How to grow as a team and have fun while defusing bombs together Team building and remote collaboration with "Escape the BOOM"

Team building and remote collaboration with "Escape the BOOM"

Supporting team building and communication will significantly advance your project results. Michael Cramer, María Berenguer and Marjoke Franken show you how you can achieve this by using the cooperative mobile game "Escape the BOOM".

Management Summary

How to grow as a team and have fun while defusing bombs together Team building and remote collaboration with "Escape the BOOM"

Team building and remote collaboration with "Escape the BOOM"

Supporting team building and communication will significantly advance your project results. Michael Cramer, María Berenguer and Marjoke Franken show you how you can achieve this by using the cooperative mobile game "Escape the BOOM".

Management Summary

When you enter the room, you feel the tension, the excitement! People are frantically going through what looks like a manual of some kind. Some are seemingly blindly turning pages, terror in their eyes, others are very focused on one page and continuously shout questions like: "How many yellow?" Or: "Is it flowing from left to right or from right to left?" Every now and then you hear one of them shout an order like: "Press the third button!" Or: "Press and hold the button!" Quickly followed by: "What colour?"

One person is sitting across the table from the others. She is really focused, looking at her mobile phone as if it were something she had never seen before! She answers the questions rapidly, at what appears to be cool and in control. However, with every passing minute, the tone of her voice is rising, and her breathing gets shallower.

And then… there it is… the sigh of relief! "Done!! We’re safe!" Yay!! Laughter and sighs of relief are filling the air.

At this moment you first notice the person sitting apart from the rest. She is looking with amusement and interest at the group of people who are now celebrating with high fives.

"Shall we gather and shortly debrief what we’ve seen and noticed?"

What is "Escape the BOOM"?

"Escape the BOOM" is a quick puzzle and communication game that appeals to people who like to play Escape Rooms or social games. It works best in groups of 3 to 6 players.

The game consists of a mobile app and a manual that can both be downloaded for free at www.Escape-the-BOOM.com [1].

It is a collaborative game, so the whole team wins or fails together. One player must defuse a bomb, shown on the smartphone or tablet, but does not know what to do. The other players have the bomb manual. They can figure out what to do, but they do not see the bomb. So, they need to talk it out quickly, because the timer of the bomb is counting down mercilessly.

The “Escape the BOOM” app and its manual
Image 1: The "Escape the BOOM" app and its manual

How to facilitate "Escape the BOOM" in a team workshop

Besides being a casual game to play with family and friends, "Escape the BOOM" is a great game for team building activities, trainings that involve remote communication channels or in agile retrospectives. It provides a great opportunity to reflect on a team’s communication and collaboration patterns that will undoubtedly emerge during this exercise. But, because of the playful and (hopefully) not-work-related topic, these patterns are much easier to be discussed openly.

Preparation

  • Schedule at least 45 minutes for the workshop. We recommend holding the workshop during the afternoon, so the team members can go on playing after hours if they want to.
  • Prepare fully charged smartphones or tablets with "Escape the BOOM" already installed, so you can start right away. We usually split up the group in teams of 3-6 persons. Provide one device per team. If you don’t have enough devices yourself, maybe participants can bring their own. They don’t need to purchase the app – the first four levels are free to play, which is usually enough for 30 minutes of gameplay and 15 minutes of debriefing. The app is available for Android and Apple.
  • Bring a printout of the manual for each participant.
  • Prepare the room: We recommend setting up a group table for each team, with the bomb operator sitting on one side and the manual holders sitting on the other sides, so they cannot see the screen. Provide some pens and paper on each table, and a flipchart for the debriefing.
  • Connecting the device to a speaker via Bluetooth adds a nice touch, as the musical soundtrack is adding to the tension.
A team defusing bombs at the Agile Game Night in Munich
Image 2: A team defusing bombs at the Agile Game Night in Munich

Facilitating the workshop

  • Prepare an introduction with a little bit of drama such as: "Imagine you’re living in the 60s, the times of Woodstock and the Cold War. Imagine that you are a member of the CIA, and you have just found a bomb. Unfortunately, you are a member of the cleaning personnel of the CIA, so you have no clue how to defuse bombs. But you have the phone number of the folks who have the manual, and you call them immediately. Now talk it out quickly and defuse the bomb!"
  • Now let’s start with Level 1 and play. The first level is very simple - the purpose is to learn the navigation. Don’t worry, it will become harder.
  • Some participants might argue that they need to read the entire manual beforehand. Insist that they will have to start immediately. Because the bomb won’t wait until they are prepared. The easy solution of the first level will convince them that the full knowledge of the manual is not necessary to start.
  • Every time a bomb is successfully defused, the game moves on to the next level. The difficulty increases with every solved level. We usually tell the teams to rotate roles and hand over the bomb to the next person every time the team fails and the bomb explodes. This way, everybody has the opportunity to be the operator.
  • Every time a bomb explodes, encourage the team to hold a short retrospective and decide on improvement measures. Observe how they improve, and also reflect this to the group.
  • When you still have 20 minutes left, let every team finish its last round and then gather everyone for the debrief.

Debriefing the workshop

Plan at least 15 minutes for the debriefing. Some questions that we like to ask are:

  • Did you feel stressed? How did that pressure affect your ability to figure out the correct answers? How did you deal with mistakes?
  • What were the most important improvements that you came up with? Did you actually apply the measures that you had agreed upon? How can these measures be applied to improve our collaboration as a project team?
  • Did you spend enough time reflecting? Sometimes this becomes important, mainly when we observe people are feeling engaged with the game, and they don’t want to talk, they just want to play.
  • Have there been any communication or behaviour patterns in your collaboration that you recognize from your daily teamwork? What effect did that have on your collaboration?…
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