A colleague shared a story in a blog which I saw years ago. With our recent release of the online version of our Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building game, I thought to share it here to illustrate one of the game’s key learning points. Dutchman is about optimizing results and collaboration, two of the main performance improvement themes:
A father and young boy were walking along a pathway, when they came across a large tree trunk that had fallen across the way.
The father encouraged the boy to go move the tree, to which the son replied he wasn’t strong enough.“Yes! You are,” said the dad. “If you use all your strength, I know you can do it.”
So, the boy summoned all he had, and, against the mighty forces of nature, he tried. And tried. And tried again. Finally, hanging his head, he went back to admit to his father that he just couldn’t do it.
“Did you use all your strength?” The man asked. The boy nodded he had. “No, actually son, no you didn’t,” the father said.
And as the boy looked up, puzzled, the Dad bent down and said … “You didn’t use me.”
With a man and his son, the situation is obvious. But what about organizations? How does the same story apply?
Let me illustrate within the framework and then broaden out into how people and organizations can improve results.
The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine starts by generating the challenge for teams, “to mine as much gold as we can.” The goal is to maximize the Return on Investment and the role of the Expedition Leader is, “to help teams be successful.” Simple enough. The Expedition Leader provides a map, resources, information and expects a return on that investment. Teams need to make decisions as to their strategy and plan, manage their resources and time, and reach the mine to mine gold, returning by the end of 20 “days.”
With a great deal of energy and a short planning time, they learn the rules as to how the game operates (in both a board game or in our new online, remote delivery framework), select the most important and necessary resources, gather information from other teams or game leadership, and implement their plan. Survival is critical — they must return by the end of Day 20 — but the goal is to optimize the time they spend in The Mine to generate the most gold.
The issues that stand out about using possible strengths is that people often choose to go it alone, do not ask other teams for information or to share resources. As a result of better planning, some teams gain more information to guide their choices and more resources to speed their journey or to reallocate their resources. (I will not get into specifics because I don’t want to give away game secrets!)
If they collaborate and share, they mine more gold. Often, these solo teams might mine 5 or 6 days of gold if they plan well. But the collaborating teams generally mine 8 to 10 days of gold simply because they know more and make different choices.
But another game reality, often prepared in advance for the debriefing, is, “Why don’t teams ask The Expedition Leader for help?”
The explicit game ROLE of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful, and their overall GOAL is to optimize the results of ALL the teams, since they are investing time, information and resources to all involved and having only one or two teams being optimally successful simply does not make sense. It is the OVERALL results that are what is important but teams often do a, “My Team, MY Team, MY Team” kind of decision making, one that is often is less successful. Collaboration between teams is a critical design feature of the game, as is the absolute power given to the EL to do whatever makes sense to optimize results, from giving teams extra resources to sharing critical strategic advice or extra tools.
People want to feel successful, and sometimes they feel that they need to go it alone.
But the reality is that teams make better decisions than individuals and even teams can benefit from collaboration with other teams and other people who have different information and different perspectives and even different ideas.
The goal in the initial design of Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine was to clearly show that collaboration between teams is beneficial, but the real world reality is that teams most often compete. Competition might be motivating, but it clearly decreases the ability for an organization to optimize results. Some people also really dislike competition and choose to opt-out early when things get competitive; they would much rather collaborate. And, it is a definite corporate reality that “Interdepartmental Collaboration” is an oxymoron in larger organizations.
So, the play of Lost Dutchman is designed to show players the benefits of doing better planning and resource management, collaborating and sharing information between teams, and actively asking the organization’s Expedition Leaders for advice. We want to make this one of the key desired outcomes for playing the game, to increase the collaboration between workers and their Expedition Leaders. We designed the game so that managers and supervisors can quickly learn how to deliver a powerful exercise, with many benefits around building a stronger and more collaborative team.
Like the boy in the story above, teams can ask for help from people who have more power and more resources. Most leaders in most organizations will help people succeed.
If you would like to see more about the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, click on this link.
If you would like to see more about the new, online virtual version of the exercise, you can:
- Watch this 2-minute video
- Read more about the exercise on our website
- Email Jeff Simmerman and schedule a demo
Consider scheduling a team building event with the online version for your training team. We can assist you through our network of consultants or help your training department to add the capability of delivering the program internally. There are a wide variety of benefits and we can tailor a program to meet your specific desired goals and objectives. And note that an event with players from your HR and Training Departments will generate a very positive payback to impacting your overall corporate development efforts — the insights into how they might collaborate more effectively is one of my most fun adventures!
Our role, as Expedition Leaders and game designers, is to help YOUR teams be more successful.
Make the choice and ask us for our help,
For the FUN of It!
Scott Simmerman, Ph.D., CPF, CPT – “The Square Wheels Guy”
Managing Partner, Performance Management Company – 864-292-8700
1520 S McElhaney Road, Greer SC 29651 USA