Optimizing Profit through Collaboration – Ideas for Lost Dutchman Deliveries

We designed and sell The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, a team building exercise focused on planning and collaboration, among other key outcomes. A recent purchaser sent me an email this morning with a simple question but one that I thought merited some elaboration, since there are any number of design features and delivery spins that impact the desired outcomes of the client.

Hello Scott,

I am thoroughly enjoying facilitating the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine team building.  🙂

So far I have had groups between 40 – 50.  Next week I have a smaller one (4 teams).  How many videos do you suggest I have on hand of each?  

Thanks so much!

Warmly,

First, it is nice to get the positive feedback (testimonials) and to know that she is making money from her investment in purchasing the exercise. Secondly, it is a very good question that I somewhat address in the training materials included with the exercise, but something that obviously could use some additional explanation and some awareness as to issues and opportunities.

So, I sent her a brief overview of my thoughts and promised that her questions would generate a more complete blog post from me today, one that expands on a number of ideas around this simple question. Like my post yesterday, where I discuss the philosophy around the game board design as it relates to my goals of generating more planning and  collaboration (found here), this post also discusses themes of how the available resources can link tightly to desired outcomes.

The Videos are a metaphor and game accessory that ties to strategic planning and best practices. The Mine Video is about the gold mine and contains Cave Cards that teams find useful. Getting that Video costs one day of time and the team getting it leaves on Day Two of the 20 day exercise instead of Day One. (See more on this on the other blog post if that is of interest.)

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine Video Covers

The second video, on Tortilla Flats, contains best practices resources and one video can actually support three teams if the resources are shared across tabletops. I choose not to expand on that here.

So if there are four tabletops playing, her question is how many Videos should she make available for play?

The answer is that it depends on the desired outcomes for the session. Allowing the teams to all get both videos would mean that there are wasted planning days and a bit of analysis paralysis… They do not NEED to spend that much time gaining information and they are losing days of Mining Gold because of it. Plus, with all that information available to every team, it takes away some of the excitement and risk and all that.

Having too many resources is NOT motivating. Having sufficient but not excessive resources to accomplish something adds more challenge. People are not motivated climbing stairs but they are when using ropes and climbing gear to make that ascent!

Having only ONE of each Video available is a scarcity model. The Mine Video resources and information are not as available to the others and there would be little incentive for a team that acquires that to share it — the competitive aspect of it would play in. Having one Tortilla Flat Video would enable 3 of the 4 teams to optimize their performance if – and only if – those resources were shared. If one team got both videos, they would see all the teams leave on Day One and they would leave on Day Three. They would also mine more gold than any of the other teams and they would have an easier time of it, overall.

So, one needs to balance resource availability.

Generally, for a group of 4 tabletops, I might play with three Mine Videos and two of Tortilla Flat so that resources could be shared with all teams.

But there is another option that I really like to do with smaller groups and one that emphasizes the issues around inter-team collaboration even more than the regular design. That involves what we refer to as the Optimizing Profit Performance Option or what I refer to as The Assay Office Version, since that was what it was originally called. There is a long history as to how it evolved but here is what it is and how it works:

Assay Office Mine Video Cover IconThis Assay Office version of The Mine Video contains extra Cave Cards, more than one team could possibly use. So, the design is that the team acquiring this Video would absolutely know that they have extras that they could share with another tabletop. And, this Video also contains information that by using a Cave Card, a team could acquire an extra ounce of Gold each day, 11 ounces rather than 10.

We tell the teams getting this “new edition” of the video that it is different than the old ones — we generally use only ONE of them in a delivery. We tell other teams getting the “old editions” that they should check with that other team to understand the changes that were made in the new edition. WE TELL THEM TO CHECK; WE TELL THEM TO SHARE; WE GIVE THEM EXTRA CARDS!

If a team reaching the mine uses a Cave Card, they can ask for an extra ounce. ANY team using a Cave Card can ask for an extra ounce. Thus, if they got the Assay Video, they should remember to get the extra gold and if they heard about the Assay Video and used Cave Cards given to them (or if they got their own Mine Video with cards), they could also get the extra ounce.

We now simply use a spreadsheet to track when the team asked for the extra ounce and we know which team got the Assay version and which teams could have benefited.

Assay Office spreadsheet

In the above example, the Yellow Team got there a day later (staying home and getting both Videos) and they got the Assay Office version of the Mine Video. We know this because of the day they arrived plus the reality that they used the information to acquire the extra ounce the first day of mining. We know that they got the Tortilla Flat Video because they did not leave on Day 14. (this is information that only game owners would understand!) The Yellow team optimized their results and mined the most gold, contributing the most to the overall gold mined. Remember:

The Goal - Gold Hand gold

You might guess that the Red team got an older version of the Mine Video and spent that extra day at Apache Junction and never did find out about the extra gold. They left on Day 14.

The Blue team got there on Day 7 so they did not spend a day planning — they acquired Cave Cards (or at least started using them on Day 9) and someone shared the Assay Office information with them. Only on Day 13, the day  before they left the Mine, did the Purple team actually use a Cave Card.

(These are actual game results, by the way. This version is harder to administrate than our regular one because there is more tracking. I also think it would be really confusing in a large group environment and harder to debrief.)

If the different teams would all share information and collaborate, they mine more gold and the goal of the game is to mine as much gold as we can, not to compete and win as your own team! If the teams asked the Expedition Leader for advice or assistance, we would also help them to understand how this works. We explain this only to the team getting the first Mine Video, the Assay Office one.

This blog is written for users or those about to facilitate and support a delivery of the exercise so apologies if you got this far and remain a bit confused. For those of you familiar with the normal delivery, I trust that this will make some elegant sense. If you click on either of the two icons above, you can go to the order page for the exercise to add this to your toolkit. It comes free in our Professional Version of the Lost Dutchman game.

You can read more of my thinking on collaboration versus competition at this blog post of mine – click here

You can find a nice screenshare overview of the complete exercise by clicking on the image below:

Slideshare Dutchman icon

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

One thought on “Optimizing Profit through Collaboration – Ideas for Lost Dutchman Deliveries

  1. Pingback: Debriefing as an excuse to do Team Building | Performance Management Company Blog

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