your organization to achieve superior results.

 You can reach Haines at


My personal experience with meetings and conferences extends over 30 years and 38 countries, a lot of it presenting and a lot of this listening to others. Like many of you, I have sat through 100s  of presentations of all kinds in all sorts of venues. Only a few are memorable. My positive and negative experiences plus a lot of research on experiential and accelerated learning have helped me as I designed some really great tools for organizational development and engagement. These engaging tools are all simple to use and highly impactful, guaranteed!

If you are interested in a large group team building event focused on organizational alignment and inter-organizational collaboration, my Lost Dutchman game is superb.

You can rent the exercise very cheaply for a one-time use or purchase it for repeated use in training or as part of an implementation program for strategy or change. SYou can also find some ideas for ways to cheaply run a large group team building event AND fully engage the senior management team on implementing strategy in this blog post.

Testimonial on Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

And with any rental or purchase, you also get my personal absolute unconditional free full support for dealing with your questions and challenges. AND, I will guarantee great results.

Email me for desired personal help. Or call me. I am more than happy to spend time framing up different approaches for improving people and performance, regardless as to whether it is going to generate a sale for me.


Discuss what you might do differently

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company

Military Team Building Games – some thoughts on alternatives

Good Governance, rather than autocratic leadership, is one of the keys to creating value and improvement for organizations and society.

Dutchman is Teamwork

Organizations of all types are looking for tools to help improve collaboration and teamwork and they sometimes are looking toward military models of operations, since we tend to view SEAL groups as highly organized and effective. Thus, many view the use of some kind of “military model of leadership” as a tool to improve performance in their own organizations.

And remember back in 1986 when everyone was going toward “Top Gun” kinds of training programs and employee improvement actions because of the popularity of the Tom Cruise movie and the apparent thrill of flying a jet fighter? Ah, if organizations could only work like that! Zoom Zoom! They were printing Top Gun Baseball caps for everyone, it seemed.  (But if you actually remember the movie, the leadership and congruence among the teams sure was not that smooth and everything was a competition, which sometimes nearly got people killed. There was constant conflict and often a lack of coordination, Boss-driven compliance, demotions and all that…)
Stealth SWs yellow

I am sometimes asked how our teambuilding and collaboration products can be used for a Military Team Building Game or similarly themed-exercise, either as a game with a military theme or one that can be used by a military unit to teach practical leadership and teamwork lessons. And there are a bunch of anchor points to generating good results and impacts.

Some of my client colleagues who do these kinds of team building events in various military organizations all say pretty much the same thing. Russ, for example, said, “The only thing I have to say is that military has the same issues as civilian, local focus, lots of distractions, different risk levels,…. Nothing jumps out as specific or different for Military applications.”

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine remains my flagship product and one that we are proud to offer to clients of all types, profit and non-profit, who are interested in generating more engagement and collaboration across organizational barriers. The focus is on the overall result of the group, not any one team. And the applications toward idealized Military Efficiency are pretty straightforward.

My personal beliefs are that an exercise themed on a military team building would tend to be too focused on competition / violence, something that might not sit well with a female audience or one that an objector might find distasteful. My “Military Might!” exercise, for example, is one that my son and I designed initially for his high school Air Force ROTC organization to teach the criticality of planning and attention to detail. As Corps Commander, Jeff needed to improve how things worked and improve attention to detail, as in taking inventories and similar functions.  But Might! game is about planning to kill terrorists – and I am reframing the design to become an oil exploration exercise with many of the same learning points; just a different message medium.

So far as generating compliance because or ordering people to do things, it is common that people commanded may not complain, they may simply do. But the distaste for being told will remain. And compliance does not generate a lot of desired outcomes in general.

And the basic theme of a “military game” may generate unanticipated consequences*.  I have a friend who still suffers from PTSD from his activities in Vietnam. He remains an out-patient in the VA hospital and attends group therapy. If he were one of the players of a military-style game, he would have fun, but there would be a residue left behind from such an event and it would probably trigger a lot of negative memories and emotions. The problem is that one can never really predict what will trigger what in other people…

* (My lawyer friends say that nothing is actually “unanticipated” but that due diligence would discover the unexpected problem and prevent it from ever occurring! “Saying” that it is unanticipated does not remove one from the responsibility for the unintended consequences…)

A colleague in the DC area and who regularly delivers programs for military leadership development and communications courses had this to say about military-themed team building and leadership training in general (in blue):

For decades there’s been a huge emphasis on collaboration information sharing across units and services (between Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy). Collaboration is an important and real issue today between these groups, not to mention between our security services like Homeland, NSA, FBI, CIA and local police forces. There remain a wide variety of teamwork and communications issues that directly impact public safety.

The phrase “joint operations” is used frequently (a similar phrase is “going purple”). This is about reducing the historic inter-service rivalries, and increasing effectiveness through the concept of one, joint fighting force. This kind of military team building exercise can also show up on the local level. It is also related to Emergency Preparedness, where interdepartmental and turf issues can show themselves clearly.

[As an aside here, my personal observations of such joint operations at a local high school among the fire, police, state police, EMS and Public Health Services was so inefficient and ineffective to be almost comical. A big laugh for me came when one of the demolition guys took a great deal of time and space to set off his “explosion” to mark the beginning of the terror-response activity. It was a real “guy moment,” in my view and had nothing to do with the exercise other than the fun he had blowing stuff up! Heck, they had difficulty choosing the radio channel to use for communications among the divisions!]

Dutchman also contributes to understanding these concepts and their power.

– Today’s military and government agencies face a variety of pressures to be more nimble, fluid, change on the fly as conditions change.

– And today’s military members fill roles they haven’t played before, in place like Iraq and Afghanistan – nation builder, mentor, friend, teacher, diplomat, as well as warrior.

Interdepartmental Collaboration is not good

Joint military teamwork can look something like this

Those are a lot of different roles, so feeling part of a team and developing one’s leadership and collaboration skills is a critical component of any developmental initiative. Getting groups to work together across natural competitive lines is a powerful tool to implementing new missions and visions and optimizing results.

So, to the extent that Lost Dutchman helps people see the importance of what I mentioned, in the above, it can help you convince folks in the military of its utility for them.

(You can see more of Russ’ thinking about things here:

We think that we have an excellent leadership development exercise in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. It links to the real issues of aligning people to a shared mission and vision and it supports collaboration, even when teams choose to compete. And while it is not a military team building game, it accomplishes all of those things that such a design would need without resorting to attacking others or creating damage or some such thing.

Dutchman is about leadership and collaboration and sharing goals and objectives. It is about optimizing results with limited resources, planning and gaining strategic information that is critical for overall success of the team and the group.

Our many user testimonials say that Dutchman is a great team building game – see some of them here at our other blog

Scott banking LD

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Large Group Team Building Events – Using Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and Square Wheels

I was asked about using the Lost Dutchman game for working with large groups a few minutes ago so I thought to share some ideas. These days, I do only a few training events and presentations a year, mostly for when I go to kickoff a new exclusive contract with a collaborating company in foreign lands or when I see a good challenge or high impact event. I love this stuff and it has been 28 years in the business, now. It is hard to believe but we first started presenting The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine in 1993 — 20 years ago and it is better than ever!

There are few interactive, participative and engaging team building exercises that work really well with large groups. (I will note that I can deliver Square Wheels sessions for large groups, interactively and with a great deal of participation, but those sessions are just not as FUN and Memorable as the Dutchman ones…)


And I will admit that I really do like using the game with large groups, since it works really so well with large groups and I will often be able to get the most senior leaders actively involved with me in its delivery.That tends to generate their level of ownership involvement and commitment toward both the delivery as well as the required followup needed to actually implement the ideas that are suggested and the impacts that are discussed.

I guess my most favorite “trick” is to get the organization’s Most Very Senior Manager (see pictures below) to actually lead the post-game discussion of:

“What might mining as much gold as we can mean to our organization? What things can we choose to do differently?”

The responses to that from the direct reports are usually right on target and meaningful and they would not even bubble up if the participants did not think that they were at least somewhat doable and that they would obviously need the involvement and active support of that senior leader. It is the perception of roadblocks and impediments that seem to be the most common roadblocks and impediments!

Plus, I like working with the senior managers most of all, and if we are doing a  large group team building event, let’s say 150 to 200 people, I can often get the senior leadership team to actually go through and debrief the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building training event with me before we actually do the training on how to co-deliver and support the game in the venue and then afterwards.

Followup is the breakfast of team building champions!

Doing these kinds of sessions also has a certain level of challenge for me and it does leverage my time pretty nicely. Often, my simple credibility as developer of the exercise seems to lend itself to having a good deal of impact on the issues that the organization faces to improve collaboration and performance.

When you can get the senior leader of the organization up front and asking what people can do differently, that is really neat:


Or when you can get the President of the organization on the floor, in a cowboy hat (below drinking coffee), trying to “Help Teams be Successful and Maximize ROI,” that is great to reference in the debriefing as well as when he wears his cowboy hat to management meetings to talk about optimizing organizational performance results:


Since we sell our Professional Version of the game to organizations and consultants, they also find the game easy to play and useful for engaging participants in discussions of issues and opportunities for improvement. Many of our user-base runs the game with large groups and one client company (Wipro in India) ran one session with 870 people in one game! The testimonial we get are routinely excellent:

Kyla LD testim 100 Brown LD Testimonial 70

You can read more about delivering the exercise to large groups in other articles on our blog. This one shares some ideas about actually delivering the exercise for large events and was written to support owners of the exercise.

You can find out a LOT about this exercise from my Square Wheels website by clicking here and more about pricing and purchasing the exercise at

Rent Lost Dutchman

My role is to help team be successful and maximize Return on Investment! 

How can we help YOU?

Scott Simmerman, wearing his Coaching Hat and preparing for Lost Dutchman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Some testimonials about our Team Building Exercise, Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

We think that The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is an absolutely great team building exercise that allows anyone to help their organization focus on issues of collaboration, optimization of overall results, and improving how organizations implement change and strategy. It links to our Square Wheels tools, elegantly, and thus is a great tool to use for building employee engagement and the implementation of creative ideas for improvement and innovation.

And we are not the only ones that feel that way. Here is one from an internal trainer, one from a international consultant and one from an executive assistant who ran the game with her company’s senior leadership team (and got rave reviews from them!)

Kyla LD testim 100

Andi LD testim 100

Assistant LD testim 100

We find that people who have used some of the competitive products in the marketplace (and by competitive, I mean that they DO generate competition when they should be generating collaboration) are either much more expensive or not as flexible or just not as good (or all three). You can click here for a comparison of Dutchman with Gold of the Desert Kings, for example.

If you want to learn more about the exercise, please visit our website. Or, better yet, give me a call at 864-292-8700. I generally answer my phone most hours of most days and would love to chat about this stuff.

Russ LD testim 100

Herb LD testim 100

Greer LD testim 100

Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Big Company Team Building Events

This blog post is about what Big Companies do for team building events and the kinds of programs for team building and organizational development that exist. It is also about Big Events for companies, I guess, and focused on some key thoughts about making events more effective. Frankly, there seem to be a lot of strange and sometimes seemingly irrelevant things done in the name of team building and organizational development.

Hang out at a large hotel and wander about the meeting area and you will see a lot of people sitting, just sitting there inactive when the doors are opened. It gives rise the notion of Death By Powerpoint, or at least death by non-involvement. One wonders why there are not warnings about deep vein thrombosis for some of these sessions!

People at came across my blog while researching Team Building and sent me a link to one of their articles. The title was, “How the Top Companies Take On Team Building” and I liked the way it started, since I pretty much agree with this:

Few corporate-culture business phrases are as potentially groan-inducing as “team building.” Visions of cheesy performances and “inspiring” activities like coal walking and trust falls immediately spring to mind.

I’ve posted up before on some of the more ridiculous or hard to seriously consider team activities such as golf, paintball or fire walking — maybe there are some positive individual impacts from that but I just do not see the team aspects unless we get into the discussion about peer pressure forcing people to do things that they don’t really want to do. (Sorry, I meant “encouragement” instead of coercion or force in the above…)

Heck, even Dave Berry weighed in on Burger King’s toasty experience with that firewalking kind of activity — see my blog post on that here.

But the OnlineMBA article mentioned above is a pretty good one. It talks about some different activities that DO have positive organizational impacts, many of which are not costly. Some are a bit off the wall, like hiring a comedy troupe to come in and cause people to laugh. I have actually seen that backfire but that is a whole ‘nother conversation. And they talk about doing Personality Tests as a team building exercise — I guess that could work but it does not sound like a lot of laughs. Maybe they could let the comedy troupe do the testing?

Me, I will just stick with offering games such as The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine or Innovate & Implement that are fun, controllable, inexpensive and actually link directly to workplace collaboration and performance improvement. We know that it has a lot of long-term impacts on participants and gets everyone involved and engaged. AND, it can be used for very large groups of 200 or even more.

Team building exercise, Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

You can find user review survey about Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine impacts here. The feedback about the effectiveness of the exercise is pretty amazing,

For the FUN of It!

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

You can reach Scott at
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

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


Why use Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for large team building events?

I was chatting with a human resources director and we were planning  the presentation of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine for about 250 people — her whole organization — in one big fun learning event. This was for a financial institution priding itself on customer service and customer / employee retention and collaboration and communications, so the fit was quite good.

The plan we discussed is for her to have her senior management team do a team building program using Lost Dutchman, where they will sort out their issues and opportunities and what they choose to do differently and improve on and then teach them how to support the delivery for the large group. As I posted up in the blog the other day, using senior management to help deliver is a pretty common model for me, one where the internal people do all the training and delivery work without using an outside person. It dramatically helps generate alignment and makes these people part of the actual perceived organizational support team!

Why use Lost Dutchman and Senior Managers for such events?

Well, the design of the game precludes my personal involvement — I am not required to help deliver it, which has many positive impacts. If I understand the desired outcomes, I can customize the suggested debriefing. If a trainer can use the game with her executives — and the metaphors of the exercise and the actual behaviors of the executives — she can deliver a highly congruent program and deal with the results without “personal involvement.” She will not be attacked for her leading discussions about the sub-optimizing choices of the leadership team.

AND, she management/leadership prepared to support the delivery of the exercise to all the employees. This saves a great deal of money and dramatically improves the relevancy of play to reality of how things are working and can work.

After all, two main themes of the game are focused on organizational alignment and collaboration:


The Goal of the game is to COLLABORATE and optimize results...

These are business card magnets that we often give out as reminders of why we played the game. They generally wind up on file cabinets and breakroom refrigerators.

The word we use is, “WE” but teams take that as, “My Team, My Team, My Team” in many cases.

Dutchman is a powerful game that’s easy to learn to deliver, bombproof and congruent in its play and focuses discussions on choices that we make and alternative choices that are available in the game, and then back in the workplace. Collaboration and engagement are the things that lead to employee involvement and intrinsic motivation.

And because it is straightforward and easy to play, it becomes a great event for managers to truly demonstrate their active support for helping teams be successful and optimizing results of the entire group.

large teambuilding event

Dutchman works great for very large groups

Dutchman is a powerful exercise for large events since you run the game with internal people (and leaders if you can involve them) and the game metaphors are completely congruent with the concepts of collaboration between departments and engaging people to motivate high levels of performance. The discussions focused on actual behavior and the choices that people could make in the future are also great ways to discuss possibilities. It is these visions of how thing could be that help drive improved overall results and engage and motivate individuals. It is the alignment to missions and visions that helps push things forward.

Generating alignment is a key factor in performance and optimization of results

Have fun out there, get people aligned and performing, and improve things!

You can see more about the exercise on our websites at and at where there is a LOT of descriptive information.

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Rental of Team Building Exercise for Large Groups

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a great team building exercise for focusing teams of people on themes of leadership, alignment, collaboration and the optimization of performance results. We’ve been selling and supporting the exercise worldwide for almost 20 years.

And it has been pretty crazy here lately, with some new business coming from some old friends, which is really neat. Two different consultants contacted me about renting our team building game, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to run large events for their clients. And both are old customers.

The wild thing is that both used to be with corporate training departments that bought the exercise from me about 10 years ago. They had great successes with it and, as they described the situations, they wanted a high impact and bombproof session for their new clients. Thus, they remembered the exercise and thought to contact me.

Renting the exercise is one option. It is best for those “Large Group Team Building Events” that are a one-off kind of thing. Many of the customers of our small games (for 3 or 4 tables of 6 people each) like being able to run it once or twice for really large groups without having to invest in our large game version. It is also useful for a one-time team building event such as an “all-hands” meeting where the management staff will run everyone through the game. We have supported many of those kinds of trainings and there is no upper limit on the size of the group — one client had a session of 870 people in the same room!

Unlike a lot of the other designed team building simulations, we have a truly elegant and pretty bombproof design, which allows us to NOT offer train-the-trainer or require certifications or have other kinds of restrictions. Many of our customers simply get the materials, review the overall support documents, go through the powerpoint and — maybe — call me. Many choose not to bother!

I offer free and unlimited telephone support – you talk to the game designer and a master facilitator, not to some “support person.” Few people seem to need the support, though, which says that the included materials are pretty complete. They should be, since we first delivered the game back in 1993 and have played with its design and supporting documentation since that time.

I can also customize the design in small ways, and work with you to design and refine a debriefing that fits with your goals and objectives and within your time limits. Generally, for large groups of 60+, we like to have 3.5 hours to do the game and the debriefing. I like at least an hour and even 90 minutes for the debriefing, since that will help generate the commitment to improve collaboration and teamwork, planning and communications.

We are surprisingly inexpensive, high-impact and very memorable, and the game can be specifically tailored to generate your desired outcomes. This is THE world-class team building exercise focused on improving inter-organizational collaboration and aligning people to shared goals and objectives. It can be run by line managers and executives, too, not just people in training and consulting.

We also have a posted pricing schedule, so you can look at the costs of renting this team building simulation and the detail of delivering the exercise before contacting us.

We think we are the best value in large group teambuilding events, costing lots less and offering more benefits than most other competitors,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Outdoor Training – Just Fun or does Learning actually occur

For the past decade, I have been involved in discussion threads on  LinkedIn and Twitter that concerned learning and team building and organizational change and defining effective approaches to business interventions. There are always different perspectives on these things and on their impacts on teamwork and collaboration.

There are many ways to do good team building, but one guy actually questioned whether anything NOT done outdoors could represent an effective team building environment. He also said that “neuroscience” supported his personal opinion and experiences. His position was that the only way to do teambuilding was with outdoor experiential activities. Seriously?

I countered his assumption with a challenge based on a variety of experiences and 25+ years in the INDOOR team building business, including the added reality that I earned a doctorate in behavioral neurophysiology and understood just a little bit about how the brain works and people learn. Kinda funny conversation, actually, since he had heard that stuff about neuroscience but really did not know much about information processing, barriers to change, or behavioral science in general…

(Yeah, I can talk the talk when it comes to the brain, physiology, psychology, behavior and learning. And I have a few hundred experiences facilitating team building and organizational improvement activities over the last 40 years…)

But his contention did stimulate me to start thinking about the indoor / outdoor paradox. There exists a blog post on some of my thoughts  —Moron Outdoor Training — and in another blog about some of the problems with outdoor training. Basically, the outdoor training kinds of things can be effective if — and only if, in my opinion — they are combined with good debriefing and reflection on the part of participants. Otherwise, I simply believe that they are just activities with more of a personal growth anchor.

In a discussion with a friend in Turkey (Murvet Gulseven), I started thinking about this issue even more. She does both indoor training as well as outdoor activities and suggested these as her overall key client framing questions for training:

  • Why they want to invest such time and money to this particular program?
  • What do they want afterwards as a desired outcome(s)?
  • What should change and how will we know when that is successful?
  • Why did they think of having such a team-building training? Who wanted the program and why? What is the support for it?
  • 3 things they want to see that has changed in their team after the program
  • Who will attend and are there anticipated problems?
  • Which trainings they have had before? What worked and what did not?
  • How are they working together now? Who are their customers? What are their issues and goals?
  • Where will they do the training? Does this place have an indoor training room, too? Etc..

I think that is a great framework and similar to how I approach things. And I wonder, on a point-to-point comparison basis, whether “outdoor activities” can measure up when it comes to consistently supplying desired outcomes, consistently focusing the attention of all of the participants clearly on the desired outcomes and on the effectiveness of the environment on minimizing distractions. It just seems like there are too many extraneous variables that can get in the way of a client spending $20,000 of its monies and taking people off work in the hopes that the environment will work. (And it is why Murvet packs “A, B, C and sometimes D” materials just in case and includes raincoats!)

Why, “Outdoors?” Understand that I am an outdoorsy guy, still camping and kayaking and similar at age 66. I’ve boated the Chattooga River (best known for being the main location in the movie, Deliverance) maybe 100 times and also the Ocoee (where they held the Atlanta Olympic Whitewater competitions) and also the Merced, Tuolumne, Kern, and even the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon on 3 different times. In the late 70s, I did a 9-month road trip around the US with my car and my tent.

But my experiences with “outdoor training” have never been positive ones, with issues ranging from really poor instructors who knew the exercise but who had no business experience (think “raft guide” or “college student”) to wild temperatures (95 to 100 degree F) to thunderstorms and the real danger of lightning, to “too sunny” to “rainy and windy.” And most of the exercises (with but one exception) did not do a great job of gaining everyone’s involvement. In none of them did they effectively include people with physical handicaps.

This is building teamwork and improving organizational results?

Really? This is building teamwork and improving organizational results?

I will admit that my outdoor experiences in such events are not really all that broad. I did one “high ropes” program with a skilled instructor at a great facility that was really well-done (but that was about ME and not about building teamwork) and I have not played paintball for a variety of reasons (or lasertag).

This 30-second advertisement for is an especially good one, I think. Click on the image to watch the YouTube version – it is well worth the time!

Annual company paintball teambuilding retreat booking dot com

And I also still laugh at the Firewalking “training event” paid for by Burger King back in 2001, with 100 marketing employees participating in this “team building and personal growth” session. The result was that 12 people got burned and Burger King generating a great deal of publicity — yes, even Dave Barry poked fun at them in an article of his and there were a ton of posts around “naming the event” in a couple of training discussion threads, as well as potential theme songs like, “Light My Fire” by The Doors (grin) ).  You can read more here.  (Dave Barry’s really funny article is here!)

Firewalking can be a legitimate (and costly) personal growth experience
( )
but does it really impact teams and help to improve company results?

One who suffered injury was Burger King’s vice president of product marketing. But, hey, she had no regrets, for she was filled with the corporate rapture. Walking across searing coals, she exclaimed, “Made you feel a sense of empowerment and that you can accomplish anything” (and she could accomplish that with only a few casualties and hospital and ambulance bills). (And I wonder how she is doing these days…)

So, my basic position simply asks, “Why?” Why do something the might work when there are known alternatives that DO work and that can link to specific desired and measurable corporate desired outcomes?

Lastly, here is a post on outdoor training and pheromones that you might find interesting as well as amusing. (Seriously! Click on the image below.)


Care to discuss any of this stuff? Pop me a comment!

And you are certainly welcome to come kayaking with me — but we will not charge you for it and we will not define it as a team building activity. It is just a fun way to get outdoors and away from most people and to float without any real goals and agendas in mind…


For the FUN of It!

<a rel=”author” href=”″ a>Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at

Scott holds a doctorate from The University of North Carolina in behavioral neurophysiology. Consulting since 1978, he is a Certified Professional Trainer (IAPPD) and a Certified Professional Facilitator (IAF) and the founder of The Square Wheels Project, a facilitation course designed for generating Disruptive Engagement among supervisors to motivate and empower their people.


Moron Outdoor Training

I have posted up some thoughts before about my views on Outdoor Training and how, personally, I’ve not had much insight or success from those kinds of events both as a participant and observer and from personal experiences when involved in the leadership team delivering such programs.

It is not that I don’t think that outdoor training events can be effective, it’s just from my own personal experiences that I haven’t found them to be so. Paintball, for instance, is a bit too aggressive a message for these times, I feel, and when so many companies are somewhat adversarial in their relationships among people and departments. Right after a layoff, there IS what is usually termed “Survivors Guilt” and there can be some similar sub-conscious things operating that some outdoor kinds of activities can inflame. Juggling balls and discovering how to solve problems like Acid River are just not all that real, in my opinion.

Plus there is the lack of control over the weather. Remember the A-Team TV show when Mr. T as Clubber Lane (Rocky 3)  says “I pity the fool…” (he also predicts the outcome of the fight as “pain” – that sound like training to you?) You can see the clip here.

Well, I had those “I pity the fool” and “pain” reactions yesterday when I was thinking about outdoor training and then saw a weather pattern for the United States for Friday, June 29, that I insert below:

The heat of team building and outdoor training

Yeah, I pity the fool who may have been outside attending a “training program” with the company paying $100 to $300 for them to learn something about something. One wonders how much of the attendees’ full attention would be focused on organizational improvement initiatives or on improving interpersonal relations or on bettering their teamwork with weather that was 100 F (40 C). Me, I would have been focused on, “when will this torture end?” as I was at the Texas outside team building event where the guy got stung by the scorpion — at least he got to ride in an air-conditioned ambulance!

I would rather deliver or participate in an interactive and engaging program like Square Wheels focused on change or motivation or to engage in The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building game that could be debriefed around communications or teamwork or collaboration or ideas for motivating and engaging people. All comfortably done indoors.

You can read more of my writings on the issues I have with Outdoor Training by clicking on this link.

I am not against any training if it is solid, links to organizational improvement initiatives or desired outcomes and if it is supportive of all the participants. I do not like initiatives or games where people “die” metaphorically or even where they are embarrassed by their weight or health conditions or any other such impediment. That woman who just had the baby might not really enjoy climbing around in a ropes course or that person with the poor eyesight might not really like crawling through the woods shooting paintballs at other people. The person with the heart condition just might not benefit from running around two different rooms putting balls in different circles.

There are so many good activities that are engaging and thought-provoking that I wonder why we have to do icebreakers that are unrelated to any business purpose or similar. (Yes, I also wrote up my thoughts on that a while ago… link )

Have fun out there and be safe. And if you are playing outside, do drink lots of water.

And this is pretty damn funny:


click on the image to see the blog post


For the FUN of It!

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

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s blog on People and Performance is here.


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Generating LESS Collaboration? Really?? And how about even MORE Collaboration!

I am sitting in a restaurant with a not-to-be-named old friend and customer and we are talking about why he sometimes uses a competitive product in his team building trainings. His comment is basically that, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine generates TOO MUCH collaboration among the players and between the tabletops.”

And my response was basically, “Really? How can one have too much collaboration among people in the workplace?”

It turns out that I did get his point. Basically, Lost Dutchman sets up measurable improvements when players work together and share information as well as resources across the tabletops. They need a good plan of action and an overall solid strategic plan to manage their own resources, so the game rewards that. But the game also makes extra resources available to a team even though there is no additional benefit to them. Those same resources could be shared and would have great benefits to another team, however.

What we are talking about is a Turbocharger. A team acquiring this resource can move two blocks a day instead of one block, thus going twice as fast as normal. If the team acquires the information about the Turbochargers, they get THREE of them, instead of the single one that they can use. Thus, they gather two extra ones that are not usable and that have no intrinsic value.


But my friend did a lot of work with sales organizations whereby the other salesmen were NOT normally collaborating with others. They were not competing, precisely, but they did share common territories and had some overlap in customers. Think of the sales people in a car dealership, for example, who represent the same company and products but who have their own base of customers / prospects and where “sniping” is not a positive outcome.

So, he was using Gold of The Desert Kings, which had some of the same kinds of game dynamics but where teams were more obviously in competition to beat each other and where the overall success of all the teams was less emphasized. Heck, teams that planned badly even died, which might have some relevance to certain workplaces. He used GDK even though he knew that Dutchman was a better exercise for the group. He wanted something that did not reward inter-team collaboration so heavily, since that was not the norm for some of his training sessions.

And he also liked Dutchman more because it was faster to play and easier to debrief. But it was just too collaborative in design…  He was clearly conflicted.

But a moment later, the solution appeared: “Why don’t we design it with only ONE Turbo, so that we reward strategic planning and they can still mine more gold as a team, but it doesn’t set up that much inter-team collaboration as a game dynamic?”


Seemed like a simple idea then and it remains a simple idea now.

It is just one more of the examples of how we can make slight modifications to The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to make the game more in line with desired outcomes. Instructions for creating these single-Turbo versions are included with the game materials,

For the FUN of It!

How does Lost Dutchman compare to other team building exercises?

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a unique teambuilding exercise in the global marketplace for training and organizational development tools. Unlike many competing products, it offers what we think are an excellent blend of unusual benefits and features as well as our overall sales philosophy that is supportive and simple.

THe Search for The Lost Dutchman Team Building Exercise

Unlike a lot of products, Lost Dutchman has many direct links to business improvement and it can help groups of people focus on how working together will improve profitability and ROI. While this seems like a no-brainer, most organizations find “interdepartmental collaboration” to be an oxymoron and that “interdepartmental competition” is much more the norm. Dutchman is a business simulation wrapped into an experiential, fun, engaging exercise that brings the sub-optimizing aspects of competition to the forefront and clearly shows why collaboration is a big benefit. We have LOTS of users who comment about the excellence of this game for this purpose — making it unique in that focus, we find.

Dutchman also focuses on success! The game design makes it hard for teams to make big errors and die from those decisions, which is common in many other exercises where the focus is more on avoiding failure. (I have facilitators who use my game and some other games who say, “What is so bad about a team dying?” and “I can usually work that point into the debriefing.” On the other hand, they will also say that those teams sometimes disengage badly–like leaving the room or even being very challenging and adversarial in the debriefing discussions– and they will generally agree with my position that dying is not necessarily a good component of the learning process, so why even let it occur?)

In Dutchman, every team is successful, but the ones that do better planning and collaborating are more successful than the others, and can even choose to help the other teams.

We also made a real effort to keep the packaging inexpensive — it is nothing fancy — and to design it so that certification and all those other expensive things like per-participant fees and the like are not included. It was my personal experience in the earlier days when I used another organization’s team building game, that those added restrictions and other kinds of limitations caused a lot of problems in the maintenance of a collaborative business arrangement between me and that other company. So, if I did not like those restrictive and expensive “features.” why would they be included in my business framework.

My game design goals were:

  • to design the best exercise possible for a global audience of workers up to senior managers;
  • to make it link tightly to the actual behaviors we see in organizations and between departments and often work groups in organizations;
  • to make it inexpensive to use and thus generate high value for consultants and trainers to use repeatedly;
  • to make it flexible and useful in a wide variety of different kinds of organizations and developmental situations;
  • to be useful for trainers using it occasionally or for them to be able to blend it into more broadly-based leadership programs than simply team-building events;
  • to design it so a consultant or company could build a business around the exercise and use it with different clients in lots of situations.

The design thinking around Lost Dutchman included avoiding  issues present in some of the other, competitive products in the marketplace. We find that those structures or designs interfere with effectiveness and impact in a variety of ways and simply make the game less of a good value for the customer. Essentially, we felt that:

  • Many of our competitors’ exercises are simply way too expensive. Benefits are not in line with costs, especially when it was a one-time use for a small number of people.
  • Per-Participant Costs are a lousy way to build trust and develop an honest and open relationship between the game agent and the customer. They generate too much friction and administrative burden.
  • Many exercises simply take too long to play and often don’t allow time to adequately debrief the outcomes nor provide time for valuable interactive discussions. Lecturing on an experiential exercise is not an effective learning paradigm.
  • Game leadership often creates intrinsic competition because of the inherent design of the exercise or the role defined for the facilitator. Many designs do not allow for a collaborative leadership delivery style or have restrictive design features. If you are delivering the game, one should be modeling an effective style of engagement, collaboration and facilitation, not being an adversary.
  • Results should be measurable, since organizational behavior is measurable. In Lost Dutchman, for example, we can measure positive results in addition to the sub-optimized costs of teams making decisions not to collaborate and plan and share information among other teams. We do this just as we measure organizational results and outcomes, making the swing from debriefing the game to linking to organizational change quite easy:  “What does Mining Gold mean to us as an organization?”
  • Some of the games have mixed metaphors or design features that make the game very difficult to debrief or they have superfluous content that is too hard to link to other organizational development issues. Team building games should not be supporting competition in our thinking — there is enough of that already in most organizations!
  • Games and supporting products should not require expensive certification training and the costs of travel to training venues. It makes it too expensive to add new facilitators and the tendency would be to cheat the system to get the game in play. It was our goal to make the exercise bombproof and effective while NOT requiring expensive certification or training time.

Our experiences with The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine have taught us a lot about game design and the use of metaphor in generating involvement and engagement during play and debriefing. It is our goal to have an exercise that generates the perceived need to change behavior within an organization to optimize results. Feedback by users says that we have elegantly and effectively accomplished our goals.

You can check out some of our testimonials and learn more about other perspectives by clicking here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, wearing his Coaching Hat and preparing for Lost Dutchman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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