Business, Top Stories | Corporate team building evolves over time Posted on July 15, 2017 By Lima News
Chicago Tribune | By Robert Channick
CHICAGO — Corporate team building, which for years brought co-workers together in disdain for activities such as trust falls and ropes courses, has elevated its game.
Escape rooms, “Survivor”-style competitions and improv training are bringing a new level of excitement — and perhaps effectiveness — to the once-dreaded outings, meant to bond employees and fortify roles outside the confines of their daily cubicle-farm existence.
A recent excursion to a Chicago escape room by a team of 15 United Airlines employees proved challenging, surprising and successful in shaking up the status quo, with an intern leading his managers to freedom and participants energized in the process.
Whether a simulated jail break transfers to an improved workplace, however, remains an open question.
“It’s not clear yet what are the benefits of it, other than people love it because it’s something outside of work,” said Eduardo Salas, an organizational psychology professor at Rice University in Houston. “But when they go back, the same conditions are there, so the long-term effects of team building are unknown.”
A series of exercises meant to encourage cooperation, goodwill and, ultimately, increased productivity, team building has long been fodder for corporate satire. The quintessential team-building activity was the trust fall: closing your eyes and falling backward into the arms of your colleagues, secure in the knowledge that they have your back — or not.
While team-building facilitators proliferated and business was brisk, the old-school outings rarely hit the mark, according to experts.
“It really didn’t improve their performance,” said Wendy Bedwell, an assistant professor of organizational psychology at the University of South Florida.
In recent years, team building has evolved in more creative and engaging ways, Bedwell said, amping up both the fun quotient and the potential benefits to the workplace. Activities include solving simulated crime scenes, building bicycles for charity and competing in “Survivor”-inspired challenges, among others.
Improv training is also popular as a corporate team-building activity, with Second City Works, the business consulting arm of the Chicago-based comedy troupe, a logical player in that arena.
“We’ve built a pretty significant business,” Kelly Leonard, executive director of insights and applied improvisation at Second City Works, where a half-day team building workshop starts at about $12,000.
Escape rooms, however, have emerged as perhaps the go-to team-building activity. In a typical scenario, six teammates are locked in a themed room, where they must work together to find clues and solve puzzles to escape within 60 minutes.
The activity can be both intellectual and physical, and for those who are not claustrophobic, apparently a lot of fun. It also provides some actual team-building benefit, Bedwell said.
“Anything that really requires people to work together, think critically and solve a problem is going to have more of a benefit than just standing in a forest and falling backwards and having everyone catch you,” Bedwell said.
PanIQ Room, a Hungarian company that opened a Chicago outlet in March 2016, is in the basement of an industrial three-story brick building near downtown.
The facility consists of three rooms dubbed “Infection,” “Prison” and, in homage to Chicago, “Mob,” where participating groups generally pay between $129 and $189 for a one-hour escape.
Camille Wheeler, 36, senior manager in contact center applications for United Airlines, recently funded a PanIQ Room outing for herself and 14 members of her team, who split into groups to tackle the three rooms simultaneously.
“I wanted to get the team out and do some team-building exercises in a new and different way,” Wheeler said.
The groups dug into the task, connecting via walkie-talkies for occasional clues from the PanIQ Room managers, who monitored their respective efforts from a control room video screen.
Only one group emerged within the allotted time, escaping from the Infection room in about 45 minutes to trade high-fives and war stories.
Leading the way was Justin Booms, 30, an intern from Bloomington, Ind., who took command from his more tenured co-workers, having previously navigated a different escape room.
“Given my previous experience and with everybody thrown into the same boat, there’s no hierarchy — whoever sees something first can kind of lead,” said Booms.
With no customers scheduled for the next hour, Heidi Blanc-Blum, unit manager for PanIQ Room Chicago, gave the other two teams some extra time to escape, with both eventually making their way to freedom.
“Prison is really hard,” declared Pam Hannan, a 22-year veteran of the applications team, upon emerging from her cell and plopping down on the lobby couch for a drink of water.
Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017 | Eric Schelkopf mySuburbanLife.com
WHEATON – Starting in February, those who stop by Escape For Fun at 314 S. Main St. in downtown Wheaton will have even more opportunities to enjoy the challenge of escape rooms.
Escape For Fun owners Mark and Lisy Murman of Wheaton in February plan to open a second escape room at the business, which opened its doors in January 2016. In a escape room, participants are given 60 minutes to solve clues and puzzles in order to escape from a locked room.
There is growing interest in escape rooms these days.
“Business has been great,” Lisy Murman said. “Escape rooms appeal to both gamers and non-gamers.”
Escape For Fun’s current escape room, The Chamber, revolves around a medieval theme. Those who participate in the business’s second escape room, Mission Critical, will have 60 minutes to infiltrate a mad scientist’s office and lab and deactivate a bomb.
“I think the demand is there,” Mark Murman said. “I think people loved the first room. It’s kind of a logical progression for expansion, since you don’t really get repeat customers. So the only way to get anybody back is to either change a room around or add another room.”
Plans are for the second room to open the first week of February.
“I think it will give people a nice variety,” he said.
In addition, the first room might receive an update in the next year, Mark Murman said.
“We’ll keep it the same theme, but I imagine there will be all new clues,” he said.
He said business has been picking up in the last three months as people seek out escape rooms.
“There’s definitely demand,” he said. “People are just finding out what these things are all about. It’s definitely a growing segment of the entertainment market.”
WPTV West Palm Beach, August 22, 2016 | Andrew Ruiz
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – In a world where many people have their eyes glued to their phones, there’s a new interactive experience that requires brain power and teamwork. It’s called an ‘escape room.’
You and your friends or maybe a date go inside a locked room and your goal is to get out by solving clues.
I tested it at “The Great Escapist” of West Palm Beach.
The entertainment center has 5 rooms, each of them with different themes.
I chose the “Classroom of Doom” and “The Escape Room Bomber.”
During each challenge teams are given 60 minutes to solve the puzzles hidden inside.
Dr. Lawrence Weinstein went through his first escape room in 2014; six months ago he opened “The Great Escapist.”
Weinstein says around the world there are more than 1,400 escape rooms; he believes the hands-on experience draws people in.
“It’s more interactive, you actually have to communicate with people. So other than going to a movie or a sporting event, here you’re part of the movie, part of the drama.”
Team building is the ultimate goal. Companies have found the experience valuable and they too are joining in on the action.
January 2016 | Lindy Kleivo, Editor
Happy New Year to you and yours! All of us at Glancer Magazine are very excited for 2016 and all that is planned for each issue. As you turn the pages you will notice many new features along with changes to some existing features– including my Editor’s Note. In keeping with the core of our publication, which is celebrating the faces and places of our community, I will now be dedicating my monthly column to exciting happenings around the suburbs. Please join me in this month’s HIGH FIVE by visiting a mentioned business, congratulating a featured resident or sharing these good news stories with another member of the community.
IN WHEATON– High five to Escape For Fun, Inc., the new hot spot in Wheaton that opened this month. Get ready for The Chamber, a medieval themed room, where up to 10 people are “locked in” and must solve puzzles, riddles, codes and clues in order to find a series of keys and ultimately escape. The catch is that you only have 60 minutes to do it. This sounds like it would make for a great Team Glancer outing!