Team Collaboration with Dice, Dragons and Dungeons

Every office has its own peculiar quirks. It might be an activity like four o’clock Friday drinks, after work rock climbing, yoga sessions in the bullpen, a yearly backpacking trip, or a crock pot cooking competition. As you may have guessed, KPS3 has a bunch of these idiosyncratic activities. And, ultimately they are great for helping our team bond. Most evidence and research confirms that having a team with a sense of cohesion and open communication is a good thing. Check out this Forbes article that touches on the importance and links out to a few other information resources. If you want something a bit more data-oriented, here is a research paper from the University of Queensland on the subject.

Stranger Things Have Happened

Which leads me to 6 p.m. on Mondays, when almost a third of the team gathers in our conference room for 3 or 4 hours. I can hear you asking incredulously, “What on earth would keep you in the office until 10 p.m. most Mondays?” Well, on Mondays, KPS3 plays Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Yep, we play a tabletop game with monsters and magic, with quests and adventures, and you know what? We have a darn good time while we do it, and we all like each other more at the end of it — most days anyway.

If you know what D&D is you can skip this entire paragraph. If you don’t, welcome. D&D is a tabletop RPG (Roleplaying Game) where you create a character, take on a persona and explore the world. Usually, you do this with a few friends once every week or two, and your goal is to do good, be the hero and save the world. Most of the game takes place in your mind; you need to visualize what’s going on, figure out what’s around you and how to solve the problem at hand, whether that’s working out a riddle, solving a puzzle or beating up whatever bad guys happen to show up. Because D&D is played for the most part in a shared imagination, there is often confusion, misunderstanding and a lot of creative ideas and solutions that you wouldn’t get in a more rigid environment.

No More Monday Blues

Other than showcasing truly how nerdy we are, playing D&D actually has some benefits for our office. Once a week, it forces everyone who plays out of their silos and into an open discussion about a problem they need to solve. Through playing and solving these problems, we gain a bit more insight into our coworkers personalities and preferences. It also helps reduce any potential “case of the Mondays” that may go on.

Speak Up, I Can’t Hear You

One of my favorite things about KPS3 is that everyone is encouraged to have an opinion and to make it clear what that opinion is, but that isn’t easy for all of us. We all have quiet coworkers who prefer to listen, and there is nothing wrong with that — until there is. At some point everyone needs to speak up, and playing D&D has made that easier in our office. Aside from forcing everyone to speak in a group setting to be part of the game, making a fool of yourself is almost a requirement of D&D (at least for some of us). And, making a fool of yourself outside of work can lead to better communication during work.

Once a week, part of our team listens to me talk in strange voices, with odd speech mannerisms, and the occasional facial tick about a fictional world that doesn’t exist. Through my willingness to take myself lightly, some of the other players have joined in and picked up speech patterns, accents, and personalities for their characters outside of their own. It doesn’t sound like anything that would have an impact on our work lives, but it does.

Why Does It Matter?

Becoming more comfortable with your team is a critical part of any work environment, and can have some serious positive impacts on your daily operations and your bottom line. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you choose to bond and make sure everyone is comfortable speaking up. What matters is that you do.

So, we play D&D once a week, have a Crock-Pot-Off once a year and do yoga next to folks still coding. We’re a little odd, and everyone chooses which activities they want to take part in, but in the end, we’re all the better for it. It’s fun to sit down and think about, what quirks does your office have that you wouldn’t trade for the world?

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