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What Escape Rooms Tell Us about Success

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 9:41 AM | Kevin Smith (Administrator)

by Erin Lavery, VP-Marketing

Escape Rooms are creating quite a buzz in the corporate teambuilding space. If you’ve missed this craze, Escape Rooms are a chance for teams to get together, try to problem-solve their way out of a locked room by separating real clues from delightfully tricky red herrings, and also learn about their communication and influencing styles under pressure. The goal is to escape the room in less than 60 minutes. Or . . . is it?

At the ATD-MAC Summer Social, MAC members took on Escape This in Madison. At the social afterwards, I asked a handful of participants, “Did you succeed?” I heard “No, we didn’t get out of the room.” and “Yes, with 5 minutes to spare.” And, yet, not one person asked me the most important question “How are you defining success?”

As learning and development specialists, the question at the forefront of all our work should always be “What does success look like?” This is not a question to ask as an afterthought; it’s THE question.

I hear you; you’re saying “Come on, Erin, the goal of an Escape Room is to escape.” Is it? Maybe success is escaping in 60 minutes . . . maybe 20 minutes. Or, maybe success is learning the names of everyone in the group. Maybe success is asserting my opinion in a group setting at least once. If I am claustrophobic, maybe success is just showing up!

One of the greatest errors we make in our profession is assuming that our learners, clients, teams, and colleagues are all defining success the same way. If you want great learning, great outcomes, and great design, start with the question “What does success look like?” and use the answer as a light to illuminate the right action. That way, you aren’t wasting your time on those delightfully tricky red herrings.



by Erin Lavery, VP-Marketing

Erin is a Learning & Development Specialist focused on Leadership Development at UW Health. She holds a Master of Science in Adult and Continuing Education Leadership through the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in German Literature and Pedagogy from Calvin College. In addition, Erin is a certified trainer for Development Dimensions International and Crucial Conversations as well as a certified Life Coach for students with disabilities. Erin currently serves as the VP of Marketing for the ATD-MAC. 

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