Escape Structure

Escape Structure.png
“The cheat sheet for any Escape Room”
— Joseph Castoro

Escape Structure

Crime Scene Investigation:

I'm locked in a room with 5 other investigators and less than 5 minutes left to figure out who murdered the woman. If we don't figure this out in time this guy might go on a killing spree! All our clues are lying out on the table and yet we still have 3 suspects on the wall. I don't understand? None of us do and the clock is winding down. Our only option is to take a guess from the 3 remaining suspects and hope one of their mug shot ID's is the correct combo to unlock the door and escape! Click! It worked and we escaped with less than 2 minutes remaining. This required some fortune but we prevented this perpetrator from becoming the next serial killer. (Ok, not really.) But we did manage to successfully escape the room before time ran out- barely.

1863 Battle of Gettysburg:

An attack is coming! We have less than an hour to find out when and where it will hit. (We didn't manage to collectively arrive until 15 minutes after our scheduled start time. Not exactly a good omen that we were going to figure out this mystery…) surprisingly, this escape room session went much better. Not only did we successfully navigate the puzzles, we did it in almost record time! We saved the town and the people of Gettysburg and did it early enough to plan a counter attack which changed the tide of the Civil War! (Not really but again, we managed to escape the room).

Alright, I didn't save people from a serial killer nor did I rescue Gettysburg from an attack. What I DID do was successfully 'win' two 'Escape Rooms'. Both of these were very different experiences with vastly different people. In one of the rooms we were very successful and one of them we weren't so much. Both of them had 'inside the box' thinkers and 'outside the box' thinkers. So what was the difference? How can you manage to escape these new popular rooms no matter what the scenario!? 


All good businesses and organizations have structure. Sports teams have structure, our country has structure and I hope that your household has some structure. But why? One of the things that these 'Escape Rooms' are exposing is a lack of structure. No matter what type of room it is and whatever kind of mystery you have to resolve, you enter all of them without any type of structure. Everyone is thrown into a room and required to combine thoughts and actions to achieve the goal. No one is established as the leader, or any role for that matter. It’s this immediate and continuous lack of structure that ultimately makes escape rooms so difficult to achieve. With structure comes effective and accountable communication. Without it, communication is haywire and ineffective.

Structure = Communication. 

…. In Sports…

Every great sports team has had structure. Think about the New England Patriots- great coach, great MVP, and great role players. Structure is easy to identify in football, with such significance put on the quarterback position. A better sport to recognize good structure (or lack thereof) would be in basketball, where the sport has almost evolved to position-less basketball in 2017. So where can I find an example of a well-structured team in basketball? Let’s use the 2016 Championship Cleveland Cavaliers:

The Coach.

One of the main differences in the second escape room from the first was experience. Mainly, I had experienced one previously so I knew what to expect. This led to me presuming the role as coach of the second escape room team.

Let me be clear that I was not the most effective player in the game, but I was the established coach. Similar to Tyrone Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers; I didn’t produce much on the court, but I helped those who were. I wasn’t LeBron James, but even the greatest player needs a coach and a structure around him in order to be effective. An established coach/leader is where ‘accountable communication’ starts and ends, so make sure you have a good one!

The main responsibility of a coach is not to produce, but rather to effectively communicate to those around them and create an environment that does the same thing. Tyrone Lue can’t play defense on Steph Curry or Kevin Durant and your boss shouldn’t have to make your sales for you. Their job is to teach you how to play defense or how to make the sale, not to do it for you. A good coach teaches you how to fish- they don’t just give you the fish to eat.

The MVP.

The responsibility of top performer is reserved for the most effective 'player' at the game. In our sports example, LeBron James would be the top performer of the Cavaliers basketball team. In your business, this person might be the most effective manager or sales rep. They produce the most.

So where does that leave the rest of us?

Role Players.

Don’t get upset, most of us are role players in this world. But don’t think for a second that you don’t have value! Just ask LeBron how many championships he won without a supporting cast in Cleveland the first time around?

Role players are the backbone of any team or organization. No coach or player can succeed without effective role players. If you compare it to your place of work, the role players might be accounts receivable, accounts payable, the custodian, and on and on. The reality is that the business doesn’t operate as a whole without these critical role players, and LeBron James doesn’t win a championship with effective role players. From Kevin Love to Kyrie Irving and all the way down the bench to even the trainer, every person on that team had a role to play, and they did it effectively. Role players matter.

Talent without Structure??

It was interesting to watch the Miami Heat in 2005 and the 2017 Golden State Warriors adapt to new structure within their teams. Adding LeBron to the Heat and Kevin Durant to the Warriors temporarily confused the team structure and it showed in their results.

For both teams as the year progressed they continued to develop better structure. LeBron and Dwayne Wade struggled at first with who would be the team leader on the court (MVP in our structure). It wasn’t until Wade finally took a step back and allowed LeBron to be the alpha that they finally won. The role players didn’t know who the team leader was before then and it led to a communication breakdown. Without an established structure, communication failed.

The Golden State Warriors struggled to identify who their team MVP was going to be after Kevin Durant first arrived. Throughout the season, Curry, Thompson and Green all slowly realized that Durant was the alpha, until the finals when Durant dominated and won the Finals MVP. Their structure led to better communication and ultimately a championship.

Structure = Communication

… in business…

Structure is so evident in business that it's hard to find well known businesses that have terrible structure, because they don't exist. The easiest way is to find one of these examples is to discuss the show, "Bar Rescue". In this show, a business guru comes into fledgling bars and saves them by investing his intelligence and implementing structure (along with some money). In almost every bar, they are failing due to a lack of structure, or maintaining accountable communication. So how do you implement accountable communication within a business?

Start with establishing a General Manager (the Coach of your business) who is the final decision maker. Everything will start and end with that person, especially the communication. From there, you establish a senior mid-level manager (MVP of our business) who works alongside other mid-level managers. These managers may not be the MVP of your business but they are in training to do so eventually. Until that time, everyone else will remain role players. From the sales rep to the delivery person, role players are the backbone of your business. Do you job and play your role.

Having a structure in place at your business allows for accountability. If there is no established chain of command, how could anyone ever be held accountable? They might not have had the information properly communicated to them in the first place! No one will ever do their job great if they don’t know what to do or how to do it, so communicate!

Structure = Communication

… in military…

Our military is famous for its rigid structure. The United States military is comparable to the Cleveland Cavaliers in basketball or Apple in business. The greatest structured country is the most dominant. Now I do realize that many other factors play a part into this dominance but structure is critical. Don’t believe me??

Go watch ‘Narcos’ on Netflix and see what derailed the Pablo Escobar empire. The structure of his organization slowly died off one person at a time, until the communication of the organization suffered so bad that there was none. No structure led to no communication and eventually no support. If Pablo would have established a better and more sustainable structure while in his heyday, they could have existed for a much longer time.

From sports and business to our government and military, they all have a very similar pyramid of structure. (And no I’m not talking about a pyramid scheme.. Advocare). Starting with a final decision maker, to the MVP of your business or team all the way down to the front line role players, everyone matters if you want to achieve the ultimate success.

Now that you understand my basic premise of structure, let’s see how that may have changed my experience from the first escape room to the second…

How to Escape Faster??

Establish a structure!

Escape room #2 had an established coach (me), an established MVP (my brother), and established role players that knew to communicate their findings to the coach so that I could filtrate the information to the team better.

It's not a guarantee that structure will lead to success, but it gives you a better opportunity to succeed. Structure leads to directed and accountable communication and everything is about communication. It's also much easier to identify weak points in any system when the system follows a structure. The boss communicates the directive to the managers, who communicate it to the front line employees, who go out and deliver those expectations. Everyone must communicate and hold each other accountable in order to succeed.

The lack of structure is what led to the demise of Pablo Escobar and any country that has in the past. Guerrilla warfare may be the only way to tear down the 600 pound gorilla but it's not s sustainable system. Rome only fell because of many guerrilla warfare tribes stacking, along with a failing internal structure, not a single structured enemy. 

The evidence of success from structure shows itself in so many aspects of life. From sports teams, to businesses, to our military and even parenting! If it works in all of these areas I would bet that structure would not only help you escape an escape room, but maybe even improve your life! Start with a structure, develop a routine and communicate effectively. Start by putting your keys and wallet in the exact same place every time that you get home. Then you don't have to ever worry about losing them… (Jayme)