Whenever people ask me what do I do for a living, I always seem to pause before I tell people about my job. Part of the reason why I hesitate is that there's no name for what I do. I also struggle when I need to check off a box with prewritten job titles or even which industry I serve. Frankly, my job title doesn’t exist, and I serve multiple industries so I always end up choosing the box labeled “other.” This seems so boring when in fact my job is so exciting and rewarding.
Now you're probably wondering what exactly it is I do for a living. Sometimes I say that I facilitate experiential events — and if you're like most people, you have no idea what I am talking about. So most times I tell people that I facilitate scavenger hunts.
I have a love/hate relationship with the word "scavenger hunts." Why? Because when I tell people that I create scavenger hunts, I usually get one of two reactions: "WOW that is so cool, you must have so much fun!" or "Oh so you do birthday parties for kids?"
Certainly I have fun, but no — I don’t host birthday parties (our insurance coverage limits us to ages 16 and older). But more importantly, I see my job as working with different organizations to bring people together, I help them work together, play together, and most importantly, engage on a deeper level. This helps teams of people connect, communicate and develop a stronger bond with each other, whether that's their co-workers, committees, constituents or whomever they are trying to connect with.
How do I do this?
First of all, I don’t ask people to find a rock in the shape of New Jersey, or other scavenger hunt challenges you remember from summer camp or childhood birthday parties. Instead, I learn about organizational goals and how teams want to work together, and then I create something unique for their team.
My job is creating challenges that combine the serious with the silly, and getting teams excited and maybe even a little vulnerable and unsettled (at least when they first begin to complete the challenges).
What I enjoy so about the process is my very first contact with the teams as I explain the rules. First, I teach them how to download our app (which contains all the challenges they need to answer). I also explain the rules — i.e. no cheating, work together, etc. Finally I get to yell (I told you my job was fun!) "On your mark... get set... Go!"
I love watching how the teams first react!
Some teams just starting running, phone in hand, yelling out what they need to do. Other teams are more strategic, sitting quietly, reading through all the challenges before they make a move and plan their way to solve all the challenges I not only get to watch in person , I also have the ability through our technology to watch and monitor the teams throughout the hunt. I watch as teams complete each challenge and I get to approve the photos and see how the teams solve each challenge.
I get super geeked when groups start off slowly, a little unsteady and not sure what is expected or how to react. Often their initial photos are stiff and their faces show ambiguity, confusion and the “this is totally out of my comfort zone” look.
But then something — okay, here you might call me strange — but MAGICAL happens. And I get to see it happen right before my eyes. The team players start to bond; they become creative in the ways they answer their challenges. Suddenly they are smiling and having fun! Inevitably, I do a fist pump in the air and yell out “YES!" They are getting it. This is what it is all about. As the pictures roll into my computer, the groups are now teams. They are connected, engaged and learning about one another.
Sometimes participants think I am missing out by sitting behind my laptop screen, watching the hunt play out. But this is what I love: watching the teams interact, often surprising me with their creativity or giving me the unexpected — the WOW-I-never-thought-of-that answer. I can watch them learning through play! I can see the learning taking place, and I know they'll remember their experiences long after the activity is done. Why? Because I know that research says kinetic movement paired with learning can be key to retaining knowledge. Research also tells us that that when you connect emotionally with an experience — something makes you happy, surprised, or sad, upset, angry — we also retain more of what we learned. I know all those laughing faces in the photos will translate directly into better relationships at the office.
How the hunt ends
Now it wouldn’t be fair if I kept all the photos to myself. No, I share them. Most of the time I share these with the teams right after they finish the hunt. The teams love seeing themselves being silly, working together, asking strangers to help them earn points! Plus they get to watch what other teams did to solve each challenge, another learning opportunity. Teams laugh, clap and share ideas while watching the slideshow.
So yeah – my job is fun… but it is so much more than just fun. My job is incredibly satisfying, and I feel like I am making a real difference. If I can give each group a way to learn about each other, understand each other's boundaries (or lack thereof!), and the things these teams have in common that make them special, then I know that I have helped that organization. And that’s one of the best feelings in the world.
Co-founder Jill Hinton Wolfe is a communicator, entrepreneur and Army veteran who is passionate about designing surprising and unique experiences for her clients.