As part of a kick-off at a client, I decided to try out a remote scavenger hunt. I was not sure that it would work, but not only did it work, it exceeded all my expectations 🙂
The leaders of the product-area and I were planning a three day long after-summer kickoff with the overarching theme of cross-team collaboration. We would be facilitating sessions about product, tech, and other tasks for the four teams.
Besides those we wanted a session on building connections across teams. To further build connections, we divided people into random groups across the product-area for most of the collaborative exercises.
Building connections is part of building trust, which is the foundation of collaboration and psychological safety.
From a previous kick-off in January we had gotten the feedback that people liked doing the fun exercises which had learning aspects, so we wanted to build on that success. Only this time we were doing the kick-off remote, so I had to come up with something different.
Designing the scavenger hunt
A few weeks before I started planning, I was in a Zoom meeting with retrospective facilitators, where we discussed remote facilitation among other things. We discussed how to engage people and also how to get them away from the computer.
Aino Corry said that she used “find something red” in many of her workshops, because this would usually not be something people had close to their workplace.
I liked the idea, and decided to build on it by creating a scavenger hunt with the following attributes:
- Be fun
- Get people away from the computer a bit
- Collaborate to fulfill the task
- Getting to know each other
Normally in a scavenger hunt I would have people find something particular, but as I did not know what people had in their homes, I went for five abstract things:
- Something red
- Something round
- Something that smells nice
- Something soft
- Something with a nice sound
I divided people into groups of five using a random number generator, which did have the side effect that one group had four members from the same team, but thus is randomizing.
As we used Microsoft Teams, there was no option of break-out rooms, so I had to do a workaround.
I created a Teams meeting for each group and a spreadsheet that had the group members, links to the meetings, and the description for the task, so people only had to look in one place.
Each person had to find one thing from the list, and then the group had to make a story that contained all five items and the names of the group members. It could be a true story or they could make something up.
I added the story for them to collaborate as they had no option of finding things together.
They had 45 min including me explaining to complete the task. It was followed by a coffee break (or as we say in Sweden: fika) and then 4 mins for each team to tell the story.
So how did it go?
After the fika we met in the big Teams meeting again and it was time to tell the stories.
The first story was about a soft hippo (plush toy) that was lonely and always wanted to be a firefighter. All group members had their videos on, and the person with the hippo told the story as a feel-good bedtime story, while the others presented the props.
Another group had autogenerated a story and had the story read by a bot.
One group had the story told by Bolibompa (the children’s channel’s mascot) as he was going for a walk on his birthday. The narrator filmed as he was walking outside, so it was all seen from the dragon’s viewpoint and then he found a birthday party with five things in it.
One group even bent the rules and created a presention where each member proposed a thing that would fulfill all five requirements. Like one had a picture of himself in a red t-shirt and red guitar- he was soft, smelled nice, red, and had a nice sound but alas he was not round.
I was so amazed by the creativity not only in stories, but also in how they presented them. With the limited time that people had, I had not expected such great stories 🙂
And they were very funny. One of the other leaders later said that it was good that they were muted as they laughed out loud several times.
Some groups had everyone presenting with video on, some had one presenter and everyone video on, some had presentation and no video, so a lot of variations, which I think is good. In a setting where many are in a remote meeting, not all feel comfortable speaking up or having the video on. This way each group chose what worked for them.
The spontaneous feedback was that it was fun and a good framing for them to talk about something different than work.
Later several people said that this was the best part of the kickoff days 🙂
More importantly: people build connections that will be helpful when they work together next time or they have a problem. It is much easier to go to someone you know than to a stranger.