The Great Delhi Run–How FITology used an Alternate Reality Game to Break the Ice

Adventures @ FITology | #1 – The Great Delhi Run | Alternate Reality Game

This article was written by Saamir Gupta, Founder of FITology. (See bottom of article for full bio.)

Day 1: 7:00 pm, Hotel ITC, Delhi

Imagine, you have taken a long flight to India. This is your first evening in Delhi and you are having dinner with your colleagues from all round the world. You are part of this pool of 20 senior management handpicked to start a new business model for your company. And your discussions with them, as a team start tomorrow. But instead of the work agenda for the next day, at the dinner table, you are handed this brief –

No thrones to be fought, yet forts shall be conquered

No wishes unfulfilled, to every god we shall pray

No damsel in distress, still the streets shall be explored

The battleground is set – Indraprastha as they used to say

Guerreiors brace yourself, for what glory beholds,

The reward unlocks, as the day unfolds,

Keep friends close but enemies closer

After all, beggars are not choosers!

… what would you first thoughts be?

We wanted to surprise this team of 20 very talented people – generate anxiousness, catch them off-guard and put them to test in an unknown, unfamiliar territory.

The company had invested a lot in these top performers and these people were coming together for the first time to work together and execute one of the key strategic plans of the company.

We wanted to make sure that we break the ice between them – to an extend that they understand each other, strengths and shortcomings and learn to collaborate to find solutions in time of adversities. At the same time we wanted them to get to know a bit more of the culture of Delhi and have some fun.

We created an alternate reality game – The Great Delhi Run. A day long game with series of tasks to be performed in and around central Delhi. All the 20 participants were broken in teams of 5 and the following first clue was given to them.

To reach the starting point, link

·       If on Earth be an Eden of Bliss, it is this, it is this, none but this

·       Lahore Gate

·       Peacock Throne

We will see you at 6:00 am sharp with more details 

We nowhere mentioned that participation was necessary. By default, each participant was already allocated a group. And to their surprise, they were already seated on their dinner tables that night (while this game was being announced) in the order of their teams. Clever and a bit spooky. And everyone was participating, the managers among this pool of 20 were in teams too and the rules were same for everyone. We had planned teams in such a manner that every team had at least one person from India or someone who could speak local language. This was to give teams bit of confidence that the tasks tomorrow morning would be doable and they won’t be completely helpless.

No one objected, there was a murmur in the room, people up on phones checking google for the clues. It had already begun!

Day 2: 6:00 am, Red Fort, Delhi

Old Delhi, the Red Fort area is undoubtedly the best place that captures the essence of Indian History, it’s Secularism and the thriving Culture! At a stone’s throw distance you will find a Hindu Temple, a Jain Temple, a Sikh Gurudwara, a Baptist Church and a Mosque (one of the biggest in the country). The small lanes carving out of the road lead to hidden famous residences of poets and writers from the 18th century. There are shops of Indian delicacies running from the last 200 – 300 years. And at the heart of it all you can board on an underground metro and be at any other modern Delhi station in just 5 – 10 minutes.

We wanted our teams to experience all of it! We wanted to do it while engaging them in a game like setting where they were motivated to complete the game.

The game went on like this – we gave them a bunch of six tasks within three different buckets, to be done within specific time and with specific money. The idea was to experience as much of India as possible in as less time and money as possible. Each successful and fastest completion of task earned them some points and the team with maximum points at the end of allocated time, wins.

Touristy 6 – 

Get your selfies clicked at the famous old Delhi monument

Foodie 6 –

Tantalize your taste buds with Delhi’s most sought-after street food

Crazy 6 –

whackiest activities which you can only experience in old Delhi

With the following guidelines –

·       Each team has only INR1000 and 6 hours to complete all the tasks.

·       Only one member from your team can retain her/his mobile device with working whatsapp. We will do all co-ordination via whatsapp group – the Great Delhi Run

·       Each team should complete the task by sending a selfie with at least four of the members of the team doing the task. The selfies are to be uploaded on whatsapp group

·       Team that does a task first, gets maximum points (5,3,1 for rank 1,2,3). Team which does all activities in a specific bucket gets extra 5 points.

Day 2: 12 noon, Connaught Place, Delhi

After having eaten the famous street food (paraanthe waali gali), having haggled with the local vendors to purchase handicrafts, having learnt hindi words from locals, having visited five different religious prayer places and managing rickshaw / metro rides around Delhi in the limited money; all the participants bore a big smile as they assimilated in their teams at the place of final activity.

We did not attribute any extrinsic reward to the game – there was no promotion at stake, no heft cash prize for the team which gets first spot. We built the game around basics of self-determination theory – relatedness, autonomy and competence.

Relatedness – we set up this whole dramatic, secretive construct with a story and clues, in the centre of old Delhi! The purpose was to work together with the team in a very different and fun setting.

Autonomy – teams could choose whatever tasks they wanted to / did not want to do. They could all together skip some tasks or 4 out of 5 members could do specific tasks if one did not want to and still have a chance to win (physical constraints, religious beliefs, dietary constraints).

Competence – each team was at the same level footing, no team had an added advantage over the other. There was a lot of strategic planning element to the game – teams could plan how to judiciously use the given resources in the given time to earn maximum possible points. And all the participants do strategic planning exercises for their businesses day in and day out. This was pretty much home coming, in terms of skill requirements.

The Outcome

They knew each other very well by now. We did a bit of debrief to understand what worked for the winning team and what did not work well for the losing team. Team work, compassion, empathy, thinking out of the box, coming out of the comfort zone – were some of the key learnings. The difference being, it was not put on a slide and explained to these participants, they had realized these themselves while they bonded as a unit.

Saamir is the founder of FITology. He creates alternate reality games to nudge people towards a healthier lifestyle. Over the last five years, he has developed and executed fun, engaging and gamified concepts for people across geographies, cultures and ages. As an ex-strategy consultant, he has advised world’s largest oil, chemicals and electricity companies on growth, cost reduction and operations optimization. He is also a Crossfit L1 Trainer, ACE Certified Group Instructor and trained dancer & actor. He loves to travel around the world and make new friends.

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One thought on “The Great Delhi Run–How FITology used an Alternate Reality Game to Break the Ice”

  1. Incredible work, love it!
    Use of Self-determination theory in gamification is so logic when you think about it.
    Is there any plan to check effects in the long run?

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