This post is adapted from a post on SurpriseIndustries.com

Scavenger and treasure hunts are a time-tested team building activity that can kickstart or reinvigorate just about any kind of group project. (Game Nerd alert! The difference between the formats, by the way, is that scavenger hunts involve a list of many items or activities, while a treasure hunt sends participants on a quest to find a single item. Both formats have plenty of awesome-potential!)

When planning your own hunt, we recommend the following strategies to ensure maximum fun, while also serving larger goals for your group:

  • Make it hard, but not too hard. The balance is key. People will be more engaged if they have to use their brains to solve riddles, puzzles, and clues. On the other hand, it has to feel solveable to be fun. If it feels beyond their reach, participants will give up quickly. You might want to “playtest” your hunt in advance to make sure you’ve struck the right balance.
  • Engage different skill sets. This is the key to making a hunt a true team building activity. You’ll want to design a game that brings out the best in everyone. So provide ample opportunities for people to highlight their hidden talents, draw upon their particular trivia knowledge, or show off their physical prowess. If possible, consider the actual people who will be playing, and make sure everyone will have a chance to shine.
  • Push people to step out of their comfort zone. Create a safe space for people to challenge themselves and try something new. This is the difference between a ho-hum event and a transformative experience that can change your team culture.
  • Make it meaningful. A random list of objects or clues might lead to a fun adventure, but you’d be missing out on a great opportunity to connect to a larger purpose. Is your organization launching a new product? Is your class facing a particular challenge? Is your start-up company trying to reach a new audience? Make that the theme or storyline for your hunt! We love creating artifacts (letters, maps, websites, social media accounts, etc.) to enhance the storyline and create a sense of shared purpose.
  • Change the dynamic. The trouble with hunts is that they can often bring out the existing team dynamic and amplify problems rather than resolve them. If there is tension or any kind of power struggle in the group, limit competition in your hunt and focus as much as possible on collaboration.
  • Resist the temptation to offer a huge prize. Large prizes narrow our focus, limit our creativity, and enhance unhealthy competition. Small, silly, symbolic prizes are best.
  • Add the element of surprise! A plot twist, a special guest appearance, an opportunity to win a small bonus prize, a last-minute change to the scoring system – any of these can provide a late-in-the-game energy boost for players.

Have you ever designed a game like this? What strategies did you employ?

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