3 Reasons You Should Have Your Own Zombie Invasion (Lessons in Escape Room Training)

Escape rooms can provide benefits by enhancing communication, problem solving, and time management skills.

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BY Gary Golden - 08 Sep 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I must admit, I have fantasized about locking my students in a classroom and having them try to complete a project within a certain time frame, under the premise of a cruel fate if they fail--such as being ravaged by cannibalistic zombies.

Okay, not really. But "escape rooms" are a popular social entertainment option, and yes, some organizations use the concept for training and employee development purposes.

In most escape rooms, certain puzzles must be solved or activities completed to gain access to information to help you escape. It's done under a time restraint, like escaping the room in 60 minutes or less. Usually, not escaping is dire--like in the the aforementioned zombie invasion scenario.

Using the premise of the escape room for developing your organization's employees is an interesting proposition. As an educator, I see three immediate areas in which this can help your employees: communication, problem solving, and time management skills.

In a workplace development context, these parameters of an escape room force your employees to be clear in communication, work as a team to solve the problems, and of course, do it all in an efficient way to escape within the given time frame. Sounds like good training to me.

Let's break it down, point by point:

Communication skills

The pressured but fun setting could bring out communication strengths and weaknesses of members for further development. For crisis or urgent situations, the activity could be used to evaluate communication under stress.

Many natural leadership behaviors may emerge in this simulated communication environment. Soft skills surely can be studied and enhanced.

Problem solving skills

I recommend customizing your own escape room activities and environment so that it's relevant to your business. For example, branding, accounting, or engineering problem solving activities could be the focus if that is your core business.

This would allow for your employees to practice, learn, and apply distinctive ways to deal with problems or be creative. As I always stress in the classroom, creativity at its essence is problem solving.

Time management skills

The time constraint under some sort of threat, or better yet, reward, could be used in a meaningful way to hone time management skills. Yes, have some fun with hypothetical zombies or the spilling of toxic waste upon the failure to escape. But you could integrate many rewards for success.

Trophies, extra days off, or even gift cards are simple rewards, which in this fun, unique context would become a bragging point for employees. If the team fails, then provide re-dos for future achievement or even lighthearted consolation prizes, such as an organization branded T-shirt saying: I was eaten by zombies in our escape room.

Talking head presentations, training workshops, and employee handbooks have impact and a place in organizations. However, the escape room idea could work wonders for team building and morale. Employees are an organization's most valuable asset, and techniques to jazz up professional development in the workplace really help.

You can videotape the experience, too--and have a complete debriefing session with your team, evaluating the many skills that were shown (or not shown). Remember, lifelong learning and continuous professional development equal top-notch performances, and it always helps to make this pursuit of continuous learning both meaningful and fun.