Performance Management Blog

Performance Feedback to Optimize Teamwork and Performance
We're too busy to make improvements for the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game

In the play of our teambuilding exercise, there are subtle ways where providing teams performance feedback to optimize teamwork can directly influence collaboration and impact performance decisions / results. This was recently evident to us when some technical issues prevented us from doing a normal delivery of our onsite version of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.

To play the teambuilding game well, people need to come to agreement on many things

Performance Feedback optimizes final results

Running the exercise for over 30 years (see a press release here), there are some normal behaviors we expect to see when we provide teams information on the movements of all the teams. Because of some issues, we were not able to show the game map and the individual movement of each team to our program involving 18 tabletops. 

  • Teams were not as open to collaboration because they could not see that other teams were making different choices
  • Teams did not ask for assistance because they had no comparison of their performance to that of others
  • Teams were not as inquisitive of other teams — they could not see that other teams were making different choices
  • Teams had no visible way to compare their performance to others toward the end
  • There did not seem to be as much peer support or peer pressure to optimize their results

A big question is, WHY? And what difference might it make?

Generally, seeing the teams on the maps – 2 maps of 9 teams each -would allow players to see which teams rushed off and which trail they took and which teams chose to remain at Apache Junction, the starting point, to gather more information. Knowing that the available information would be useful to teams, the lack of the map did not allow the teams to know which teams had more information than the others. The existence of the additional information was not reinforced because none of the teams could see who had chosen to acquire it.

This additional information is key to optimizing a team’s results and information acquired by some teams has big potential impacts on the overall game results, since optimizing resources exist that can be shared. Performance feedback and supportive leadership during play help teams generate better results and additional collaboration.

Play was good and play was noisy and fun. But without the map feedback, we did not generate the same cognititive dissonance. For example, a team doing well without one of the optimizing resources leaves on Day 14 while the team with that resource can leave on Day 17 and mine 3 more Gold. That visible feature alone generates some cognititve dissonance and additional information for the debriefing. Without the visual feedback, that, “How did they DO that?” is missing.

Teams can mine between 4 and 10 Gold in the play of the game. These resuilts are even more apparent when all the teams can see all the moves to explain all the differences in results.

With the overall goal of the game being, “To mine as much Gold as WE Can, seeing all the performance of all the teams is really meaningful feedback that makes the debriefing optimally effective.

Lost Dutchman is a pretty unique teambuilding exercise that links individual decision making to team decision making to group decision making with everything measurable insofar as how each and all the teams performed to mine gold. Collaboration is clearly a better strategy than competition for mining more gold. Sharing information and resources between the teams generates improved team results with no downside.

The design of the Dutchman game is that we do NOT focus on having “a winning team” – ONE winning team actually means there were many more losing teams and why do we want to create losers?

Instead, we focus on how all the teams contributed to our goal of, Mining as much Gold as WE can and how the teams with more information and more resources can HELP all the teams to mine more gold. The Goal is to Mine as much Gold as WE Can.

Teams have many opportunities to help other teams be more successful and this collaborative culture is a much more effective one than a culture based on competition and winners.

For us, the simulation has always been an excuse to do a debriefing, one focused on collaboration over competition, the choices around strategic planning, and the sharing of best practices to optimize performance results.

In our design, the role of the Expedition Leader has always been, “to help teams be successful and to maximize Return on Investment” and to model a highly supportive type of facilitative leadership behavior. We find these things critical to developing a workplace culture that supports individual and team results.

If you are interested in more information about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, contact me directly or visit our webpage at

You can also ask for a free demonstration
of our online version of the exercise.

Note that we have both onsite game frameworks and virtual frameworks for online delivery. Each of these offers some unique benefits for organizational improvement and team development and both programs can be easily linked into other training and development programs. We have been selling and supporting Lost Dutchman globally since 1993.

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.

Both the board game and the new, online design of the game generate similar decisions and outcomes. Here is a 2-minute overview of the virtual team building game:

logo for Lost Dutchman Virtual online edition


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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