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Professional Development in an Escape Room?

I have a confession to make: I am obsessed with escape rooms. If you’re not sure what an escape room is, it is pretty much what it sounds like. You get locked in a room for 45 minutes to an hour and you have to solve a number of puzzles to escape the room. There are thousands of these locations around the world. Each room at every location has a different theme. For example, recent escapes I made were from prison, a cabin out in the woods before a serial killer got to us, and a mad scientist’s lab where not only did we escape the lab, but we also saved humanity from the zombie virus by stealing the antidote. At this time, my husband and I have completed over 100 of these rooms, escaping from most of them.

My passion for these rooms is not only because they are fun, but also because they help in my professional development and I don’t mean by providing me with great stories for my speeches (like the time my husband and I got handcuffed and locked in coffins). Interested in hearing that story? You need to attend one of my speeches. Back to the professional development piece – there are five key areas that escape rooms help you grow in. They are Flow, metacognition, collaboration, asking for help, and resilience. Let’s go into each of these individually.

Flow: I’ve spoken about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of Flow before. This is a state of mind that when you enter it, you are totally engaged in what you are doing – so much so that you look up and time has passes without your awareness. Escape rooms induce a state of Flow, which helps you be completely focused and engaged on the task at hand.

Metacognition: Escape rooms require you to think about your thinking (which is essentially metacognition). Some of the puzzles are deliberately set up to play with the way people typically think, so you often have to challenge yourself to look at the situation in a different way (sometimes literally – you have to look at something sideways, upside down, and so on.)

Collaboration: It is pretty much impossible to successfully escape a room all by yourself. You have to work well with other people by communicating and sharing the different perspectives on a given puzzle. By working together so often, my husband and I have found that we each excel in different types puzzles, so while we work on some together, we also know when it’s time to step back and let the other take over.

Asking for Help: It is amazing how many people walk into an escape room and refuse to ask for help from the Clue or Game Master. They’re competitive natures tend to best them and they don’t end up escaping the room. Escape rooms teach you that there are times when you need to ask for help to get through a particularly tough challenge.

Resilience: Resilience is the ability to bounce back, be flexible, and overcome your own insecurities. Escape rooms help you build this because you will often fail when working on a particular puzzle and you simply have to move on or ask for help. They also teach you that you have to work together as a team, setting aside any insecurities you have, because there will be times when you won’t be able to get a puzzle and someone else on your team will.

I could go on and on about the benefits of escape rooms in your personal and professional growth. I think the biggest benefit of all is that they are fun – who wouldn’t want to have fun while in the process of becoming a better human being?

So folks – how about going to an escape room near you to try this out in the next week or so?

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