CornerStone Consulting AssociatesElectric Maze
Electric Maze
Sample Facilitation and Debrief
Simulation Scenario

  • You (sixteen people) represent The Creative Company, Inc. It has been repeatedly reported in the news that your major competitor, The Learning Organization, has dramatically reduced the time from ideation to product by a factor of ten. It's ”do or die” time for The Creative Company. As well as we can predict the future by watching the clock tick out, we calculate that you must become more creative in the next 20 days. If you don't succeed, we'll be forced to proceed with massive layoffs in accordance with the recent restructuring study done by the well-known firm, Linearity Limited.

  • We've gone to our creditors and have raised $40M to make this one last ”all out” effort for teamwork and creativity.

  • Please divide yourselves into two concurrent research teams so we can attack this problem from two perspectives. Team One - please go to the North (cable) end of the Maze and begin searching for the path to higher creativity from there. Team Two - please go to the South end of the Maze and begin your search from there. Each team will receive half of the available resources ($20M each) to fund your research. Remember that this $40M represents all the money The Creative Company can muster. For each rule/boundary infraction, we will assess you $1M. Remember, the rules/boundaries are there for your own learning and protection. When the $40M is gone, our company is gone.

  • If we're fortunate enough for one team or the other to find the path to higher creativity, then we'll need the remainder of the funds to capitalize on your discovery. I hope we have some money left.

  • In order to ”beat the clock,” both teams must traverse the path to higher creativity. We need everyone on board with the new skills.

    (What if we were to give you only $10M each and if that money were to be exhausted, we'd ask you to drop out one member of your team? What if you had the choice of dropping out a member or relinquishing $1M? What if the team could decide which member they would drop out regardless of who committed a rule infraction?)

  • As I already mentioned, in order to recapture the competitive edge over the Learning Organization, we'll have to find the path to higher creativity in 20 days. This doesn't give us much time, but who said life is fair?

  • In systems, cause and effect are separated by unbelievable amounts of time and space such that it is hard to learn from our actions. In a learning simulation such as this, we collapse time and space in order to make it easier for us to learn from our actions.

  • Today, we will collapse 20 days into 20 minutes and collapse ten city blocks into eight feet. That's about a factor of 1500 to one on both counts. As you see the concentration and intention needed to figure out what's happening here today, it's no stretch to see why it takes a lot of work to grow communities of learning.

  • We've also isolated some of the real world effects in order to reduce confusion. We're able to re-introduce these real world effects as we grow enough to understand them and learn from them.

Rules (Simulation Learning Structure / Guidelines)
  1. Show what an alarm sounds like by stepping on an ”unsafe” square. Show how to walk on the Maze. Show that the square beeps when you step on it -- and that it stops beeping when you get off of it.

  2. Ask each team to spend 10 minutes in goal setting and tactical planning.

  3. During the planning session, talking and writing is permitted.

  4. You have 20 minutes to find the safe path across the Maze (to higher creativity). The first team to get all their members across the Maze wins. The other team will probably be downsized, or at a minimum, have no resources to implement anything.)

  5. During the 20 minute play, there will be no talking.

  6. Only one person on the Maze at a time.

  7. As play commences, the two teams (beginning from opposite ends of the Maze) alternate in play.

  8. Additionally, members on each team will rotate such that everyone tries to find the path.

  9. Play commences as such: Team A, member #1, Team B, member #1, Team A, member #2, Team B, member #2... and so on, alternating and rotating.

  10. Remember... only one person on the Maze at a time.

  11. Each person in play will move onto the Maze at any of the six ”end” squares.

  12. If there is no alarm, the player may then proceed to another square.

  13. With the exception of the end and edge squares, there are eight choices for movement in each turn: forwards, backwards, sideways, and diagonally.

  14. A player may not step over a square. Movement to adjacent squares only.

  15. Play commences, one grid-square at a time until the alarm sounds.

  16. When a player trips the alarm, the player must back off the learning field along the same path they travelled as they moved forward, being careful not to set the alarm off while retreating.

  17. If the grid-square sounding the alarm has not previously been discovered, the facilitator announces the occurrence as ”New Learning.”

  18. If the player steps on an unsafe square that has already been discovered, the facilitator announces that occurrence as ”Old Learning.” Often you might hear the facilitator say ”Very Old Learning” as players keep trying that square.

  19. After that player has retreated from the learning field, a player from the other team tries, coming from the opposite direction -- going as far forward as they can until the alarm sounds requiring them to retreat along their path.

  20. A player may not step off the side of the Maze.

  21. Play continues to alternate and rotate until someone finds the safe path across the Maze, or until the 20 minute clock runs out.

  22. Once a team member finds the safe path, that team has control of the field as they try to get all of their team members across. If the alarm sounds in the attempt to get everyone on their team across, control of the learning field reverts to the other team.

  23. For each of the following infractions, we will assess a team penalty of $1M:
    a) Talking
    b) ”Old Learning” (No penalty for ”New Learning”)
    c) Stepping off the side of the Maze
    d) Sounding the alarm while retreating from the learning field.
    e) Stepping over a square.


  • At the end of the 20 minutes, play is halted and the facilitator engages the group in the debriefing dialogue. It is OK if the group does not solve the Maze in the allotted 20 minutes. ”Learning how to learn” may be as important as reaching the goal. In life, the path is constantly changing, hence the ability to quickly find the new path is important.

  • First get initial reactions and ask their impressions.

  • The debrief is conducted in three stages: What happened?; Why did it happen?; and How does it apply to the real job? Further debrief consists of ”what if” questions, which lead to dialogue and discussion of consequences. ”What if there were twice as many players?” ”What if the time was doubled?” ”What if you cooperated differently?” ”How did your initial assumptions help or hurt you?”

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