Study links leadership skills with escape rooms success

On reviewing data from 1,381 teams at Mystery Escape Rooms, initial findings from university researchers at Carnegie Mellon University show that the most successful teams have collaborative leaders, open communication and diverse teammates.

Mystery Escape Room started with on-location teambuilding experiences in 2014 but dramatically increased online escape room experiences after the pandemic. Whether online or in-person, live facilitators guide teams of four to twelve people to work together, discover clues and solve a mystery in order to escape different-themed rooms before time runs out.

Mystery Escape Room collected data from extensive observations involving more than 5,100 teams–the world’s largest database on team performance research. Here are some of the initial observations:

  • The most successful leaders are inclusive while the least productive have leaders who are either too heavy-handed or too hands-off.
  • The teams that complete the most escapes are made of strangers (45%); followed by friends (41%); corporate teams (38%); and then families (33%).
  • The best teams have an even balance of male and female teammates while the least effective teams are either all-male or all-female.
  • Teams fare worst when participants “need help but don’t ask for it” and teams that do best have good organization, motivation and the ability to “divide and conquer.”
  • The most effective teams are about twice as fast as the average corporate team.

Carnegie Mellon University is continuing to analyse escape room data and will undergo rigorous peer reviews of their findings before publishing the results in an academic journal. More than half of the Fortune 100 companies have participated in Mystery Escape Room experiences to help develop skills in leadership, teamwork and communication among employees.

“Most leaders are good at managing day-to-day activities, but many are not as good at managing innovation,” said Les Pardew, president and founder of Mystery Escape Room. “We’ve discovered companies–and families–when given a safe environment to solve problems are the most cohesive, creative and successful.”

Before starting Mystery Escape Room, Pardew spent 30 years creating some of the world’s most loved video games. He is using that experience to develop activities to promote corporate team building, strengthen family relationships and just have fun—with themes ranging from Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew and superheroes.

“The online escape rooms enable people to participate from all around the globe and help colleagues to learn to work closely together even when they’re separated by distance or pandemic restrictions,” added Pardew. “Live interactions have a more profound learning impact compared to just watching or listening to a presentation.”

Pardew has taken the lessons learned so far to develop “The Pardew Principle,” five decisions each great team must make concerning leadership, mission, trust and respect, communication and organization.

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