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Do escape rooms help understand workplace behaviour?

Dissertation research

Escape rooms can be powerful settings to explore problem-solving and group work in a naturalistic way, with "real people"

Professor Saadi Lahlou, Director MSc Psychology of Economic Life

Postgraduate research into effective workplace collaboration has shown promising results in understanding different types of leadership and a new type of setting to explore problem solving, by observing groups in escape rooms. This research is now being developed by one of London’s largest escape room companies, clueQuest, led by Lindsey Depledge who authored the research with the aim of developing it further at PhD level in the near future.

Escape rooms provide a unique opportunity to observe scientifically collaborative problem-solving in a fully controlled, repeatable context, and to evaluate the efficiency of different types of labour division and leadership. This research observed groups solving problems in escape rooms with powerful video analysis. One finding suggests that high performing team leaders were more managerial, were participatory and provided brief explanations. Low performing teams were authoritative, non-participatory and provided lengthy explanations. The findings, even at this exploratory stage, provide valuable insights for those interested in management. They also open fascinating avenues for professional training. 

Lindsey Depledge, who studied MSc Psychology of Economic Life in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at LSE says:

"It is incredible to see the progress that I have made over time starting with the cultivation of this idea to creating a business partnership for data collection to the research process and writing the dissertation. This research is specifically applicable to understanding teams in the workplace such as emergency management teams and corporate decision making teams. I am extremely proud of my work and hoping to expand my research by pursuing a PhD next year."

Professor Saadi Lahlou, co-Director of MSc Psychology of Economic Life says:

"Lindsey Depledge’s preliminary results are very promising. They require further research to be confirmed on large samples; however, we can already say that: 

1) Escape rooms can be powerful settings to explore problem-solving and group work in a naturalistic way, with “real people” (e.g. not students); 

2) We now have a methodology to evaluate systematically the efficiency of types of leadership, group organization, communication, participants’ style and more generally variables relevant to workplace collaboration; 

3) The method allows participants to have reflexivity on their problem-solving strategies and therefore to learn and improve their skills in a setting that is also entertaining. This opens great avenues for training."