7 Reasons a Scavenger Hunt is a Better Teambuilding than an Escape Room



Before jumping into a comparison of Scavenger Hunts vs. Escape Rooms, let me clarify what teambuilding is.


In the Off-Site-Event world, you generally find three different types of programs:  Team Bonding, Team Building and Team Development, as follows.

  1. Team Bonding: The goal here is simply for everyone to have a good time.  You typically have an emcee rather than a facilitator; there is no debrief; and the event does not typically have an end workplace goal in mind.
  2. Team Building:  The over-arching goal here is to leverage the experience as a springboard for discussion about the workplace. There is generally a trained, experieinced facilitator in attendance, whose role is to help the participants reflect on how the program parallels real life, and how it can all be harvested for meaning, insight and action.
  3. Team Development: The aim here is to bring about significant behavioral and organizational change, over time.  You tend to find a multi-phase curriculum, with at least one event per quarter, combined with behavioral assessments and other metrics.


Our terms defined, let’s jump back into our comparison of scavenger hunts vs. escape rooms.


By our definition, an escape room is almost always a team bonding event while a scavenger hunt is more commonly a team building.    Let’s break this down a bit.


  1. Scavenger Hunts have a debrief; Escape Rooms don’t: In your typical escape room, participants enter a room, receive instructions, solve a series of puzzles, and then try to “escape”.   The emcee is there to help people out when they get stuck—and that’s about it.  When the time limit is up, people either leave victorious –or not – and the game is over.  By contrast, a scavenger hunt includes a trained facilitator, whose job is both to frame the activity beforehand as a learning experience, and to lead a post-hunt reflection afterwards, seeking correlation between everyone’s performance in the hunt and the related challenges of the real world.


  1. Scavenger Hunts are not restricted by time: Escape rooms tend to last no more than 60-90 minutes.  The clock ticks; the claustrophobia mounts, and when the bell goes off in an hour or an hour and a half, you depart.  By contrast, in a scavenger hunt there is much more flexibility.   The game can last anywhere from a half-day to a full day; you even see multi-day hunts, for the hardcore clue seekers only!


  1. Group size is flexible in a Scavenger Hunt: Escape rooms are small; that’s a physical reality.   A typical team can be no more than 11-12 people.    Scavenger hunts, on the other hand, can be as large as you like:  anywhere from 4 people to 400 (and more!).   The more people you have, the more teams you make.  Group size is usually small (4-6 people per team), allowing for lots more interaction than you might have on a 12-person, escape room team


  1. Executing a Scavenger Hunt requires real strategy:  By and large, escape rooms are something of a free for all.   Your team walks in, checks out the challenges, jumps into the task and starts scrambling.  By contrast, in a scavenger hunt, your facilitator guides you through the division of roles and responsibilities. You then create and execute a plan, manage the clock, and delegate the right puzzles and clues to the right person (or persons).


  1. Scavenger Hunts allow for customization: One of the best features of an escape room is that the creator has designed a themed experience for you.   When you enter the room, you enter a story.   On the down side, that story is pretty much set—not only for you, but for every group that follows you.   By contrast, in a scavenger hunt, everything can be customized for the client—including the clues themselves.   It’s common for the clue master to work in the company’s mission and vision statement as well as the names of key products and stakeholders.


  1. Scavenger Hunts allow for tech: Escape rooms are difficult to create.  The secret for escaping is top secret and not to be shared upon leaving room.  Since you don’t want to spoil things for the groups that follow you, that means no photos and no cell phone use allowed!    Scavenger hunts, on the other hand, don’t have the same “great reveal”.    You absolutely can use your smart phones and your social media during the experience.  As well, many hunts make use of treasure hunt smart phone apps, which allow for a taking of fun photos, video and augmented reality.


  1. Scavenger Hunts provide an irreverent walking tour—with no walls: As mentioned above, one of the fascinations of escape rooms is the closed quarters. It’s almost as if you’re in a haunted house and you have to get out!    Scavenger hunts, however, provide a different, more expansive experience.  During a hunt, you’re out and about in the neighborhood, taking in the sights, and enjoying the fresh air. Along the way, you’re interacting with the community, discovering the hidden gems of the area in a whole new way.


Are scavenger hunts, then, superior to escape rooms?   Not necessarily.   It all depends on what you’re looking for.


If what you need is a short, fun team experience where you’re immersed in a story (like stepping into a movie), then escape rooms are a fantastic choice.    They are definitely brainier than the typical “team bonding” activity, such as go-karting, bowling and mini-golf – all of which provide less intellectual interaction.     There is no question that a well-designed escape room is a stimulating, enjoyable experience, not to be missed.   Just keep in mind that it really is a team bonding rather than a team building.


If, however, you want a high-impact “team building” event – where participants really get to know each other’s strengths, weaknesses and social dynamics – then a professionally-run scavenger hunt is the way to go.


The key is asking yourself, “Do I need a team building or a team bonding?”



Listen in as Dave Blum, President and Founder of Dr. Clue, talks about the difference between team bond and team building, and between escape room and scavenger hunts.