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What Role Does Fun Play?

Sometimes what we see doesn’t become clear right away. I’ve studied teams for a long time. Our research has given me the opportunity to watch thousands of teams in action and even with that, I still miss things. One thing that I’ve come to realize that should have been obvious to me is that really effective teams have fun being a team.

Every time after we finish and escape room adventure, we ask the group, if they had fun. The answer is always yes, so it took me a little while to start noticing the difference in how much fun the teams had during the time they were working together. The most successful teams tend to have fun in a little different way than other teams. It is what I call fun in achievement. Or in other words, they gain enjoyment and satisfaction in the process of solving puzzles. It isn’t just the solving of the puzzles that they enjoy, it is the process of solving the puzzles that brings them satisfaction as well. The enjoy the process as much as the achievement.

All the teams we watch enjoy solving a puzzle. They will often show their enjoyment by shouting or congratulating each other. Sometimes they dance or hug each other. We can often hear them throughout our locations. But what sets some of the best teams apart is that they also have fun while they are working on a puzzle. They like the process as much as they do the end result.

Recently I watched two teams tackle the same room. The first team had fun in the room but mostly celebrating when a puzzle was solved. The enjoyment seemed to come and go depending on when things got solve.

The second team was a little different. They still enjoyed solving the puzzles, but it felt like the enjoyment was mostly because it allowed them to tackle the next challenge. They often would say things like that was a good puzzle. I like this one. That felt good. They seemed to have fun the whole time they were in the room. What is more, they were more successful than the first group, and not by just a little bit.

We have a lot of teams that do full team building events with us. In these events we have them do two escape rooms with a debriefing between the two rooms. In every case the second room had a much better performance than the first room. While we expect that experience will play a big role in making the second room better, there is another factor. In our debriefing between the two rooms, we talk about how they worked together in the escape room. We also give them specific ways that they can improve their performance.

The interesting thing that we’ve seen when we ask them about it after they’ve done both rooms is that the second escape room was more fun. It doesn’t matter what escape room they did the second time, it was always more fun than the first escape Room. We’ve even had groups with multiple teams trade rooms. The result is still the same. They had more fun in the second escape room that they did.

It’s made me come to realize that while all teams may have fun working together to solve an escape room adventure, the way a team has fun may be an important factor in how well the team performs. Those that enjoy the journey perform better than those that only enjoy the achievement.

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