Team Building
When Lisa Zarick at Chicago ad giant Leo Burnett USA needs to whip up a rock-solid team on a lean, mean budget, she brings in The Go Game, a San Francisco-based urban adventure company specializing in custom scavenger hunts and live action spy games. Driven by wireless technology, games pit small teams against one another in a fun, zany race that calls for creative problem-solving and cutting-edge collaboration.

“They’re really competitively priced, and they’re completely turnkey as well—they take care of everything,” says Zarick, VP director of employee and organizational development. “We use The Go Game two times a year for weeklong, 30-person advertising boot camps,” she notes. “We love The Go Game; we keep coming back!”

Emory University’s Anne Kocurek does too. As director of the evening MBA program at Emory’s Goizueta Business School in Atlanta (ranked No. 2 in the country by Newsweek), she was thrilled to find an alternative to the typical battery of “trust games” offered by traditional team building companies. “The great thing is that we didn’t pay any more to hold The Go Game onsite than we had paid in the past to have our students jump off of telephone poles at a facility two hours away!” laughs Kocurek, adding, “It was a much better deal.”

Turning conventional team building on its ear, The Go Game uses networked mobile devices and a patented, fully customizable web interface to deliver quirky “missions” and sassy clues to small teams of 3–6 players, who are armed with such useful tools as a digital camera, a superhero lunchbox and silly string.

Adaptable to company initiatives for groups from 10 to 1,000 to even 10,000 players in size, The Go Game puts employees in goofy problem-solving scenarios, requiring them to put their heads together to recruit passersby to act in micro-video skits, snap digital photos of on-the-fly found object art, chase down costumed live actors (hence the silly string) and solve companyspecific puzzles in a fully orchestrated game zone.

“The power of folks just getting to know each other through missions was incredible,” notes Zarick, referring to a 1,000-player, agency-wide game she commissioned in July 2008. “The energy in the air was outrageous. It was so good to spend time with people I would never have met otherwise.” “Leo Burnett is a creative agency, and it’s our responsibility to be part of the creative process,” continues Zarick. “We believe that creativity has the power to change human behavior, and The Go Game really actualizes that.” Emory’s Kocurek agrees, “The Go Game definitely gave our students a better perspective. Within this class year at the business school, we’re not seeing as much of the cutthroat competition, grade stealing, etc. as in past years.”

Zarick has had excellent results as well. “In terms of my small groups, the comfort level reached after playing The Go Game is unbelievable,” she reports. “It really helps them break down barriers and assumptions.” The Go Game has grown into an international “secret weapon” for HR managers, event planners and corporate management worldwide since its creation in 2001 by co-founders Finnegan Kelly and Ian Fraser. Highly trained “gamerunners” lead games in metro markets from Scottsdale to Baltimore to Barcelona, Spain, utilizing advanced networking tools and impressing even the techiest of tech geeks.

“We’ve run games for a lot of the big names,” says Kelly. “Java, Intel, you name it. It’s been amazing, especially for a couple of tech nerds like me and Ian.“ Fraser chimes in. “The Go Game really is the culmination of our professional and creative dreams. But hey,” he notes, “Even low-tech giants like Safeway have been great. We absolutely love what we do.” The bottom line not only gets a boost from positive team building experiences; putting a priority on creative team building can make or break a company over the long term. As management expert David Maister writes in his book Practice What You Preach: What Managers Must Do to Create a High Achievement Culture, successful companies employ “superstar managers” who create and support an atmosphere of fun. Maister notes that companies utilizing the work-hard/play-hard strategy “retain people and increase billability by 15 percent.”

“Team building is for downturns,” notes Kelly. “Plain and simple.” He continues, “When morale is low and employees are stressed by staff cuts and budget shortfalls, fractured office environments can not only be healed, but they can really be propelled into a new, tighter-knit org structure. However,” he says, “employees need to bond in a fun, light-hearted environment where they’re not constantly worried about pink slips and hierarchies. That’s where they’ll learn how to solve problems as a cohesive unit.” The interactive, cityscape adventure of The Go Game lends itself to such success. “The Go Game takes sport to mean having more of a sporting attitude over being athletic,” notes Kocurek. “Gender and race have nothing to do with it. This leveled the playing field—no one was at an advantage playing The Go Game, and it’s hard to find that in team building programs.”

Kocurek was also happy with the behind-the-scenes flow at The Go Game. “They were so professional in their communications, contracts, invoicing and emails,” she says. “They rise head and shoulders above their competition in the way they present themselves, and they didn’t let me down once during the entire event.”

“It’s very rare to bring a vendor in who has taken care of everything,” notes Kocurek. “For once, I got to stand back, observe, and enjoy watching the team building event instead of scrambling.”

The Go Game’s full-service team building juggernaut has left literally hundreds of happy event planners and managers in its wake. Zarick says, “The Go Game’s off-the-shelf games are really worth every penny.”