The thrill of escape rooms comes from being on a timer. You understand the stakes and consequences, and it makes the notion of “failure” of any kind is all too unbearable. Initial impressions of your room can be very overwhelming, you’re attempting to process as much information as you can, and it doesn’t seem to ever stop. What’s a clue? What isn’t? What is an actual puzzle? What’s just a dead end? You get paralyzed by the magnitude of the task at hand.
Your greatest obstacles, however, are the ones you make for yourself. The first mistake people make is trying to solve everything right away all at once. This is virtually impossible. To be successful in escape room, you’ll have to have gone through several processes of trial and error, or in other terms, failing fast. This might seem counterintuitive at first, but here are a few reasons why it will be the key to your success.
Get Things Right by Analyzing What Went Wrong
Failure is inevitable, so sooner is better than later. Failing fast in an escape room, doesn’t mean sabotaging your gaming experience, it means giving yourself the opportunity to identify your problems early on so you can take your time in finding solutions. As Steve Jobs said, you cannot connect the dots looking forwards; you can only connect them looking back. This retrospective outlook is attainable only through a willingness to try and to fail. In an escape room, you can’t map out a trajectory, if you don’t know where you’re going. Yes, the goal is to escape, but in order to do so you have to go through an intricate network of clues and puzzles.
Sometimes it’s best to work backwards. For instance, if you find a lock, identify what kind of input it would need (key? Number code? Letter code?) and work from there. It might be difficult at first to make failure an objective, but it’s important to remember the benefit of the resulting growth. Not only are you improving your odds of finding a solution, you’re also improving yourself. The self-reflection that comes with encountering defeat helps you nurture self-awareness and ultimately, self-actualization.
Escape rooms are a good space for you to explore failure, and in turn, normalize it. The whole premise of this activity is to find challenges and overcome them. You cannot overcome your struggles if you’re avoiding risk. Ed Catmull, Pixar Co-Founder writes “If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: you are driven by a desire to avoid it. And for leaders, especially, this strategy – trying to avoid failure by outthinking it – dooms you to fail.” It’s important to cultivate this culture, in your professional and/or personal life, of experimentation and risk-taking, even if it leads to failure, because it will have taken you farther than you’ve been before. In an escape room that means while you may not have found the solution, you’ve identified what it isn’t. That in itself is very valuable.
It’s a Learning Process
Failure is often a demoralizing and emotional experience. In escape rooms, you understand the responsibility you have to yourself to be successful, but most of all, you understand your responsibility towards your team. So on top of this high-stakes, high-stress environment, there is also social pressure. It’s important to remember that there is a method to all this madness. Amidst this emotional rollercoaster of trying and failing and trying again and then failing again rests a gold mine of innovation and creativity.
The simple formula is: try something, if it doesn’t work that means it has failed, pivot, then try something else. That’s it. Failure is not this grueling process consisting of varying degrees of an identity crisis, it’s a process of adapting, growing, and learning. If you insist on doing what is safe and risk-free, you’ll never spur originality and all your work will be derivative. If you use your failures as a system of feedback, you’ll have more ability to steer your iterations towards success.
So if you are ready to fail fast, overcome, and plow your way into success then stop by Reason for your next corporate team event. Test your best fail-fast methods and see if you have what it takes to complete our sci-fi missions before time runs out!