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When it Comes to Teams, Numbers Don't Lie

We’ve collected a vast amount of detailed data since we started doing team evaluations of every group team that comes and does one of our events. The data contains many interesting facts that has convinced us there is significant room for improved corporate team performance in the critical areas of problem solving. Today I’m going to share just one aspect of the data that I believe shows the great opportunity to improve team performance in a corporate setting.

One measure of team success that we track is what percentage of teams complete the escape mission before time runs out. We compare this with the total number of teams that try and that gives us a completion percentage which we then post to our web page to indicate the difficult any given escape room adventure. Since we are tracking many data points for all groups that come through our escape rooms, we also have the ability to track how well different types of teams do across all our rooms. We thought it might be interesting to see how well corporate teams do compared to teams that come to our place strictly for entertainment. The results surprised us.

Corporate teams, as a whole, ended up having the lowest percentage of success of all the groups we studied. The success rate for all corporate teams was 22%. This was surprising considering the large amount of time and money spent on training these teams to work together. These are people who work together on a daily basis. We thought this would give them a big advantage when working together as a team.

Groups of friends and family did slightly better than corporate teams with an overall success rate of 26%. The 4% difference may not seem significant, but it does bear study because a 4% increase in productivity could mean a lot to almost any company. But the biggest surprise was yet to come.

We have teams of people who meet for the first time in our lobby. This happens mostly on weekends when we sell individual tickets and groups are combined. Given that these people have never met before, we thought they would struggle when face with a teamwork situation. The opposite was true. Teams made up of strangers have a success rate of just over 35%.

We believe that a 13% difference in success is a big deal, but what is a bigger deal, in our minds, is that the difference is between people who know each other versus those that don’t. When we first saw this, we thought maybe it was just a group of very smart strangers. We were wrong. These numbers have held together over time. We’ve now collected data from almost 2,000 teams representing tens of thousands of individuals. It is likely one of the largest sample sets ever gathered of teams working together trying to solve complex problems under time pressure. While the overall percentages change based on the difference of the difficulty of our rooms, the difference in success between the groups hasn’t changed significantly. Strangers have consistently performed better than people who know each other.

I believe this data shows a huge potential for greater productivity. We are working with our friends a Carnegie Mellon University to study this potential and shed light on what managers can do to improve team effectiveness in the critical area of problem solving. In the coming weeks I will be sharing some of our findings. As we drill down into what makes teams work, we are discovering ways to unlock team potential.

I encourage you to share this with your friends and collogues and look forward to hearing from those of your that want to really learn how to improve team performance.

If you’d like to learn more about our research, contact me at

If you’d like to schedule an event, go to

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