LP Leader Feature

Escaping Mediocrity in Team Meetings

Troy D. Elliott, CPP
Manager of Operations - Retail Asset Protection
Meijer Stores

At this point in your career I’m certain that you’ve attended your fair share of annual team meetings where you gathered with your peers and sat for hours listening to presenter after presenter as they shared endless Power Point slides about the topics at hand. From my experience, this is the typical method that many Asset Protection professionals present their information. Honesty, this is how I often communicate as well. After all, PowerPoint is such a simple and cool way to package your materials. There is just one problem; what once was cool is now just routine! As presenters we owe it to our teams to present

the material in a manner which allows them to learn, understand, apply, and practice that knowledge. If the knowledge is gained in the room and left at the door, then the presentation was a failure. With these thoughts in mind, I set out to develop a presentation that broke from the norm and provided materials in a manner that would be engaging, exciting, and retained by all attendees. I developed an Asset Protection Escape Room to present my materials and this is how I did it.


An escape room, as defined by Wikipedia, “is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints and strategy to complete the objectives at hand. Players are given a set time limit to unveil the secret plot which is hidden within the rooms.” As Asset Protection professionals our job is to identify, investigate, and solve for the causes of shrink within our stores. This daily objective lends itself well to the design of an Asset Protection related Escape Room.
Planning Phase
While conducting research for my Asset Protection Escape Room I learned that there are a multitude of resources available which can assist you in creating your own escape room. Some of these resources are free and others require a purchase to be made as they are essentially an escape room kit in a box. After purchasing the escape room kit in a box, I quickly determined that it would not meet my needs as it was too juvenile for my audience. After all, I am presenting to Asset Protection professionals here. Therefore I used free information to build my own from scratch. I would recommend that you conduct some online searches to understand what is available and what ideas you can implement in your own room. I also recommend participating in an escape room personally before trying to create one yourself. Only by experiencing the fun, excitement, and the challenge first-hand can you truly appreciate what you are attempting to recreate in your own escape room.
Create a Theme
Creating a theme first will allow you to place guard rails on the creative process and will make it clear when your ideas have gone off track. All puzzles, processes, and items must relate back to your overall theme or be excluded from the room. There are many different themes which escape room designer’s use. Those themes range from escaping a nuclear fallout bunker, to escaping from a zombie apocalypse to wizards and wizardry. My recommendation is to know your audience and choose a theme which is appropriate, and conveys the desired outcome of the session I.E. educational. My theme was Identify, Investigate and Solve for Shrink. Based on this theme, I could begin to layout the storyline behind my room.
The Storyline
The storyline is essentially a process map of the major items you want your attendees to complete in order to exit the room. Remember to keep the storyline components connected to the overall theme of the room. In my case, I developed the following storyline of my escape room which related back to Identify, Investigate, and Solve for Shrink.
1. Introduction and rules of the room (create excitement and purpose)
2. Locate Hidden Phone
3. Log into phone
4. Use application to scan UPC of products (tool used in stores to conduct inventory investigations)
5. Log into Laptop
6. Use the Shrink Dashboard (shrink financial results by store, market, and region)
7. Use Genetec video surveillance system to review video
8. Unlock lock box
9. Find Alpha S3 key to remove merchandise protection
10. Locate Passcode to exit the room
Once the storyline is completed, then you can determine which puzzles you want to use in order to drive the attendees through the room.
Puzzles & Games
This is the fun part, but also the most difficult part of the escape room design process. You need to make the puzzles difficult enough for your attendees to feel challenged, but not so difficult that they give up because they can’t figure it out. In my escape room I used the following puzzles:
● Meijer Shrink Crossword Puzzle - Attendees need to figure out the answers, then figure out that they need to go into a specific order and that letters were highlighted which spell out the next clue- Use Phone and Genetec, but no phone was evidently in the room, or was it?
● Hidden phone inside an IPAD box - Attendees needed to figure out that the spider wrap was not applied correctly and could be slipped off the box.
● Phone in a box with a dead watch - Attendees needed to figure out that the passcode to unlock the phone was the time on the watch.
● Hidden message in Asset Protection Training materials - Attendees needed to find the training materials in the recycle bin and locate the page that was highlighted and written backwards.
● Bottom of Basket Mirror in room - Use the mirror in the room to decode the message which instructs them to scan UPCs to identify passcode to computer
● Scan the correct UPC on photos located in the room and provide correct code to facilitator to unlock laptop
● Once in laptop, follow directions to the shrink dashboard to locate a certain number.
● Find number in the room which is on a shelf tag photo- look closely and the shelf tag provides all the information needed to find Genetec video.
● Navigate to the video, observe thief removing spider wrap from TV, placing key in his pocket, and exiting out the back door.
● Locate key to lockbox in facilitator’s pocket
● Unlock lockbox and remove S3 Key
● Note from the video which TV was stolen and remove the spider wrap
● Open the TV and find the code to the door
● Insert the code to the door and escape the room.
The other important part of the design process is to ensure that clues and puzzles are not completely linear. Step 1, Step 2, Step 3. In order to make it fun and engaging, you should design it in a manner where Step 1 and Step 3 could be followed and can still get you to a major tollgate and the end of the game. In my room, attendees could have found the training guide in the room before solving the crossword puzzle, but they needed to find the phone before they could move forward.
Decorate the Room
The best escape rooms are decorated in order to enhance the overall experience. Being in a sterile conference room made it a little difficult to decorate, but being creative and using your resources will allow you to still convey the central theme. In my room, I took photos of Shrink related items within our stores and posted them throughout the conference room. I then filled the room with high value/high theft items, merchandise protection, recycle bin, clocks, mirrors, and other asset protection related props like keys and training materials that did not correlate to the clues.
Dry Run
The importance of a dry run cannot be overstated. Things may make sense in your mind but you can see where things may be disconnected when you have a test group participate in a dry run. This is also the perfect time to make adjustments in order to make the room more or less difficult.
Let the Fun Begin
As participants entered the room and began the process of identifying, investigating, and solving the shrink clues, I took great joy in watching the teams come together and solve the clues and escape the room. Each team was timed and a fun group photo was taken with the participants. At the end of each session, I used the final minutes to discuss how the clues they were given related to what they see in the real world and how our teams can feel when they are told to solve shrink without being given specific directions. Overall, I believe the Escape Shrink Room achieved the goal of breaking from the norm, engaging attendees, and provided information that will be retained.
In the end, I believe that anyone can break from the norm and use creative methods (like escape rooms) to present information to attendees

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