Friday, May 15, 2009 by Dave Blum

For a team building facilitator like me, one of the biggest pleasures of running a program (whether it’s corporate team building Atlanta or Dallas, or one of our social scavenger hunts here in San Francisco) is the “serendipity aspect“.  Quite simply, you just never know what’s going to happen during an office team building game.
Take, for example, this past Wednesday.  I was over at UCSF (the University of California San Francisco) presenting a demo of Dr. Clue’s Puzzling Networking Game.  I knew that if the students liked it, they’d purchase up to 30 copies of the game for their massive “disorientation party,” coming up in the fall.  With the stakes a bit high, you can imagine the mixed sense anticipation and anxiety going through my head:

Dave to Self:  “I’ve run this program many times before; it’s a great indoor corporate team building game.  They’re going to love it!  But what if the students aren’t good at puzzles, or don’t know the required trivia?!!”

So how did it go?  Not perfectly, to be sure–but I think it did the trick, in ways I hadn’t expected.

As you may recall, the Puzzling Networking game involves a series of tricky puzzles that have been cut into quarters.  Each participant gets one piece and must find the other three people who can help them re-assemble their puzzle and solve it.  Once their puzzle is completed, participants exchange cards with someone else and then move around the room, finding a new “temporary foursome” with whom to solve their next puzzle, and so on.  Well, the UCSF students did fine–with a few blips.  One group, really struggled with their “spelling bee” clue (figuring out which words in a list were misspelled).  Another group, apparently knew very little about movie trivia.  And a third group, it seemed, was fairly unfamiliar with the military alphabet.   My job was to circulate around the various groups, asking them the same question:

“When you’re in the lab, or at home working on a homework assignment, what do you do when you don’t know the specific informatoin required?  Do you throw up your hands in frustration and give up?  (Alas, for some of them, I fear the answer was yes.)  Or do you go out and get the information, by hook or by crook?”

One by one, comprehension dawned in their eyes.

  • They could phone a friend (ie. “calling a lifeline”).
  • They could look things up on their I-phones.
  • They could even use the computer monitors in the back of the room, all set up for the internet.


–One group started running a spell check on the misspelled words.
–Another group went to for movie trivia info.
–The third group looked up the military alphabet.

In the end, none of the groups succeeded in finishing all six possible puzzles before time ran out.   Although I could see they were a little disappointed with their performance, I also noticed that, like many high achievers, they really wanted another crack at it.  When it comes to team building exercises, sometimes it’s okay for people to achieve less than total success…especially if it leaves them wanting more!

NEWSFLASH:  I just heard from UCSF and we got the job!