Sometimes it takes more than a super sharp team with skill and knowledge in a broad rang of areas to succeed as a great problem-solving team. Sometimes it takes learning from an unexpected source, children.
After observing hundreds of groups working together as teams we kind of stubbled on something that we didn’t expect. We observed that often children seemed to do better than adults. At first we dismissed this as just being exceptional youth but after seeing it repeated a number of times, we decided to take a closer look.
At Mystery Escape Room out rooms are very challenging. We design them to keep 8 to 10 participants active through the entire time they are in the room. We have multiple puzzles that can be solved at the same time. We really push teams to divide into independent solving groups that must communicate well with each other to finish the adventure before time runs out. If a group has a communication problem, it becomes evident very quickly. Some of our rooms run as low s 10% of the groups solving the mystery.
What really set us back is seeing a group of 10 and 11-year-old children come in and solve one of these escape room adventures. The first time it happened, we thought it was a mistake and that maybe or room guide gave them too many clues. But then it happened again and again. Not all kid groups were able to solve the mystery, but that any did at all was surprising to us. The puzzles in these rooms were quite sophisticated. They were something that we didn’t expect children to be able to solve. We decided to take a closer look at what was happening in those rooms. What we found is a lesson for all of us.
When observing these younger participants, we were able to see that they attacked an escape room mystery very differently than their adult counterparts. When I say attack that was literally what it was. The children lost no time in searching gathering clues and puzzles in a room. They would often run from one place to another. They showed unmatched enthusiasm for finding and gathering information. But it didn’t stop there. We soon saw that there are two attributes that pre-teen children have in great abundance.
Anyone who has raise ten-year-old children can attest to the fact that there is no time lost from when an idea pops into their head and it coming out their mouth. They seemed to have an endless stream of ideas and they were verbalized as fast as they thought of them. There was no hesitation and it didn’t matter, if the idea was brilliant, weird, dumb or disconnected. They just blasted them out with free abandon. What was more they didn’t seem to care about the quality of the ideas, they treated them all the same.
The second attribute we witnessed is that these pre-teen children were not afraid to test any idea mentioned. They were fearless in how they would try one thing after the next. Their testing of ideas was sometimes so rapid that a dozen ideas were tested in a matter of minutes. If something didn’t work, they’d just go on to the next without pausing.
In contrast when we watched adults, we saw something entirely different. Older participants seemed to hold back on ideas. When questioned we found several reasons for holding back, which I’ll address in another blog post. The important thing to note, however, is that the number of ideas expressed in older groups was significantly less than in those of the pre-teen groups.
Older groups also tended to hesitate in testing ideas. We often see older groups talk themselves out of solutions without even trying them. Rather than just trying every idea that comes up, they evaluate the ideas and only try those that they think will be successful. While this may appear to speed things up, it also leaves potential solutions untried.
What we’ve learned from watching children is that they don’t judge they just do. They don’t care about others judging their ideas. They accept all ideas equally and they try them all. They’re not afraid to test an idea. They don’t waste time self-evaluating. Their time is spent investigating and testing. Maybe we adults can learn something from their approach? Maybe it is time to learn to something from children.
If you’d like to learn more about our research, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to schedule an event with Mystery Escape Room, go to www.mysteryescaperoom.com.