Thursday, May 21, 2009 by Dave Blum

I did things a little differently on yesterday’s treasure hunt in SF’s North Beach/Chinatown.  As I knew that the group was struggling with their budgeting and fund allocation at work, I decided (on this business team building exercise) to add a financial element to the activity.  Rather than having the treasure hunt clues be worth points, I valued them all in dollars.  (Well, play dollars, in fact.) Thus, an easy clue was now worth $5,000 in play money; a harder clue was $10,000.  The team with the most dollars at the end was the winner.  An extra wrinkle: the hunt participants were given an extra $6,000 to spend on possibly-useful decoder sheets.  (Significantly, only one of the three decoder sheets was absolutely necessary; the other two –Morse Code and World Flags — were find-able on the Web…that is, if the teams had thought ahead and brought their I-phones and web-enabled Blackberries.)

So how did it play out?  To my surprise, only one of the five teams purchased all three decoder sheets — and they were the team that won .  Interestingly, the team with the lowest score had decided not to purchase ANY decoders.  Later, when I asked them why they replied, “We figured we could do the clues by ourselves, without extra materials, and save the $6,000.” Which is true…although saving money effected their ability to produce…a timely lesson in this economy.

None of the teams thought to pool their money with other teams and buy decoder sheets together, or to trade and share decoder sheets.

Incorporating a monetary element to your fun corporate team building games can really add a lot to the outings, and to everyone’s potential take-away learning.  I believe that my “treasure hunt clues for dollars” activity helped to simulate the client’s actual workplace issues — and to highlight their ongoing silo mentality.

Perhaps I can get the California legislature to do one of my scavenger hunts!  They could use it!