A Comparison of Lost Dutchman and Gold of the Desert Kings

Customers and prospects are regularly asking me to compare our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine (Lost Dutchman or LDGM) to other products and approaches to building teamwork and improving organizational performance. We have already published articles on our blog about outdoor exercises and the general marketplace and I will continue to build on this thread.

In particular, we are often asked about Eagle Flight's Gold of the Desert Kings (GDK) and how it and LDGM are different from each other and what we see as the benefits of each to an end user.

These are two different games from two separate vendors with two distinct approaches to organizational improvement, game design, pricing, marketing and organizational support. Your purchase decision should be made on the perceived value and benefits that accrue to your product selection.

People find that on a point-by-point comparison, LDGM offers a variety of advantages in terms of cost, ease of use, flexibility and impact. This article and the chart below will attempt to compare the two exercises and your comments and thoughts would be welcome so that we might offer further or more complete discussions and clarifications.

It has been years since I've had any direct personal experience with GDK but I have had conversations with dozens of Dutchman users who have used GDK or experienced deliveries both of these exercises - thus they shared their thoughts on the comparisons. I actually got a confirming email from a European licensee the day after updating this comparison -- he confirmed all of my key points and wants to get Dutchman and translate.

While I am not claiming that these going-forward comments are precisely accurate, they do reflect what we know with a solid base of available information and my comments are offered as an honest comparison.

A variety of testimonials follow the body of this comparison.

A Comparison Chart between LDGM and GDK

Go to our website to order The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

Clarification and Explanation:

PMC sells Lost Dutchman without a lot of encumbering restrictions on use or deployment:

PMC has a collaborative, global network of users who share ideas and opportunities. From this base, we've designed versions of Dutchman that be can be used for impacting specific desired learning outcomes, such as a High Risk Version or a High Collaboration Version. We have programs tightly linked to Project Management and Strategic Management Training, for example. There is even a “Low-Collaboration Version” for use with groups such as real-estate or outside sales organizations where teamwork and collaboration are less important factors than in most organizations.

The game play of LDGM does not punish mistakes by the death of a team. In Dutchman, all of the teams are successful and some of the teams are simply more successful if they do a better job of initial strategic planning and if they collaborate and share information between tabletops.

Dutchman was designed as a training game with the specific goal of it being used as a tool to improve organizational results. It has a fun theme but the theme is NOT the main factor in delivery. Dutchman was designed with 20 days of 2 minutes each as opposed to GDK which has 25 days of 3 minutes each. The extra 35 minutes reduction in “play” time is much more useful as part of the debriefing time than as part of the theatre, in our opinion (and the opinion of many users of both exercises).

Lost Dutchman offers purchasers numerous benefits in delivery because the game:

Has metaphors relating play to business themes and contains no factors simply meant to distract teams from important issues. The metaphors are clearly designed and implemented.

My debriefings of GDK were always difficult, since the role of the Expedition Leader was intentionally not clearly defined as helpful and collaborative and the information that was available to teams was sometimes either confusing or meaningless, such as the Old Man or the Weight Cards in GDK. Teams could die, for example, which always complicated the discussions and gave unpredictable debriefing dynamics.

In the design of Dutchman, we wanted to focus clearly and cleanly on the debriefing outcomes and wanted the Expedition Leadership to model competencies. Leadership is focused on optimizing outcomes and results and in helping teams be more successful.

We offer teams access, for example, to Turbochargers, a best practice metaphor that allows them to go twice as fast during the journey. We also offer them extra Turbos that can be shared with other tabletops, much like a Best Practice can be shared. There is no such type of structure in most other games or in GDK.

• Has a leader whose role is to help teams be successful

Lost Dutchman has leadership who will assist the teams, encouraging them to plan and offering them resources when they are in trouble. “The Role of the Expedition Leader is to help teams be successful” is clearly defined and explicit in the introduction of the exercise as well as in the support materials.

• Is structured so that teams can benefit clearly and measurably by collaboration

Teams are encouraged to collaborate and results are measured. Some resources are designed specifically to be shared and to benefit other teams with sub-optimized and measurable results if they are hoarded. The Goal to "Mine as Much Gold as We Can,” is the major theme of a program - it is not about one team winning and it is about optimizing and maximizing the results for the Expedition Leader, who furnishes the teams the information, resources, systems and processes and the other structure needed to succeed.

The focus is on optimizing overall results and accomplishments, on sharing information and resources and on asking for help, assistance and guidance from the Leadership. It is not focused on who is the winner and who are the losers…

• Is flexible in its delivery design and debriefing

We designed the game to have a number of flexible features. This is especially true in our Professional Version but we have options like the Maximizing Profitability Option and the Single Turbo Option that lend neat flexibility to the deliveries.

• Is easily used by consultants and easy to design into programs with other materials and content - we actively support such efforts and are open to new design ideas and features that can be incorporated into the game

Having a background of organizational consulting and training, I had routinely used different products and services and blended them into different packages for use by clients. Lost Dutchman was designed as a tool for such integration from the beginning - it was NOT as a stand-alone event, even though it works really well for that purpose. Thus, the design has many excellent links to a variety of debriefing themes and the exercise easily integrates into other organizational development content. It is a favorite tool of organizational consultants, as you can see from the included testimonials.

Clients use this exercise as a kickoff event for a multi-day leadership program, or as part of a new employee orientation program where the corporate theme is collaboration and teamwork. It can be used in schools with students as well as faculty as a way of teaching the benefits of participative learning or for improving communications. While the design is simple and straightforward, that simplicity lends itself to using the exercise in many different contexts.

• Has content that links to our Square Wheels tools

Lost Dutchman has the metaphor of vehicles (and thus Square and Round Wheels), Mud, and other themes that make it link seamlessly to our other materials. The training metaphors are clear and the debriefing can easily link to issues of workplace improvement, change, intrinsic motivation and other themes that are forefront in our Square Wheels approach to organizational improvement.

We continue to build links between our different products to make them more usable and to build on the common threads. Our Collaboration Journey games, for example, focus on tabletop collaboration and have no focus in inter-table issues.

In our Innovate & Implement program, we have a tabletop game focused on innovating and improving the performance of the team at the table. It also focuses on intra-team dynamics more than inter-table competition. This one comes bundled with a set of Square Wheels toolkits to use the game as a metaphor for looking for and implementing improvements.

Seven Seas Quest was designed specifically as a follow-up exercise for Lost Dutchman although it works extremely well as a lower-cost alternative to Dutchman for large groups. It reinforces many of the same key learning points about handling information, collaborating across teams, and optimizing overall results.

All of our games build on our philosophy of continuous continuous improvement and are designed so that all teams are successful. The facilitator's designed role is to support the team and its efforts, one that is congruent with most leadership models. The exercises all link to common issues of collaboration and innovation and engagement. All are designed to allow solid debriefings that link to organizational improvement issues and opportunities. We see the games as tools to enable organizational development and to allow engageability.

We focus on engaging people to solve problems and work together to achieve results. The exercises focus on alignment and congruent behavior and the fact that all of us know more than any one of us.

The exercises are all “one-time-cost” and reusable. You do not have to continue to pay us for each participant or for annual licenses or other kinds of material support. There are many users who have been using our products for 15+ years and who continue to send us strong testimonials as well as new ideas for improvement.

You can get information on GDK from Eagle's Flight by contacting them directly. You will not find much information online about their exercise, the design, the costs or the impacts as compared to what you can find out about other exercises in the marketplace.

Our approach at PMC is to openly share a great deal of information about the design features of our various products. An informed customer is a better customer and it makes sense that by our openly showing prices and other benefits in working with us for your organizational improvement, you'll be better equipped to make a sound decision.


Consultant and trainer experienced with both products

“Lost Dutchman is a truly great design and builds on clear themes and components that allow for easy debriefing. It is tight but also flexible and the debriefings can go in many different directions. I know both “The Search for the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine” and “Gold of the Desert Kings” very well and the Dutchman simulation has better capabilities of dealing in a variety of different management initiatives such as Teambuilding, Leadership, Planning, Resource Management, Time Management and most importantly, Collaboration.

The Lost Dutchman Expedition Leader can truly model supporting and engaging participants in collaborating. In GDK, the role is much more about competition since the leader encourages winning as individual teams rather than the entire group working together to achieve productivity and profitability. Lost Dutchman's design is also much more pragmatic and realistic, where GDK approach seems to me to be much more limited in scope.

I have used both for over 20 years and most organizations that I consult with seem to prefer Lost Dutchman due to the concept of collaboration versus competition.

Testimonial from a consultant user in Greece:

Greatest value of the game is its flexibility and the ease in which it engages participants. Suitable for virtually any training objective since the feedback options are limitless and through the group dynamics any issue can be tackled from role conflict to leadership vacuum to poor communication patterns. Dutchman is flexible also in terms of adjusting to crowd size and time constraints. All in all a great (and fun!) tool for any trainer or company!

Comments from a consultant in Singapore:

I have been using the Lost Dutchman for 15 years and it never fails as a business simulation to stimulate the participants and create excellent learning.

Its close link to business reality makes it a winner as well as the energy it creates. I have run it at 8pm at night after a full day and the energy is just as good as at 8am.

Key uses of the game are for implementation of strategy, communication among teams, understanding indicators and ROI.

Comments from a consultant user in Raleigh:

This product is an essential resource for any team builder's tool kit. Experientially based, it encompasses just about every process issue a team encounters: planning, communication, risk taking, decision making, competition and collaboration just to name a few. It's one of my favorite team process tools!

Comments from a consultant user in Sydney:

Dear prospector--would like to share with you how we have enjoyed outstanding success with 'the Dutchman' in our Australian Tier One telecommunications provider. We initially piloted the activity across 30 senior managers as an icebreaker to a two-day strategic conference. Outcome?

The activity highlighted how much we could improve through better collaboration, teamwork & communication via a competitive high-energy experiential exercise. We have now purchased a second kit and adapted it as our innovative cultural alignment exercise across 600 customer service people to allow them to live & breathe the impacts of ownership, teamwork & communication with incredible success. Highly recommended.

Comments from a consultant user in Illinois:

Simply Superb! We use this program all over the country with our clients and it is ALWAYS rated as one of the best programs delivered. Works in all types of companies and drives organizations toward Collaboration and Teamwork! The debrief options allow you to fully customize the delivery to any audience. Well designed and easy to deliver. That, combined with all of the knowledge and support of Dr. Scott, and you have the best Team Building simulations out there... BAR NONE!

Comments from a consultant user in Australia:

I stumbled on Lost Dutchman some years ago and after quite a lot of research, invested in the package. I'm very pleased I did and it has become a very useful tool in my range of professional development offerings.

I've used it with Corporate, Government and Education markets.

The Gold is in the debriefing that you do after the exercise and if I had any criticism of the product, it would be that you are given so many options and alternatives for this, it can be difficult at first honing in on the best approach to take.

Comments from a consultant user in Florida:

We purchased this product for an offsite meeting to discuss Resource allocation and Collaboration. The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine was a breeze to facilitate. The participants loved it and more importantly walked away with lessons that they were immediately able to apply back at the office. The slides and materials allow you to guide the group in almost any direction imaginable. I am still getting comments weeks after the session about the impact it made on the business and the improved performance. Dutchman is a small investment that generates huge results.

Go to our website to order The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine


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