PDT Global’s Inclusion Escape Room Experience

Escape Room

Inclusion and diversity are not new business needs. For years now, the value of unique thought and diverse perspectives have been recognized in many organisations… and yet, one look at the news headlines, or recent workplace studies reveal that we still have a long way to go when it comes to equality both in the workplace and outside of it.

As Inclusion and diversity specialists, PDT Global have empowered clients around the globe to create inclusive cultures, where individuals with the capability to succeed, can. We have seen the change in training requests move from sessions that instil the virtues of a diverse (and more importantly engaged) workforce, to those that focus on more active behavioural change.

Now let’s be clear, behaviours won’t change overnight as the result of being talked at in a one off training event. Behavioural change needs to come from a place of recognition, understanding and introspective opportunity. It’s not about being told to ‘be nice’, it’s about witnessing the impact you have on others…both positive and developmental…and knowing what to do about them.

So with that in mind, let me tell you about how we have ignited inclusion and transformed training through gamification.

The start of the idea

Well it all began with a company away day, which as a means to help the company understand the potential of digital learning, I created an escape room activity, where participants would experience stats, facts and digital learning interactions themselves whilst escaping the room. Within moments of the last group’s completion, the wider potential of this experience was mooted and the idea of an inclusion based escape room was born.

Rather than telling people the stats around inclusive working, we would get teams to discover them; rather than talking about privilege, they would view videos demonstrating it and rather than giving examples of assumed behaviors, we would catch said tendencies in real time and call them in during the later debrief discussions.

Learning experience ‘hacked’

The escape room experience is around 2 hours long with the escape room element just over half an hour. Teams join the event (both classroom and virtual) expecting a traditional chalk and talk experience, when all of a sudden the main deck is ‘hacked’ by a disgruntled ex-employee of the client’s company. Aborting the traditional class session, participants are placed into small breakout groups (up to 7 people), and find themselves following the hackers brief as a means to save their company from some rather damning publicity.

The behaviours in those early moments of the groups coming together are very telling of both the organization’s culture and individual’s style. We have witnessed a range of behaviours across the globe, from those who compete for leadership, to those who remain silent until someone in the perceived position of power directs them. We have had some groups who surge ahead in a highly competitive manner (and if you don’t keep up you get left behind) as well as those groups who slowly and methodically make each decision by committee. I guess what I am trying to say, is that every group is different, we never know how people are going to react or work together… and that is the beauty of the design. The participants are so focused on the task, they forget about the tick box inclusive practice and show their authentic selves.

Having the escape room experience is a game changer when it comes to inclusion awareness training. The gaming aspect means we are no longer talking about examples that ‘might’ apply in your organization – or ‘might’ sound like something you would do – we are calling in behaviours that have just occurred. We get to discover what it felt like to be the softly spoken individual that everyone kept interrupting, we hear about how frustrating the reflective thinker found it when they wanted to read through the instructions in full, and we learn about why the groups – especially those of diverse ethnicities – kept deferring to the confident white male to lead.

Interactive desktop

Hearing those unique insights from a shared experience brings to life all of the text book learning from the escape room assets.  Having skilled facilitators connect the learning resources with real experiences means that participants aren’t talking about diversity because it ticks a HR box, they are questioning what inclusion really means for them…because let’s be totally honest here, diversity is bigger than a handful of protected characteristics. It’s about all of the quirks and unique elements that make up each and every one of us. For organisations to truly invite authenticity into the workplace, they need to not only understand what that looks like, but also how to harness it.

We are so enamoured with the new levels of learning that a gamified approach and well facilitated debrief can achieve. Our escape room experiences are quickly becoming the top selling solution for clients all around the world. In fact, the concept has evolved on a number of occasions since its first design a year ago. The ‘game’ is now offered in relation to specialist topics – for example race awareness. The content is translatable with numerous clients purchasing events in 10 – 15 languages at a time and the impromptu arrival of COVID19 and subsequent lockdown motivated us to create a virtual experience that can now be accessed via SCORM cloud and WebEx. I guess we can safely say that our inclusion escape room is unlocking potential not only for our clients, but also for PDT Global moving forward.

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Director of Learning at PDT Global
Underpinning her role as the Director of Learning at PDT Global, Nic Girvan has nearly 20 years' experience of working in Learning and Organisational Development, designing and delivering learning programmes both inside the classroom and out of it. With a Masters in Psychology and a degree in adult teaching, Nic is an innovative learning professional who often seeks to break the mould of traditional expectation and will not settle for tick box training. This driven focus has resulted in a number of unusual (but successful) learning solutions, including behavioural nudges and even a virtual escape room to draw out inclusive behaviours.
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