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Teams That Fear to Speak

Fear and apprehension are two of the major roadblocks to great team interaction. We see this all the time as we study teams in our escape rooms. Those teams that are quick to speak are usually the teams that succeed, while those that hold back tend to fail in most of our adventures. We’ve watched this play out hundreds of times and it has given us some insight into what changes need to be made, for teams to work more effectively together.

When we ask people why they are afraid to speak up with their ideas during an escape room experience. The most common answer is that they don’t want to be wrong in front of their peers. This desire to always be right is strongest in corporate groups. It has an overall slowing effect on the teams and becomes quite evident when we watch groups. Rather than speak up immediately, we see participants study puzzles longer and hesitate more when voicing their opinions.

From what we see, the pressure to always be right, is stronger in corporate teams than it is in other groups that visit our escape rooms.

We have focused on teaching corporate groups to try and eliminate the pressure to always be right and found that when they do their performance improves. In our full team building event we have teams do two escape room adventures with a t raining in between. In the training we emphasis that problems are solved when everyone freely shares their ideas without hesitating. We use interactive activities that illustrate how collaboration dramatically improves team performance. When teams go into their next escape room adventure, we see a shift in attitude toward freedom of expression and an improved collaboration.

When we debrief the team after the second escape room experience, we find two things that stand out to us.

  • The team’s ability to solve problems as a group improves causing them to be more successful and allowing them to get dramatically closer to solving the mystery. Many times, they do solve the mystery.

  • The second experience is always more fun and satisfying to the group. Their excitement level increases and they feel better about their peers.

From this we feel that one of the key factors to improved team performance in problem solving is to unlock the minds of the team and get them to start sharing their ideas without the worry of being wrong. That being wrong isn’t bad. It is just a step toward finding the right answer.

Eliminating fear in to speak up in a team environment takes much more than a one-time activity in an escape room training exercise, but the training exercise does show that working toward that goal can improve team performance. True improvement requires a shift in long standing structures within a company.

In my next post I’ll talk more about changes that companies can make to improve team collaboration and increase problem solving skills for long term performance improvement.

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

If you’d like to schedule an event go to

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