Can a game teach a company how to work? 130 people “trapped” in a room found out that it can

Second Rock in Rio Innovation Week meet-up promotes experiential learning
27 February, 2020
Teambuildings in remote teams
19 March, 2020

Can a game teach a company how to work? 130 people “trapped” in a room found out that it can


The lights go out, the door to the room is “locked” and a time trial appears. Suddenly, 130 people who don’t know each other have to solve an “escape room” in half an hour. This was the second kick-off session for the 3rd edition of Rock in Rio Innovation Week. Through an immersive experience, the session showed how people can learn in unexpected situations and what it can teach companies.

Learning can take many forms: reading a book, attending a lecture, doing exercises. There you learn, and a lot. But when a person burns himself by putting his hand on the stove or falls to ride a bicycle for using the wrong brake, he also acquires new knowledge, through experience.

Let us focus on this second modality, which was the one that was highlighted at the second meetup of Rock in Rio Innovation Week, which invited Carlos Moreira, one of the co-founders of the company Immersis, to make a session on immersive experiences and their potential.

The first meetup, which took place on January 16, showed those present “What jazz can teach about dynamic leadership”. In this second, however, the cards were shuffled again, and whoever was present at Casa do Desenho, located right next to the LACS Conde d’Óbidos, in Lisbon, was subjected to a totally different experience.

Between conversations and gifts, whoever was in the space was being accompanied by a performance by Michel William, former competitor of the program The Voice. However, any countenance of normality came to an end when Carlos Moreira took the reins of the event.

To about 130 people present in the room, Carlos Moreira explained that Immersis “designs immersive experiences of high-impact that always have a profound educational purpose”. The focus of these he said, “has to do with learning through experience”, that is, how exposure to certain situations makes people acquire skills or be able to analyze later how they behaved in this scenario.

At the sound of the song “I’ve Got a Feeling”, by the Black Eyed Peas, giant balloons started to be placed inside the room, but these announced hard work and not party. The Immersis demonstration was not going to be merely theoretical. In fact, bearing in mind that the motto would be immersive experiences, that would be a kind of betrayal of his purpose of learning through experience..

For this very reason, Carlos Moreira ordered the lights down, pretended to lock the door and put a countdown clock. Whoever expected a normal presentation, after all, would have to make an escape-room, an interactive game where the participants have to solve puzzles and challenges spread over one or more rooms to “escape” from the place where they are locked up.

“The game has already started, you just don’t know it”, said Carlos Moreira. A half-hour of turmoil and cooperation followed, with 130 people having to work together to solve the challenge in a fight against the clock. And it all started with the said giant balloons.

Inside each of them was a message saying to take out some scratch cards that were attached to the wall. This was the first challenge, because in some of them there was a letter that completed a word. With the start of the game, there was an immediate imposition of natural “leaders”, participants who were taking the reins of the game and directing others to try to solve the word.

Throughout the game, it was necessary to unlock three different suitcases, using mathematical and logic puzzles, using different parts of the scenario, whether using photographs to locate hidden letters and only detectable with ultraviolet light, decoding Morse Code or having to put together cards that they had been given entry to form QR Codes that gave access to a phone number that contained a clue.

Being a group of 130 people, many were those who tryed reaaly hard, others who did not try so hard and still some who preferred to be just watching, so much that Carlos Moreira was playing with the situation, saying that “if this were a real company they were bankrupt”. The union almost made the effort, because those present could not resist the count and the time passed the limit. Even so, there was the right to party, with the last suitcase having a safe, which in turn contained a button that triggered two confetti cannons.


Learn by doing
The game is over, but Carlos Moreira then explains where the playful nature of the activity ends and where the innovation that gives the name to this Rock in Rio initiative begins.

“What happens when you are playing a game like this is in everything similar to what happens in an organization or company”, started by explaining the co-founder of Immersis, being possible to observe factors such as “communication” or “collaboration” between the participants in a pressure scenario, with a time limit and results to achieve.

Although those present at Casa do Desenho do not constitute a “natural team”, that is, colleagues who work together on a daily basis, Carlos Moreira demonstrated that, as in an organization, “within the 130 people, some did nothing, some got involved. Others tried to get involved, were very willing, but did not know how to do it, and there were those who took care of some operations and carried them from beginning to end”.

“What we do in this type of experience is quite possibly an amplification of what we do in our daily lives,” explained the speaker, indicating that when Immersis is hired by companies for activities like this and are unable to complete the challenge, it is possible to realize that “there are problems” in that team.

“What always happens is, if you could now go back and start the game again after having this experience, what would you do differently?” asked Carlos Moreira, adding that the behavioral change that resulted from this experience is “the moment when we capitalize on learning”.

Carlos Moreira explained to SAPO24 that there was always a problem with the use of traditional training that companies require. “It was applied for everything and sometimes it was not necessary, sometimes absorbing a set of information in a room through a powerpoint is good for acquiring knowledge, but you will not feel what it is like to apply it in practice, even with exercises in the room”.

According to the speaker, a North American study showed that only 10 to 30% of all investment in training results in real behavioral changes in companies. “The trainer can even measure the satisfaction assessment, it can be spectacular and the training was great, but then people return to the company, which invested thousands of euros, and continue to complain that there was no transformation, there was no behavioral change”, indicates Carlos Moreira, who says that the chapter where training fails is the transfer of these acquired skills to day-to-day activities.

One of the key elements, he points out, is the motivation to learn, which is more easily exponentiated when there is a change of context. Carlos Moreira set an example in public, suddenly speaking in English when he was making his presentation, which caused some strangeness. Whoever asked him – in Portuguese – why he was speaking in English was ignored, but whoever aligned and started to speak with the speaker in the same language, deserved an answer.

Carlos Moreira explained the reason for this option to SAPO24. “If you start to speak English unusually and ask people to ask questions, and when you refuse those who ask them in Portuguese and accept those who do in English, you are at that moment forcing a behavioral change”, he stressed. “We started talking in English and there is a social contagion because someone starts, someone repeats, someone chases and someone does and redo and redo, suddenly we have a routine “, he completes.

From the gaming world to the business world

Born in January 2010, Immersis was created to apply immersion to the way companies can diagnose its functioning. But the origin of this concept is previous and took place in a completely different context.

“Who started to work on this topic were the areas of information technology, because they took the immersion to take it to the games environment, making them more immersive, because you have virtual reality glasses, environments that are built around you that they allow you to almost transport you there ”, says Carlos Moreira.

From the games, the potential of immersion began to spread to other areas, such as the military, where you can train in war scenarios without soldiers being there, or in health care, to simulate surgery in a safe context.

Looking at these examples, Carlos Moreira wanted to convey the same ideas, but not using technology but the real world as an immersive environment, applying immersion to formative logic.

“We took it in the real world, and immersed people in some unusual experiences,” explains the co-founder of Immersis. These experiences include options as different as being a copilot of a blind person driving a car or having to manage a restaurant for the first time with real customers.

“Immersis was born 10 years ago with the intention of applying this idea of ​​immersion to three moments: the motivation to go to learn before, during and after, because we know that the latter is the rest of the iceberg”, says Carlos Moreira. The next step, he concludes, is for the company to focus specifically on the skills transfer aspect.

The third edition of Rock in Rio Innovation Week takes place between 23 and 26 June at LACS, with around 120 hours of content expected, including workshops, talks, networking sessions and musical shows.

The full poster will only be revealed on February 19, but Patrick Boltje, project leader at Rock in Rio Innovation Week announced some news before the session started, including the use of Barco Évora as a space, which will have daily departures to Terreiro do Paço, as well as the partnership with the Malaysian personal development platform Mindvalley.

In this 3rd edition, Galp continues to be the founding partner of Rock in Rio Innovation Week, and Randstad Portugal, Sociedade Ponto Verde, EiMigrante (and BLIP join the group of promoters.

The next meetups in Lisbon are scheduled for March 19, April 16 and May 19, at LACS.