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

Tag: Outdoor team building

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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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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