I recently participated in an escape room team-building exercise with several of my peers and executive sales leaders.

For those not familiar with Escape Room, it is a physical adventure game in which players work to solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints and strategy to complete the objectives at hand.

The objective at hand is often to find a specific object and then find the code or key to escape one or more rooms within a set time limit. Sounds fun and challenging, right? If that’s not fun and challenging enough for you, consider the dynamics of Type A personalities of sales and business leaders working together to solve the puzzles and escape the room.

Let that visual sink in a moment . . .

Without going into too much detail, I’m happy to report we all escaped safely, we did it before the timer ran out, and we got our “We Escaped” badge. It was a fun challenge that brought us together as a team to accomplish something faster than if we’d attempted it as individuals. 

This brings me to the thought of communities and how similar the experiences and end results are.

Gamification: functional and fun

The rules of engagement and the end goal were explained, the countdown clock was started, and everybody jumped into action. This was going to be fun, and we were all in it to win it.

Successful communities used for Intelligent Self-Service, to answer questions and solve problems, are made up of members that know the rules, are motivated to achieve the goals, and are willing to help. Members’ contributions automatically earn them improved community reputation scores and special badges they can brag about.

Leadership in action—sometimes it’s self-organizing

While there was formal leadership in the room, there was no single leader that took charge of all aspects of the problem-solving process. Nobody was leading or directing traffic, and they didn’t need to. It was an interesting dynamic seeing everyone come together to solve a time-blocked challenge.

Some paired up to work on one puzzle at a time. Some got in groups to crowd-source ideas for clues. Some worked alone to decrypt mathematical codes. Once a puzzle was solved, or a clue uncovered, someone would shout it out for all to hear to see if it might help solve other parts of the puzzle.

Successful communities used for Intelligent Self-Service are neither hierarchical nor rigid. They are flexible and self-organizing. Each community member does their part, and in doing so, they contribute to the larger goals of the community.

Wisdom of the crowd: even better with a safety net

We quickly realized the challenge at hand would be very difficult to do by ourselves—if not impossible—in the time allotted. We trusted and counted on each other, our experiences, our problem-solving skills, and our motivation to win. 

There was real strength in numbers. Unlike the old saying, in this instance we were as strong as our strongest link.

That stated, this is where I should mention that we had an option to make a call for help for a hint to get a clue. As a last resort, we did call in and get our allotted hints when we needed them.

Successful communities used for Intelligent Self-Service get stronger when the number of members and the amount of expertise grows. In most instances, issues raised in a community setting can be solved by the crowd in a timely manner. However, there are times when issues need to be addressed directly and immediately. 

Therefore, it is important to give community members a way out. A way to get to an expert directly. That can be handled by an aware community member responding with an @mention to signal an expert. It could be an “escalate to case” button that gets presented after a certain amount of time elapses without an answer to the question.

Or, it could be an Intelligent Virtual Assistant that is monitoring and noticing a pattern of words or interaction that triggers a prompt to offer immediate assistance that may include connecting to a contact center agent.

You may escape an Escape Room, but you can’t escape the facts of communities.