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

Category: Team Building Games

Happy New Year – Simple Ideas for Reframing and Future-Focusing

Here are a couple of ideas to make your teambuilding exercise
more fun and more effective.

We delivered a Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise for a group of managers for an international corporation starting up a factory here in South Carolina. It was my task to do some team building with the entire management team to try to help shape the culture.

The workshop went really well. But improvements are also always possible.

Team Building Exercise with Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

Continuous continuous improvement is a mainstream belief about how things should really should operate, and there are always new thoughts on how to improve the impacts, even after 25 years of delivering these workshops. A catalog I got in the mail that evening gave me a new ideas that I thought to share about how to impact the future-focus on the participants even more.

We had spent some good time talking about how the managers in the session were going to be responsible for building a new culture, since this was a greenfield operation. And the focus of our game was about collaboration and leadership and the impacts on engagement and motivation. So, the catalog gave me an idea about what I will do on my next development program, and that is to focus the participants on the culture.

Happy New Year!

The things that these managers DO is what will determine how things operate, so why not celebrate in advance and also get them focused on their choices. The idea will be to distribute hats and clappers and have them first celebrate, and then engage in tabletop discussions about what they can do in the next few months that will positively impact their workplace.

We will have them put on the hats and clap the clappers and then say that it is January 3 and everyone at work is having fun and being productive and then to discuss what their management team did between now and then to generate such a positive workforce. What challenges did they overcome? What processes did they implement to generate collaboration and teamwork?

Another thing we did in the workshop was to give the participants cardboard finger puppets that they could play with, but that were also tools for them to have a good tabletop discussion. If they had something candid and meaningful to say to someone that was a bit uncomfortable for them, they could put on their finger puppet and let the puppet carry on the conversation.

We were playing with the idea of displacement and anonymity, but we were playing, making some fun about some reality and serious discussions that they as a team were going to need to have with each other. The finger puppet was simply a prop, a tool, and something to help lighten things up a little.

You can find all of these tools / toys at Oriental Trading / Fun Express, where we suggest you go to find tabletop fun schlock for your tabletops. There are a variety of inexpensive things we use such as binoculars, cowboy bendables, plastic badges and other things to add a bit more fun to the game materials.

Lastly, we just started distributing LDGM – 2018, a new updated version of the Lost Dutchman exercise. I just blogged about this in some detail.

You can see some of the key themes of the Dutchman game in a simple slideshare that we uploaded to show how we are now incorporating LEGO scenes into our materials to better integrate with our Square Wheels approach to organizational improvement.


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 Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Trust in the Sand

My colleagues in Romania just sent me an email about one of their blog posts on leadership that had this image within it:

Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled

I thought it was pretty neat, and it reminded me of my friend and colleague Frank Navran’s quote that:

“Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled”

and how easy it is to simply wipe it away with some foolish behavior…

All it takes is a gust of wind to change things and we need to be reminded that trust is something we need to maintain, not just do once in a while.

Now Vio’s blog is written in Romanian, and even with translation services, I am not going to spend much time going through his key comments around the elements of trust; I simply reacted to his email and sent him the following:

“Trust is not just about writing in the sand. It is also about having perspective, moving about to see what is really happening around you and being willing to move about to potentially see things from other positions rather than from where you are standing. It is also about involving people with shared goals and acting collectively. I think it can also look like this:”

Footprints in the Sand and perspective on surroundings, by scott simmerman

We should also be reminded and mindful about the diversity of people within our organizations and about the reality that all of us know more than any of us when it comes to generating ideas and engagement for improving workplace performance.

Here at Performance Management Company, we sell simple tools for impacting teamwork (Vio at HumanInvest has our Lost Dutchman game in English and Romanian) as well as impacting innovation and motivation. We suggest that leaders work to actively involve their people in generating ideas for improvement and facilitating creative problem solving as well as generating alignment and collaboration.

We also have a simple online facilitation skills training course and toolkit (really cheap and highly effective!) at The Square Wheels Project.

Square Wheels - How organizations really work Metaphor organizational improvement

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. 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.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

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

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

The Square Wheels, LEGO Controversy: Thoughts on Leadership and Engagement (Part One)

In the blog post of yesterday, I shared the LEGO image that was sent to me with  comments that I was either collaborating with the author or that he was infringing on my intellectual property. The reality now, for all sorts of good reasons, is COLLABORATING!!

After all, we do make choices and some choices are simply a lot better than other choices. As I think about this, I think wheels within wheels because there are so many levels to the situation along with so many issues and so many possibilities.

Håkan Forss saw a cartoon and decided to do it “in LEGO” as he had been doing to a lot of other ideas. It looked like this:

The square wheels metaphor of Scott Simmerman expressed in Lego

One issue that I had was that the cartoon made it seem as if the guys on the right pushing and pulling the wagon were actually choosing not to consider possibilities for improvement. My thought was that it might sometimes be the wagon puller that does that, simply because they are isolated from the hands on reality of the wagon pushers, but that the wagon pushers also know that things could be different and better.

Wagon pushers have different perspectives than wagon pullers.

My Square Wheels One situation sets things up like this:

Square Wheels One copyrighted V1 small

Håkan then went back to find the original cartoon that he used as the framework for his expression in the top figure and I was surprised to see this work as his basis:

ToBusyToImproveI had never seen that cartoon. It also has no attribution as to copyright and there is no apparent information that I can find as to where it was published or who is the author. My thought, given that I have been using this theme of round wheels and square wheels since 1993, is that it is probably what is technically termed, a derivative product. And I DO need to know because we do not want the theme of “Square Wheels” to go into the public domain.

We literally have 300+ cartoons that have spun off that original idea, plus a few hundred other quotes, poems, haiku and one-liners that anchor to that theme and that are published in articles, blogs, training toolkits and other formats. Protecting the image called Square Wheels One is important to us.

report the author button

In later posts along this same line, I will discuss some of the different aspects of our Square Wheels One illustration in comparison to Håkan Forss’ work and probably challenge him to illustrate a couple of those cartoons with his unique and interesting style of LEGO art.

And maybe Håkan and I can create some LEGO block interactive tools so you can have your workshop participants play with ideas for workplace improvement. After all, the round wheels are already in (my) wagon and the ideas for improvement already exist.

Don’t Just DO Something,
Stand There!

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, SurprisedDr. 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.

LEGO® is a registered trademark of LEGO A/S, a corporation incorporated under the laws of Denmark.


Dominoes and Dutchman and some thinking on Trust Building

In a Teambuilding group on LinkedIn, I posted up some questions around what activities existed for games focused on the issues of building trust and being trustworthy. The literature seems to have three main things, the “Trust Walk” kinds of activities, the “Red / Black” or prisoner’s dilemma exercise (also called Win as Much as You Can) exercise framework and then the various “Trust Card” kinds of self-disclosure / conversational kinds of things.

Trust walks are okay and often memorable, because there is some perceived physical risk and also the kinesthetic aspects of them that make for memorable events. But many people comment that walking around or falling backwards is not all that similar to what happens at work, that the links are okay but not really good. (I guess I can liken it to doing paintball or go-kart racing to business process improvement…)

Red / Black is a classic prisoner’s dilemma game — you can find it a lot of places as a freebie (or here) or sold as some packaged program. The literature on this comes from the 1970s, when I was first exposed to it. Individuals or teams vote and decisions influence the results — it has to do with trust and a lot of people know about the exercise, so they tend to skew results or make the framework unpredictable when one uses it in a training program.

Card Decks and Disclosure exercises — There are different card decks out there and a variety of frameworks where people and groups can sit and talk about trust and trusting and their personal perspectives on why trust is given or taken away. They share personal disclosures, though, and often people are uncomfortable with those kinds of activities, There can be different ramifications to disclosing personal information in workplace situations, also.

Trust is a real, as well as common organizational culture issue:

Trust - pushing or pulling bubble

What I am looking for is something new and different, something anchored into behavior that has business implications and applications, something that senior managers can use for framing up organizational cultural issues or that trainers and consultants can use to link to organizational change and performance improvement.

Frank NavranMy basic anchor point is my old friend Frank Navran’s quote:

Trust is the residue of promised fulfilled.

He shared that with me 20 years ago and it still rings true. Trust is behaviorally-anchored and it builds up over time. The residue of trust can also be quickly washed away by a single act.

Sharon Quarrington and I have been engaging in filling out a LinkedIn discussion thread on the subject of behavior and trust and games. And I see her thoughts as really right on target in how she thinks about these issues and how she frames up some behavioral activities. So, I thought to publish parts of our most recent exchange, with my comments in blue, hers in black and my highlights in red:

I read and reread your post and had a few comments and thoughts. Your reactions to those would also be appreciated, as this conversation IS stimulating my overall thinking around this issue. I will insert some thoughts into your text.

(in a game where not all of the rules were given to the participants):
None of the clients “guessed” the solution, they all thought it was a strategy game and when the reveal happened, they “got” that collaboration would have helped them all achieve their goal – but only intellectually. During the break the conversation focused on how if they had understood the rules they would have won the game – so the real learning was about probing to ensure the rules were understood. 

This was day 1 of a 3 day event (remember those?) and for the rest of the event every time a new exercise was introduced the group followed up every set of instructions with detailed questioning of the facilitator in order to identify further tricks…

So they learned not to trust the facilitator – oops. 

Yeah, the good old days of multi-day sessions. Now, they want you to compress a full day’s training into an hour and expect something to actually change. There was a question about designing a “training flag” in one of the groups and people were sharing ideas for flag design. My thought was that it should be a black flag, like the old poison logo of that name, with a dead bug with its legs in the air and little fume markings, since that is how most senior executives seem to view “training and development” these days.

It will be interesting to see if that flag generates any dialog — I actually chose NOT to get responses to that thread and will pop back in there in a day or two…

I used to do something similar in our program – left out some details and all I got was push back from the group to say that if they knew all the rules they would have responded differently. So I started giving them all the rules and to my surprise found that as long as I also give them a time restricted task they almost always focus so much on the time goal that anything else is forgotten. (sometimes they say they could have planned better if they had more time but that is easy to counter as in real life we never have time to fully plan so you do your best, learn from it ant move on).

My thought is to never intentionally leave out any details, but to offer the players choices.

In Lost Dutchman, teams can choose to get one or two “videos” that have information that, “teams find useful” but they have to give up one or two of their 20 days in order to get it. They can also choose to team up with another team and get one each or they could choose to share the information with other teams after they acquire it.

They contain strategic planning and best practice information that IS useful to that team and useful for optimizing the GROUP’s performance — the goal is to mine as much gold as WE can but they tend to miss the issue that “we” means something other than “My Team.”

I want my facilitators to be able to act impeccably in their leadership of the exercise. Leaders should always be there to help and teams need to ask for help in order to optimize real-world results.

Teams seldom ask for help.

In this case you could try telling them that there are no restrictions on the conversations they can have and that the overall goal is to maximize the resources – then tell them they only have 3 min to plan and 1 min to bid and likely they will spend all their time in their own group. In the end the debrief can be around why we stick in our silos, how the time goal overshadowed all other goals and reduced creativity and collaboration, how easy it is to forget the big picture – overall goal of the organization when you focus on the small – maximizing team effectiveness.

My thought on the Silent Auction is to label it as silent and tell teams that the “rule” is that they cannot talk. But the reality is that there is no enforcement of any punishment or reaction if they DO talk, and they could always ask if they can. The issue is that silence might be better for facilitating the excise and keeping things under control, but it sure is NOT better for impacting the performance of the group. 

My other thought is that the exemplary performers pretty much always bend or break the stupid rules that constrain results and it is something that I try to blend into my games. CJ allows some rule-bending and I&I is all about bending the rules to improve play and results.

If you only do the exercise once the experience is one of not achieving the goal – and the learning (collaboration works better) doesn’t stick If you debrief and redo the exercise they get to experience how success works and feels.

In both Collaboration Journey and Innovate & Implement, they can be played again since a detailed explanation of the rules of play is not required.

An alternative – the challenge would be to make the longest and most complicated domino run – 5 min to plan 5 min to build- their assumption would be that the teams are competing rather than collaborating. First round debrief could include congratulations to the leading teams – and then tell them that you want to take it to the next level and work together – so no “gotcha” but instead a challenge. I prefer to avoid exercises that are designed for participants to fail and then learn comes from failure – why not set them up for success in the first round and even more success the second – so they can see incremental learning and improved results. No one likes to fail and the emotional response, particularly in high competitive types can negate learning.

In Dutchman, every team is somewhat successful, and some are much more successful than others because of planning and information and better resource management.

In the debriefing, I do not focus on the low performing teams but on the high performing teams, basically asking about why they CHOSE to not share information or resources with the others since I, as Expedition Leader, am trying to optimize the overall results of my organization and not one team over another.

Competition is an issue of balancing it with collaboration, when it comes to organizational performance results.

I allow a LOT of time for discussion and tabletop work. We do NOT lecture much at all, simply trying to connect the dots from the play and choices in the game to the play and choices in the workplace.

Both rounds would still be done in teams but the second round adds the need to collaborate and be proactive around problem solving (so they don’t bump into each other… – the trick is to leave a gap between sets that only gets filled at the last second).

One of the guys who facilitated the exercise used to stop play in the middle and have lunch, using the lunch time to challenge the tabletop teams to rethink the choices they were making and to identify ideas for things they could do differently when play resumed. I actually built a resource management toolkit of forms for summary of resources and stuff like that. I have never personally done things that way, though.

They can experience how the collaborative domino run is more spectacular. You might get 3 rounds if the larger domino failed the first time – it doesn’t really matter as long as they succeed in the long run – let them problem solve each time it doesn’t work.

The final debrief could focus on the difference between working in silos and working together – what helps, what hinders, what extra challenges their are, what extra rewards…

So, I thank Sharon for sharing some interesting thoughts on how she addresses issues of trust in her training programs. Sharon also works with horses in her team building and leadership training. Horses are just so sensitive to issues of trust and leadership and give instant feedback about good things being done with them.

And, the development of the new PMC Trust exercise continues…

square wheels author

For the FUN of It!



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


You can reach Scott at

Read Scott’s blogging on people and performance improvement


Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.


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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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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More on The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

My friend and colleague, Chris Hartung, sent me an email a few minutes ago referencing a news article that he thought would be of interest. He likes my team building game and guess that the news article caught his interest because of the location and title.

The news article is entitled:

Body of man who hunted legendary ‘Lost Dutchman’s’
Gold Mine believed found in Arizona mountains.

(and it appears at: )

Frankly, I am not surprised that another person’s body has been found in this area. There have been a LOT of casualties amongst those who have hunted for Jacob Waltz’s lost mine in the Superstition Mountains, after all, they are roaming around in a really inhospitable place (much like Iowa, some would say with a grin). Jacob was known as “The Dutchman” and he brought gold back from the mountains for 30 years…

“We call ‘em Dutch hunters out here,” said Superstition Search and Rescue Director Robert Cooper. “They’re infatuated with all the lore and the history of the lost Dutchman mine and he was part of that.”

Like me, Mr. Caspan had acquired more than 100 books and articles about the Mine and the myth surrounding the death of Jacob Waltz in 1892. And like me, he believed that there was gold in the mountains just waiting to be found. After all, Jacob left a map.

Unlike me, he actually went out there looking for it in The Superstitions, while I simply invented a team building game focused on maximizing results based on collaboration between teams and good strategic planning. Guess Mr. Caspan’s planning was not all that great…

As Fox “News” said, “An untold number of prospectors have searched the Superstition Mountains for the mine. In the 1840s, according to the Denver Post, the Peralta family of Mexico mined gold out of the mountains, but Apaches attacked and killed all but one or two family members as they took the gold back to Mexico. Some 30 years later, Jacob Waltz — nicknamed “the Dutchman,” even though he was German — rediscovered the mine with the help of a Peralta descendant, according to legend.”

As for me, since this came from FOX, I believe that the Apaches or other gold hunters killed this guy to keep the secret and get the gold for themselves.

After all, we hear about an awful lot of bogus conspiracies from FOX. And I do have a copy of Obama’s actual birth certificate and Susan Rice didn’t tell all she knew about Benghazi, right? I mean, we NEED some good fake conspiracies every once in a while, don’t we, just to make things interesting?

We will keep on selling The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to people — but for use in controlled environments with padded chairs and tables. It is a great team building game for those who are interested in impacting people and performance in their workplaces. Newest sales to The US Army and to a consultant in Egypt.

A customer sent me this testimonial on the play and debriefing of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building exercise:

Simply Superb! We use this program all over the country with our clients and it is ALWAYS rated as one of the best programs delivered. Works in all types of companies and drives organizations toward Collaboration and Teamwork! The debrief options allow you to fully customize the delivery to any audience. Well designed and easy to deliver. That, combined with all of the knowledge and support of Dr. Scott, and you have the best Team Building simulation out there… BAR NONE!

May the fun continue!

Yeah, you heard it here, for the FUN of It!

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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You set YOUR price for our Facilitation Toolkit – Square Wheels Roll!

Square Wheels illustrations have been used worldwide for almost 20 years as tools for presentations on managing and leading change and involving and engaging people to make commitments to improve the workplace and others. Using these cartoons, you can make a powerful impact and leave a lasting memory — as people remember these presentations decades later! Time after time, I’ve received verbal and written proof of this.

Update: We never seemed to get any traction with this offer for setting your own price, so we stopped it. Maybe I did not blog about it enough or people felt that our regular retail price was a good value. One person actually paid MORE than retail, which was really appreciated as a great gesture.

If you are curious about our toolkit, drop me an email at

The metaphor of the Square Wheels Wagon is useful and bombproof. You show people a cartoon and allow participants to think about it and then discuss their ideas in small groups. You allow people to project their beliefs onto the cartoon to help build their ownership images and then allow them to apply that image onto their workplace through identifying the things that do not work smoothly along with their ideas for improvement.

You can download a complete Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit from our website and get the PowerPoint illustrations, instructions for use and for facilitation, in general, and worksheets you can print and use to have an effective 30 minute meeting or set the stage for a series of meetings focused on identifying, solving and implementing workplace improvement ideas and building intrinsic motivation of your people.

Heck, you can just use the handouts and not even need any LCD projector or other supporting equipment and be just as effective in involving and engaging everyone.

You can see how identifying something as a Square Wheel pretty much guarantees that your people will find some Round Wheel solutions and workarounds, because that is just how our brain works and people are much better problem solvers than problem identifiers. And you can see how the tabletop discussions generated allow people to gain some peer support for actually implementing the ideas.

Millions of people have never tried the simple act of facilitating with our Square Wheels cartoons and we think that they all represent potential users. My own presentations using these materials in 38 countries along with hundreds of testimonials from consultants and managers, worldwide, allow me to feel quite confident that you can use these illustrations in your improvement initiatives in the workplace, and elsewhere, for coaching improved performance and impacting organizational and personal momentum. So, go ahead and try out one of our very unique tools!

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 blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company


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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Interdepartmental Collaboration’s Vital Link to Organizational Profitability

HR Management Magazine asked me for an article a while back and I thought to make a copy of it available here, since I think it is well-illustrated, clear and focused on the issue of impacts and profitability as they relate to teambuilding. You can find access to the article at the bottom of this post.

The topic is improving inter-organizational alliances and building more collaboration between naturally competing workgroups as a means of impacting profitability and improving innovation and other organizational impacts. Better people collaboration and interacting toward shared goals and missions.

Competition is a motivating factor in most organizations and is a good energizer until that competition begins to sub-optimize overall organizational performance. Most companies do not measure those kinds of things yet they can have huge impacts on service, quality and morale.

Similarly, teamwork within a workgroup is good, until it slows or stops collaboration between different teams, a situation we call, My Team, My Team, My Team, as illustrated below:

We also know that most individuals and most teams do not take advantage of the support that already exists in organizations. This is a critical learning point of much of what we teach.

We also added thoughts on using The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine to engage and enlist people to choose to form alliances and improve performance.

Collaboration and Profit – an article on team building and organizational improvement


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


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.


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

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Team Building and Collaboration for Performance Improvement – Large Event Management

The past week has been really interesting, since I have had the chance to talk to a lot of people who are now going to start doing some team building within their organizations. Normally, my conversations are generally with consultants and trainers who have been doing these kinds of things and are looking for some new tools and approaches. Many of those conversations were with the, “been there and done that” crowd who were simply looking for some new and better tools.

But this seems to be a new group, rookies in the organizational collaboration and team building arena who have the chance to get things started right. And THAT is really neat!

(Has it really been that long since the average organization has conducted any team building events? Really?)

So, we have been discussing doing team building events with managers and staff and working with slightly larger groups than a training class.Scott Simmerman, wearing his Coaching Hat and preparing for Lost Dutchman

And I have been able to put my Coaching Hat on, and my Event Planner Hat, and offer up some ideas for optimizing impacts. Three of these contacts were going to run large groups (250, 100-200-500 and 1,100 (really!) and I shared some of my learned Best Practices for maximizing impact.

Basically, that approach involves getting all the Most Senior Managers into one room for 3/4 of a day. The session starts with a normal delivery of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, debriefed along the normal lines of collaboration and teamwork and planning. But then, the debriefing shifts to asking about the kinds of behaviors they would like to see from the people at the large event. That is always interesting, and the focus is on the shared mission and vision and generating alignment to goals, objectives and expectations.

Then, we TRAIN this group of Most Senior Managers to be able to support the delivery of the exercise. This group serves as the Provisioners and the Co-Expedition Leaders, operating in the environment where, “The Goal is to mine as much gold as we can.”  Oops — that should read “WE.”

The exercise is about getting help along with information and on collaborating and sharing information and resources to optimize results. But what these leaders see are people choosing NOT to get available planning information, to compete rather than collaborate among tabletops and to choose to not get help from the leaders who are there to help!

By having these real Senior Managers in this game delivery role, it is a great learning lesson on how to implement change and support high performance. One cannot simply TALK about it, they have to behave consistently and congruently. While a few of the teams will have precisely what they need to perform at a high level, those same teams will often choose NOT to collaborate, to thus “win” the game at the cost of negatively impacting overall organizational results.

Anyway, it is really neat to see these kinds of large events start happening again, since they can be powerful events to engage people in change and improvement and to lead them out of the current “engagement doldrums” that we seem to find ourselves.

Have some FUN out there yourself!


A Comparison Chart of PMC’s Team Building Activities

We’re supporting an ever increasing variety of impactful team building games these days and I am working on a few more to add to the mix. And it is getting complicated…

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine uses 20 “Days” for play and Seven Seas Quest uses “Months” and the Innovate & Implement exercise uses “Minutes” and the Military Might program uses “hours,” so just getting the right word for the timing is a challenge! Play of the games, though, is pretty straightforward and the designs solid, based on a lot of feedback.

To help explain the different products, our website has a  “Team Building Games Comparison Chart” that tries to outline the basic keys such as number of players, desired outcomes and applications, benefits and similar. We have games that work for 4 people and most games can scale up for hundreds.

And we even show the actual price (it’s interesting that so few of our competitors will actually post the prices of their games; they seem to be almost embarrassed by the costs) as we feel we have the best cost to benefit ratio in the world for the kinds of products we design, sell and support. Plus, we sell “unemcumbered,” without the per-participant or annual licensing fees so common in the industry for full-blown simulations.

AND, we’ll often customize for free if we think that work will result in a better team building product that we can distribute…

You can see the full Comparison Chart on the PMC website by clicking here – a version is added below but I am guessing that it will not be readable because of its size.

Matrix of our team building and leadership development exercises

We think the current products carry forward into a lot of different kinds of organizational development initiatives and also have some new things in development.

For executive development and strategy implementation, we are rebuilding and reframing a game built around planning and executing a climb of Everest. The challenge is to carefully plan an expedition that will take at least some of the players to the top; there is also the reality that some players can simply support the others to generate a success and that not everyone can always summit. Collaboration and planning is the main focus. We will link Everest to our strategy communications and implementation materials with Square Wheels.

For a great followup to Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, we will be rebuilding our Seven Seas Quest game into different bundles and a full-day integrated program on teamwork and communications.

I am reframing the Military Might! strategy and tactics exercise into an oil exploration game, one that will involve a great deal of upfront analysis of the situation and opportunities and will have serious risk / reward consequences to impact decision-making.

The Temple Game is built around a storied search for treasures in Asia to construct a Temple. Ships will sail to different ports to acquire the treasures of those countries in order to raise funds for the Shogun to construct an elegant temple near Kyoto. It is a great story line and will result in an exercise that blends planning and adventure with coordination and collaboration among the ships and the leaders.

More fun is in store for all and I love it that we can design and offer these games that link so well to workplace issues at a low cost and as a great value.  If you have any issues that you might like to see addressed with an interactive and engaging exercise, please drop me a note. My friend Brad wants to build a game on corporate sustainability for an executive development program he conducts at Furman University. And we have also played with the design of an emergency preparedness exercise.

Comments and suggestions are always appreciated!

For the FUN of It!

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