Jul 11, 2017

From Follower to Leader: How Escape Rooms Can Drive Influence

When I set foot in my very first escape room, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The thought of being thrust into a survivor-esque competition for one hour was baffling, yet intriguing enough to really pique my curiosity. I’ve always enjoyed puzzles and games ever since I was a kid (being a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda franchise) and to experience these types of challenges in real life was honestly a childhood dream come true.

The Super Mario theme of this room only added to my excitement. My mind was immediately brought back to navigating through Mushroom Kingdom, stomping on countless Goombas and Koopas, and thwarting Bowser to save the princess.

As soon as we were given the game rules, my two friends and I stepped inside the room and were instantly transported to Mushroom Kingdom. The story went a little something like this: Bowser had kidnapped Princess Peach yet again and imprisoned Mario and Luigi somewhere in the kingdom. We needed to free the Mario brothers from their prisons, grab the Star Power, and rescue the princess from Bowser’s evil clutches.

Seemed simple enough. But man, was it so much more than I realized.

Not only did this escape room immerse my friends and I in a different world, but it also engaged us with certain tasks to complete in the form of puzzles and riddles. Each puzzle was unique and, when solved correctly, it rewarded us with something that propelled us further along our adventure. I remember one of the first puzzles we encountered had a Goomba and coin symbol written as an addition problem with a question mark printed after the equal sign. We found the puzzle next to an old NES controller already set to World 1-1 in Super Mario Bros.

Right away, my mind made the connection of counting all the Goombas and coins encountered in the first level, so I grabbed the controller and put my jumping skills to the test. After a few tries, I managed to get accurate numbers for the Goombas and coins in order to solve the puzzle. We entered the code into one of the locks in the room and, once we heard the latch click, we became even more engrossed with completing our goal.

When fantasy becomes reality (or something close to it), it’s simply mesmerizing.

Even though I was the avid gamer among our group, my friends were determined to press on and took turns deciphering various puzzles. It was great to see them in that element because I hadn’t really seen that side of them before. To some extent, it felt like they were more engaged in the task at hand than I was, surprisingly.

And that’s the beauty of escape rooms.

Anyone can lead the group. There is no team hierarchy. No built-in system of who should carry the torch.

Regardless if you’re experienced at escape rooms or not, everyone is put in the same situation. Sure, there may be those people who clearly embrace the opportunity to lead the group to victory, but each and every person is given the same opportunity. An escape room’s exciting, immersive environment can really bring shy individuals out of their comfort zone and make them want to communicate with their peers and work together. Whether it’s deducing the answer to a confusing riddle or finding the next important clue to progress on your journey, each team member can make a valuable contribution to his or her group’s overall success.

It’s an equal playing field with no discrimination whatsoever. Every person has the chance to rise up and shine in glory.

Over the course of my experience hosting different types of groups at Brainy Actz from coworkers to families to cub scouts, I’ve seen many people act as leaders for their respective groups. Couples would usually take turns bouncing ideas off each other for how they should approach solving a particular puzzle. For families, sometimes the kids would emerge as the commanders of their group, steering their parents and grandparents to explore and uncover clues hidden within the room. School clubs and organizations like cub scouts displayed another side of leadership that’s surely emphasized in their values, which is to create leaders from its members. Things like the number of badges or seniority are pushed aside as each group strives to accomplish their objective.

What better way to achieve a goal than with great teamwork? It honestly doesn’t get any better than that.

Escape rooms are first and foremost great team building exercises. And, if you think about it, they’re the most ideal choice for developing leaders out of everyone. A person who’s usually ambivalent can make the same impact on their group’s success as someone who exudes confidence.

Not every team building activity can deliver the same level of leadership.

The difference lies in the escape room’s unique concept: engaging people in a captivating environment and having them work together to solve a problem is an extremely satisfying feeling and can really boost creativity. With each successful puzzle completion, participants will feel more and more inclined to help their team achieve their set goal.

The only question is: are you willing to take command and accept the responsibility of directing your group?

The torch is up for grabs. All you need to do is take hold and lead the way.


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