Wednesday, February 11, 2009 by Dave Blum

It was just after the midbrief, this past Saturday, that the treasure hunt in North Beach/Chinatown took a very interesting turn.

The client was a group of 23 sales people in the recycling business, gathering in San Francisco for three days of strategy and corporate team building activities, with the intention of generating new efficiencies and  coordinating their team efforts a little better for the year to come.  The first stage of the activity went pretty much according to expectations, with each group solving most, if not all of their treasure hunt clues, correctly.  In the second stage, however, an odd thing happened:  one of the teams picked up their clue packet, gathered their belongings and simply took off!   Ordinarily I wouldn’t have found this unusual; groups tend to have their own treasure hunt ideas, their own strategy for solving the clues and completing the hunt.  But what was surprising to me was that a team from this company would wander off on its own after the client had expressly emphasized the need IN THIS ECONOMY for more internal planning and cross-team collaboration.

The irony is that we often include a cross-team collaboration clue in the second stage of our scavenger hunts — one that involves the trading of baseball cards.  All the teams must be involved in the card swapping in order for everyone to succeed!  With one team missing, obviously, NONE of the teams were able to solve the clue.  In short, everyone failed because one group felt they could “go it alone”.  (What really killed me is that I tried to help the rogue team — before they left I yelled out, “You should really look at clue #2 before you leave the park!”.  They ignored me!)

It turns out that the missing team gave up on the clues and went directly to a bar  — I guess to engage in “alternate team building exercises”.  :)Needless to say, they didn’t come close to winning, which looked pretty bad in the eyes of their boss.  But as always when this kind of thing happens, the final debrief was juicy.  The client had a long and pointed discussion about the parallels between the treasure hunt and their business, highlighting everyone’s inter-connectedness and renewing their commitment to coordinating their efforts more closely.

Mission accomplished, I’d say.