Performance Management Blog

How does Teamwork influence Design Thinking?
An image of mud, spectator sheep, silos and The Customer from The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game

I was asked to write about how does teamwork influence Design Thinking for a newsletter and I thought to try to frame up how Lost Dutchman Virtual fits neatly into the DT paradigm. The blog offers me a bit more room to more fully discuss the ideas around this framework.

Our new business colleagues in India, Square Sequel, is actively involved with the global Design Thinking community. Jimmy Jain heads the organization and is also the founder of the international Society of Design Thinking Professionals and a leading contributor to developing this global field of innovative thinking.

You can find a series of articles defining and explaining the key principles here.

Let me start with an image that might apply to the performance issues of the workplace and maybe to design thinking in general. This is part of my series of debriefing images for The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, our teambuilding game and with some feedback, I may more tightly align “the issues and opportunities” in design thinking to our Dutchman debriefing processes and support materials. This work is just getting started and the LDV game is very new…

An image of mud, spectator sheep, silos and The Customer from The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game

What seems to be happening here? Give it a moment of your time.

Some of MY thoughts might include the team working hard to move their vehicle forward but bogged down by the mud, which might represent all the glop found in most organizations when productivity is desired but inhibited by stuff like politics and culture. And it might be grinding paste, and not mud. THAT stuff will wear everything down…

  • In the background are the silos so common in organizations and the causal factor around why “interdepartmental collaboration” is an oxymoron in so many workplaces.
  • We also have those Spectator Sheep in the background, the ones also common in organizations and which can generally be heard “voicing their support” by going “Naaaaaaa Baaaaaa” as they watch things not getting done and the people up to their axles in the mud.
  • On top of everything, we have The Customer. It is hard to focus on them with so many other things going on. Heck, you may not even have seen them with all the mud and stuff. 
  • Note that the people are working hard to get things done, but there are more than a few organizational realities that they have to deal with, and what would you do if you were out there pulling and pushing all day, every day? 

One of my legacy goals is to enable our team building games and products to help managers better involve and engage their people in workplace improvement initiatives and to have some real positive impacts on people and performance. So, I include below my initial thinking about how LDV can be directly applied to impact the implementation of design thinking in organizations, to get things down to the workers and supervisors where the real action needs to occur.

LDV as a tool to embed Design Thinking among the managers (the topic, not the title)

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding exercise is designed so that the facilitators can generate teamwork among a team as well as focus on the collaboration versus competition dynamic among the different teams. Generally, some teams players will choose to work together and share resources and information with other teams while other players and teams will frame their efforts on winning. The design of the game is that the attempt to win will often result in less success and it will also measurably sub-optimize the results of the group.

One of the deep design goals for our online, remote version of Dutchman is to enable supervisors to deliver the game with their people, functioning as a facilitative-style Expedition Leader, one whose defined role is, “to help teams be successful and to mine as much Gold as WE can.”

The operation of the game is straightforward and easy to learn, while the act of facilitating may be a new behavior or skill for many of these supervisors. Delivering the game can teach or improve this skill and change the behavior of that manager because facilitation is a critical aspect to the success of the game play and collaboration in general and we will build that specific training into our instructional support materials.

A key factor in Design Thinking is to generate inclusive thinking. Some groups playing the game immediately see the benefits of working together and sharing ideas while some will find their competitiveness blocking such efforts. With the results rewarding inter-team collaboration and with the facilitator facilitating, we have real prospects for changing the kind of collaboration that occurs within the workgroup culture itself.

Another key aspect of DT is to generate progressive adaptability and allow for more spontaneous change based on new information and ideas for improvement. In the LDV game, teams can get access to new information that can completely change strategies. Those who make the shift measurably improve performance and can collaborate to the benefit of all. By playing the game, it is easy for the facilitator to generate a more flexible organization more capable of change and performance-focused improvements. Play and debriefing generate that gap needed for cognitive dissonance to be a motivator for change.

The LDV game has a tight design that rewards adaptation to new ideas and that links to the key aspect of Mining More Gold. The teams share the focus on a common goal and find changing short-term strategies and tactics enable more successful solutions. Getting Turbochargers and sharing them between teams generates more gold and that lesson can be easily ported to the issues of generating more sustainable solutions for the actual work and performance demands. In the game, the people in the teams make the decisions that lead to better results and peer pressure / support allow the team to perform better.

An essential component of successful play is to listen to the different ideas within a team that enable optimal planning and risk management. Each of the four players will have their own ideas about risk and resource management and the team working together will make a better decision than anyone operating alone. Teamwork and collaboration for framing the problem among the team are essential, along with teamwork with the facilitator.

It is often the case that, “Nobody ever asks the Expedition Leader for advice.” (That is so common as to warrant its own debriefing slide!) By expanding the collaboration with all the people resources, the teammates, other teams and the facilitator, they can make better optimizing decisions overall.

Lastly, the structured debriefing and post-game followup allows the supervisor to better relate the game play and the planning and decision-making to the real issues and opportunities in the workplace. The game becomes real when people begin choosing what they can do differently, individually and collectively, to generate better workplace outcomes. This resilience thinking thus relates directly to improving the organizational culture around collaboration as well as generating strategies to improve decision-making.

Alignment and Commitment: MY goal when designing the board game back in 1993 was to have a very tight game design that rewarded collaboration over competition and that allowed the Expedition Leader to behave very congruently to the overall goal of maximizing ROI of all the teams. This tight design (and we made a lot of changes to improve it over the years) was to make the debriefing the REAL reason for play. It is in the debriefing where actual issues of workplace improvement, alignment to shared goals, and a customer focus can be discussed and where REAL issues of implementing change can be framed.

What we have now, with the new virtual game, is another way for managers to reach out to their people and to generate real performance improvement and alignment to their critical goals. The Dutchman games are effective tools to generate discussions about workgroup issues, to generate more alignment to shared goals, and to generate actionable ideas for improvement.

Jeff Simmerman did an unbelievable job in framing all the key attributes of the board game version of Dutchman into this online, remote design. A few things were changed but the interactive decision-making and leadership support aspects were preserved. We think that this online virtual game is the very best teambuilding game in the world for remote engagement, alignment to shared visions and goals, and to the real need for building more collaboration within workgroups.

LDV will continue to evolve into a great tool to help managers optimize the performance of their workgroups and align their players toward shared goals and better communications and collaboration. And we are more than happy to work with your organization to customize the exercise to meet your specific performance improvement goals, be they leadership development, organizational alignment, teamwork or frameworks like Design Thinking. 


Your thoughts and comments on the above would be most appreciated.

I am just now getting started with adding design thinking to the tools we are making available,

For the FUN of It!

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 who is trying to retire!! He now lives in Cuenca, Ecuador.

You can reach Scott at

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Here is a 2-minute overview of our new online, virtual team building game:

logo for Lost Dutchman Virtual online edition


The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a trademark of Performance Management Company
images © Performance Management Company, 2022. All rights reserved.


Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of the amazing Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game and the Square Wheels facilitation and engagement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced global presenter. -- You can reach Scott at and a detailed profile is here: -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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