The Design Thinking Journey of Digital Escape Rooms
The Design Thinking Journey of Digital Escape Rooms

How do you attract 750+ participants from 11 countries to your corporate learning programme? What does it take to encourage 120 teams to compete and learn together?

In the latest MERIT Summit webinar, Nikoleta Jankovicova and Yannis Koutroulis revealed some of the strategies that turned their Deutsche Telekom initiative into a success. Nikoleta is Senior Leadership Development Consultant and Yannis is Senior Leadership/HRD Consultant and Product Owner for Escape Rooms at Deutsche Telekom.

The programme called “Digital Escape Rooms” has already received several awards, including recognition for “Organisational Development – Europe” at the 2021 MERITS Summit & Awards.

What is Digital Escape Rooms?

Digital Escape Rooms is a customised and gamified learning format designed to foster digital transformation, remote collaboration and cross-functional and cross-country cooperation. The project also worked on a team level to promote trust, role exchange and diversity. The escape room format, Nikoleta clarified, was never the goal in itself. It was a means to foster these key areas of learning.

It all started with the design thinking journey of the Deutsche Telekom team based in Europe. Design thinking is a framework that combines empathy with the user’s creativity, but also rationality to understand challenges and deliver new ideas. It focuses on understanding the problem first. As Yannis highlighted, this was also the jumping-off point for the team and their idea.

The project coincided with the start of the pandemic in March 2020, which meant the team had to work virtually. They began by collecting feedback and understanding the perspectives of clients and users. Then they went through the stage of forming ideas using digital workshops. Applying an impact vs. benefit ranking created with an agile approach, the team filtered out the top three ideas to move to the implementation stage. What was the top-ranking project idea? It was Digital Escape Rooms.

How does it work?

From the very beginning, the team wanted to deliver not just a product, but an experience. Based on the feedback, it was clear that the end users were tired of seeing the same learning formats. As Yannis explained, this is why the new learning experience was designed to be 100% digital and gamified.

For this purpose, users were divided into diverse international teams of four to six people where they competed by solving riddles and trying to escape a series of levels.

The creators established custom-made content around customer centricity and split this content into four episodes. The first episode was merely a demo so that people could get used to the new format.

Every level was available for two weeks. To strengthen the message after the second week, users were invited to play a game. By combining a set of fun challenges with content-related challenges, the escape room game helped participants to learn a lot more than if they were to simply read about it. The most important part was that they were learning without realising they were learning.

As in any new and disruptive learning initiative, many lessons were learnt along the way. But according to Nikoleta and Yannis, the most important takeaways for the team are all about working with diverse partners to hear unique perspectives, boldly trying new approaches and remembering to have fun in the process.