The Research

Data Driven Not Supposition 

We feel that team building programs should be built on real data and solid research and not on anecdotal evidence. We are involved in a major research study with Carnegie Mellon University, and some of the top minds in the world, to learn how to help teams become more effective. So far we’ve collected detailed observational data from 3,000 teams and are using it to better understand how teams work in the critical areas of investigative thinking and problem solving.


The research started as a way for us to test, if the concepts we were teaching were accurate. We soon found out that there was a lot that we didn't truly understand about teams and a deeper research study was needed. we formalized our research system and reached out to other top researchers in the field. We were fortunate to come in contact with Anita Woolley and her research staff at Carnegie Mellon University. Some publications rank Anita as the second most influential behavioral scientist alive today. 

With Anita and her teams help, we were able to create a system for observing teams and extracting valid information on many aspects of team behavior. The system included detailed observational data combined with video of teams solving complex problems in a controlled environment under time pressure. We partnered with Mystery Escape Room based in Salt Lake City Utah to provide the research data from the study of participants at their escape rooms.


The partnership with Mystery Escape Room gave us the unique opportunity to observe a broad spectrum of teams of all types from young children to corporate teams. It also provided a way to study many more teams than could be arranged at a university setting. Typically it would take a lot of logistics and planning to observe a few dozen teams in a year at a University. With Mystery Escape Room, we get that and more in a typical week. With this partnership, we've studied more than 3,000 teams and that number is growing every day. It is one of the largest, if not largest, collections of data on team behavior ever put together, making our research more accurate than other similar studies. 


Anita Williams Woolley


The Results

The amount of data collected in the research study is overwhelming in its size and scope. It will take years to uncover all of the possible aspects of team behavior that we've collected but some things from the data are very clear and point to some real fundamental problems with team management. Below are just a few examples. 

Room for Improvement

Most corporate teams are under performing at a significant rate. The gap between the top performing teams and the average corporate team is 48%. This gap gives us a huge opportunity to improve productivity in almost all teams, especially in the critical areas of investigative thinking and problem solving. 

Better Leadership

There is a specific style of leadership that that clearly increases team performance in every measurable aspect of team performance. We call it Structured Autonomy and we can teach what it is and how it works.

Relationships Matter

The research has clearly indicated that the more hierarchical the relationships in the team the lower the team performance. More startling is that teams of strangers consistently perform better than teams where members know each other. This insight is helping us understand how to fix problems in teams and help them perform at a higher level. 

Learning From Children

10 and 11 year old children perform very well considering their age even doing better than many adult groups. Studying the dynamics of these younger players has helped us to understand what qualities they bring to their teams. 

Constantly Learning

The more we study our data the more we are learning and we are making that knowledge available in our team building programs. 


1. A team where many of the member are working together for the first time and don’t know each other

In the study teams with well-defined hierarchy performed the worst while teams of strangers performed the best followed closely by teams where the members know each other but don’t normally work together.

2. A low-structured approach where everyone chooses their own tasks

The study showed that lower structure where people choose their own tasks had higher performance than those where tasks were assigned by a team leader.

3. 52%

The average company team’s performance was 52% of the top performing teams, or in other words, 48% less productive than the top teams.

4. Hesitancy to share ideas

Hesitancy to share ideas had a bigger impact on team performance than almost any other factor studied.

5. A leader who focuses on helping team members rather than directing efforts

In the study the showed that leaders who are more focused on facilitating team members efforts than on directing assignments were significantly more effecting across all measurements. Their average completion times were lower, their communication was better, they had less wasted time, were better organized and enjoyed work more. On the other hand, those teams with a single strong leader directing all efforts scored the worst in all measurements.

Learn even more with an exciting escape room adventure at Mystery Escape Room