Continuous Continuous Improvement, Organizational Alignment and Collaboration, and The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a truly great Team Building Exercise.
Winemaking is an art that takes a substance and nurtures it through the act of continuous incremental improvement, often with the goal of producing a truly spectacular product. Different winemakers have different goals, but some are artists and not accepting of mediocrity. These craftsmen are continually looking for techniques to improve their craft, trying to discover new ideas and nuances to impact quality and searching for outstanding customer reactions.
It’s in that same spirit of nurturing and exceeding expectations that we’ve developed The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine — it is an excellent example of how continuous continuous improvement works with innovation to create an ever evolving and increasingly better product.
Dutchman’s existence grew out of dissatisfaction with another team building game that I represented as the first USA selling agent back in the late 1980s. It was supposedly about collaboration, but that game’s play and its debriefing supported competition among teams – it was an exercise that was designed to allow teams to quickly die because of their decisions, claiming that it was a reality of teamwork. It tended to be a show, more than an organizational development program, and the focus on competition was something that I didn’t feel created a better Return on Investment than what a Collaborative Approach would do, real world.
When I tried to collaborate with that game’s developers, they resisted these “outsider’s ideas” for things that would strengthen their game’s outcome for organizations. It was at that point that the idea of developing my own exercise, one that had clear metaphors for teaching and one that had alignment to collaboration, came to mind. So, in 1993, Dutchman was created — there was a need in the team building market for an exercise that would create a fun atmosphere for players yet it would support a serious learning framework for how collaboration beats competition in getting the best ROI.
Dutchman was meant to create a really solid debriefing
and discussion of real organizational development
and alignment issues, framed as a teambuilding game!
Not only did we want a game that linked to real workplace issues, we also wanted an exercise that could be easily facilitated by trainers or consultants and didn’t have a bunch of restrictive licensing and continual payment requirements attached to it. I wanted to sell Dutchman as a one-time cost game with a money back guarantee that could be used by virtually any type of organization. And, I soon found that this was a much appreciated concept compared to the typical way that team building products were put into the marketplace.
An early user even suggested that we “dumb down the reading and math” in the presentation, because his workforce in North Carolina did not have really strong skills. That was seamless and easy once we looked at the context. Plus, we found out that anyone could use our simple design framework and that only simple facilitation skills were needed deliver it — we have had administrative assistants deliver it for their senior management teams as well as line managers facilitate it for their sales teams all over the US and then all over the world.
Once Dutchman entered into the playing field, it immediately received accolades for how it drove home the concept of collaboration and communications. Through a much stronger debriefing than the other game provided, I was able to show how teams could have increased their ROI by the simple act of collaborating across teams. Few programs of any kind enable this type of inter-organizational collaboration and teamwork and few link to measurable results and outcomes.
Leadership, communications and strategic planning are all essential to creating a collaborative environment and Dutchman sets this up extremely well – one testimonial is below and dozens are visible if you click here or on the image. The funny thing is that competition is a compelling force for players and they end up sub-optimizing their gold intake because of this. Therefore, this further indicated that a solid Debriefing was necessary to the game in order to get people to realize how debriefing Collaboration and team building brings in a better ROI.
Flexibility then became an important addition to the game and its debriefing because organizations have different reasons for using team building games and as Dutchman’s debriefing continued to evolve over the years so did its flexibility for creating different outcomes. Within its first year of use, Dutchman became a worldwide product that easily worked in various cultures and countries (see the testimonial from Robin Speculand in Singapore, above, since he has been actively using it for 19 years. Our newest client is Challenge Korea.)
Throughout the years, we’ve continued to improve upon the game play not only from my own ideas but also from collaborating with Dutchman owners who have given me great ideas to incorporate into the game. The game materials have evolved over the years, the Debriefing presentation and slides have expanded, the training materials have evolved to now include videos of how to work the game, etc. Even the original game board has changed into a different version.
The people who bought the game 21 years ago can still play with the materials they received at that time while those presently purchasing any of the game versions will acquire a more polished set of materials but all versions will work exceedingly well to create a game worth facilitating because the outcomes of the game are like a fine wine in that the depth of appreciation for Dutchman and it’s return on investment continues to grow as it ages.
If any of this is of interest, we encourage you to contact us, directly. I am quite easy to reach and answer the telephone myself (or email me at Scott@SquareWheels.com),
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.
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Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.