What is a Scavenger Hunt?
The scavenger hunt is a game where someone gives you a list of unusual objects, and you or a team have to run around attempting to find them. Scavenger hunts aren’t just fun but teach teamwork, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. That’s why we list scavenger hunts as one of our top team building games. Read ahead: a scavenger hunt could be your next big play in team building.
Facts About Scavenger Hunts
The origins of the scavenger hunt could be ancient. Markus Montola, a scholar of games, argues they may have ancient roots. They likely evolved alongside treasure hunts, where participants would search for a valuable item.
Despite these ancient origins, many people credit the columnist Elsa Maxwell with inventing scavenger hunts in the 1930s. She designed them for New York’s wealthy and famous inhabitants. They’d go out in search of zany and borderline criminal experiences, such as picking fights with police officers and terrorizing monkeys and goats in the middle of the night. Its salacious, exclusive quality made the scavenger hunt a national trend.
Scavenger hunts can happen anywhere. It doesn’t matter. The famous University of Chicago “ScavHunt” takes place across multiple states, as people go searching for items. You can design a hunt in a park or a city, or you can expand the hunt into international and online territory. And that means you have a lot of creative power in however you design them. (Looking for scavenger hunt ideas for adults? Check out our games page.)
The name “scavenger hunt” comes from scavenger animals like raccoons. While raccoons go scavenging for food, we go scavenging for clues. Curiously, both raccoons and humans are omnivores. There’s a chance that scavenger hunts connect us with our wild state. Indeed, evidence suggests that early humans survived by scavenging for skeletons and eating their bone marrow. Are scavenger hunts paleo? 🤔
World Record for Largest Scavenger Hunt? In 2014 Provo, Utah, hosted the world’s most massive scavenger hunt. There were 2079 participants. The city named this hunt the “Passport to Provo,” and designed it with help from Google and other companies.
In 2012, eBay threw a “backroads” themed scavenger hunt with cash prizes. They set aside $200,000 to reward participants. eBay designed the hunt so that customers would venture into unexplored parts of the site, and get a sense for what eBay could offer them. Ebay’s move shows that scavenger hunts aren’t just an excellent technique for building teams, but a valuable promotional activity as well.
Scavenger Hunts Have Three Significant Team Building Advantages.
1) Problem-solving skills. Scavenger hunts make people think outside of their normal cognition. Participants leave their mental routines and enter what behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls “Cognition B.” Cognition B is our reflective, non-automatic mode of thinking, which lets us form new patterns. Over time, these patterns may actually hardwire themselves into our synapses. By placing team members in an unfamiliar environment to solve a problem, you are helping them form new problem-solving habits, which will transfer into the workplace.
2) Body and Mind Exercise. Scavenger hunts exercise the body as well as the mind. Psychologists agree, more than almost any other intervention, physical exercise improves mental performance. By putting your team members in a situation where they have to run around, you are giving them their best chance to operate at their peak intellectual functioning. And like the problem-solving skills, these moments of high intellectual achievement can have lasting benefits on your employees and your workplace. Plus, people who experience peak cognitive performance will form positive memories of that experience. These memories bond them with other participants and help build the bedrock of a positive mindset.
3) Teamwork. Scavenger hunts teach teams to work together. To succeed, team members need to communicate, make decisions, delegate tasks, and form team strategies. Combined with the endorphins and cognitive heights, these benefits can be very long-lasting. Try to maximize this impact by selecting scavenger hunts with an emphatically team-based design.
Scavenger hunts satisfy our caveman roots and cognitive machinery. If you schedule a scavenger hunt for your team, you are choosing to support them at deep and multiple levels. That’s a loving gesture, and your team will notice.
If you’re interested in getting started, fill out our contact card, and we’ll connect with you as soon as possible to show off our CityHunt Scavenger Hunts. We designed our hunts based on research in positive psychology at Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania. We’d love to share what we know. Fill out that contact card, and we’ll get started today.