Performance Management Blog

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking and Team Building
The Goal is to Mine as Much Gold as WE Can

Thinking and Team Building clearly generates improved organizational performance. Simple. So how do we efficiently accomplish this and involve and engage our people to collaborate and innovate?

The late Daniel Kahneman was known for his wonderful book, Thinking Fast and Slow along with his focus on group decision-making to optimize organizational performance. Here, I intertwine his key thinking concepts with the play of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, our team building exercise designed to superbly focus on collaboration and the optimization of performance results.

His System 1 thinking is fast and intuitive (quick but sometimes flawed).. His System 2 is more along the deep, considered alternatives, conscious consideration. System 2 takes more time and mental energy and typifies group decision-making.

We can use Kahneman’s model to encourage deeper discussions and better decision-making at the tabletops after the play of Dutchman. System 1 thinking will drive sub-optimization and is not organic, generally. We want to drive more System 2 thinking in our organizations. 

Overall, the Dutchman game encourages System 1 thinking through:
  • Intuitive Decision-Making: The game’s time-sensitive nature and the need to make quick decisions about resource allocation and route selection can lead to intuitive, System 1 thinking.
  • Emotional Responses: The game’s theme and the excitement of searching for gold can evoke emotional responses, which can influence decision-making and lead to System 1 thinking.
  • Mental Shortcuts: The game’s rules and constraints can lead to the use of mental shortcuts, such as relying on past experiences or rules of thumb, rather than thorough analysis. Deciding to compete is a System 1 response.
The game encourages System 2 thinking through:
  • Strategic Planning: The game requires teams to develop a strategy for reaching the mine and mining gold, which involves deliberate, effortful thinking and consideration of possibilities.
  • Analysis of Circumstances: The game’s changing weather conditions and other challenges require teams to analyze the situation, weigh the pros and cons of different actions, and adjust their strategy accordingly.
  • Collaboration and Communication: The game’s team-based design should encourage collaboration, communication, and the sharing of information, which will lead to more deliberate and rational decision-making.
  • Reflection is a System 2 process and the debriefing discussions allow teams to reflect on their decision-making processes, identifying areas for improvement and opportunities for more deliberate thinking. Time is spent analyzing the desired final outcomes of the game, which can help teams understand the consequences of their decisions and develop more effective strategies for the future.


The Goal of the game is to COLLABORATE and optimize results...

It is about collaboration, not competition. Optimizing the results of play is the goal of the simulation.

Here are some of the ways that System 1 and System 2 thinking applies to individual, team and group thinking, the I, We and Us cultural frameworks. The goal is always one of balance, since both systems are useful to performing.
The goal of the game is, “to mine as much Gold as WE can” and the defined role of the Expedition Leader is to, “help teams be successful.” We share clear goals and instructions and impeccable support for players from the game leadership and engaging play.

On an Individual Learning Level:
During the game, individuals exhibit System 1 thinking when they:
  • Rely on intuition to make quick decisions about resource allocation and route selection.
  • React impulsively to changes in weather, Arctic Blasts or other unexpected events, without fully considering the long-term consequences of their choices.
  • Focus on personal goals, such as accumulating the most gold (“winning”) and being competitive, rather than collaborating with other players in the room or even at their tabletop.
On the other hand, individuals engage System 2 thinking when they:
  • Take the time to analyze the game’s rules, resources, and potential outcomes to develop a strategy.
  • Consider involving The Expedition Leader in their decision-making.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of different routes and resource allocations, considering the team’s overall success.
  • Reflect on their decision-making processes and adjust their approach based on experience and feedback.
  • Ask the Expedition Leader or people on other teams for their thoughts.
On a Team / Tabletop Learning Level:
Teams demonstrate System 1 thinking when they:
  • Falling into competitive mindsets, prioritizing their own team’s success over collaboration with other teams.
  • Making impulsive decisions during planning without fully discussing and considering the input of all team members.
  • Choosing to not ask questions of the expedition leadership nor to consider getting additional information because there seems to be plenty clear information available.
  • Relying on mental shortcuts, such as assuming one particular route is the best without thorough analysis.
Conversely, teams engage System 2 thinking when they:
  • Engaging in open communication, actively listening to and considering each other’s perspectives and ideas.
  • Collaborating to develop a shared strategy, weighing the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches.
  • Choosing to get The Videos, a commitment of time which gives them a valuable outcome of additional information and resources to impact their team’s success.
  • Analyzing their progress and adjust their strategy based on the game’s unfolding circumstances.
System 2 thinking is what drives the teams to collaborate and choose to share resources and insights to enable other teams to perform better.
At a Group / Discussion Group Learning Level:
At the group level, System 1 thinking is evident when:
  • Different teams focus on their own goals and winning, neglecting the broader organizational objectives around optimizing performance results.
  • The group as a whole fails to recognize the value of collaboration and sharing resources, making the room competitive from the start.
  • The debriefing process is superficial, with people failing to consider the underlying issues and opportunities for improvement. They choose to see Dutchman “as a game” and not as the powerful experiential learning exercise that it is designed to be.
On the other hand, the group engages System 2 thinking when:
  • The debriefing process facilitates a thorough analysis of the game results and impacts, highlighting lessons learned and areas for improvement. Players participate freely in deep discussions of their choices and their possibilities.
  • The group recognizes the importance of collaboration and shared goals, applying these insights to real-world organizational challenges.
  • Players choose to candidly discuss the organizational issues and culture and discuss and commit to trying to implement improvements.
  • The game is used as a catalyst for organizational change, encouraging a culture of critical thinking and teamwork.
Appropriately led, the individual thoughts and tabletop discussions can actually DRIVE the group into System 2 thinking. Solid, facilitated tabletop discussions around real issues and opportunities can change the flow of the game into one of a real learning experience.
A triad of debriefing slides from The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building exercise.
A triad of debriefing slides from The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building exercise.

Overall, “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” provides a great team-oriented opportunity to observe and experience the interplay between System 1 and System 2 thinking in individuals, teams, and groups. By recognizing these cognitive processes, participants can develop a deeper understanding of their decision-making habits and work towards more effective collaboration and strategic thinking.
I have never thought of Dutchman as a game, even from the design inception. It was always to be, “An excuse to do a debriefing” and to get people thiniking and collaborating to impact motivation, engagement and organizational performance.

I hope that you have found this to be a useful framework for understanding that optimizing decisions and collaboration in most organizations generates huge benefits. 




For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game.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 link to a press release about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding exercise and its 30 years of positively impacting people and performance.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a trademark of Performance Management Company
Square Wheels images © Performance Management Company, 1993 – 2023. 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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