Here’s a fun bit of trivia for you. The human brain weighs about three pounds. So next time you step on the scale, keep that fact in mind. You can subtract those extra three pounds the scale is showing, because it’s probably just your brain. But don’t let that convince you that your brain doesn’t need exercise. Obviously, weight loss is not the concern here, but toning it, shaping it, and keeping it fit are essential to your well-being! Mental fitness leads to improved memory, quicker thinking, and prolonged mental health. As the founder of DFW Scavenger Hunt, where we build challenges to help teams exercise both their brains and their bodies, I know a bit about how all this works.
One of the best ways to exercise your brain is through puzzles. Do you like jigsaws? Crosswords? Riddles? It doesn’t really matter which kind of puzzle you’re tackling, it’s the challenge that matters to your grey matter. And just like in any activity, practice makes – well, if not perfect, then certainly better. You’re sharpening your acuity, honing your skills.
Best of all, practicing with fun puzzles develops the skills needed to apply to bigger, less fun puzzles when they come up in business. If you’ve prepared your brain, the bigger challenges will seem smaller. After all, what’s a balance sheet if not a more convoluted version of Sudoku? Isn’t that office seating plan just a bigger kind of jigsaw puzzle? And that project development map? OK, that’s more like twelve puzzles at once, all completed while balancing on a tightrope above a lava pit.
Let’s put it into practice. Here’s a quick puzzle to stimulate your thinking.
Rearrange the letters of each of the following clues to create a list of related items. The answers are at the end of this piece (And probably right in front of you).
How’d it go? That’s a puzzle that tests your brain’s ability to manipulate symbols (the letters) and form new combinations. Trying to determine the relation between the items builds categorization skills. There’s a memory test in there as well. You’re putting several skills to work at the same time. Feel the burn!
Healthy brains do better work. You offer ergonomic seating in the office, but are you fostering mental wellness among your employees as well? Challenge your teams with puzzles and games and watch as they thrive and their work improves.
Meanwhile, it goes without saying that teams that overcome challenges together become stronger. That’s why team building is a thing. Finding opportunities to bring your staff together in a surprising way will build their bonds, strengthen their relationships, and make them cheerleaders for each other.
Here’s another puzzle. This one is has trivia elements, but also tests memory, spatial relationships, and organizational skills. The answers are found at the end of this piece. Ready?
There are just two pairs of US states that A) Share a land border and B) Appear consecutively in an alphabetical list. Can you name the four states?
It’s ok if you need to look at a list, or a map, or both. Better to look something up than sulk away frustrated.
Another way to get people’s minds going is to put them in an unfamiliar situation. I always shower with my eyes closed – not because I’m still waking up, but because it adds a small challenge every morning, forcing the brain to work just a little harder. I’m working on spatial relationships, memory, and planning, all while I’m doing something I would be doing anyway. Is it going to turn me into a super genius? Trick question, I already am one. But it’s the element of the unfamiliar that’s important here.
Taking people outside the workplace is a great way to introduce the unfamiliar in a fun way. (The flip side of the fear of the unfamiliar is that old cliché, variety is the spice of life.) Mix it up, get outside, do something different. Sure, they’re getting their minds off work, but the work they’re doing – cleverly disguised as play – is getting their minds ready to do so much more. Is this a dirty trick? No. Your employees know what you’re up to, and they don’t care. In fact, they love it.
There’s something about being out of the office that feels liberating. Besides, studies have shown that being outdoors in nature relaxes us, increases our attention span, and strengthens feelings of unity with our neighbors.
It’s something we’ve seen proven over and over in our work at DFW Scavenger Hunt. We create events that challenge the mind through play, we celebrate the philosophy of making people better. Time after time, teams have come away feeling better about one themselves and one another. We believe that thinking outside the box starts with thinking outside.
A scavenger hunt combines a wide variety of puzzles, forcing the brain to try different ways of thinking simultaneously. A good scavenger hunt will involve wordplay, trivia, and tests of observation, not to mention challenges that work the creative muscles. Working as a team strengthens those social bonds and brings people closer. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s some exercise for the body involved too, as teams get on their feet and out of doors.
Ready for another puzzle? Maybe this time, try it with your colleagues. This one challenges your verbal skills, sharpens your memory, and builds your focus. The answers can be found at the bottom of this piece.
Each trio of clues leads to three words. The second word can be formed by adding a letter to the first, and the third by adding one letter to the second. For example, if you saw “Automobile; Attention; Frighten,” you’d answer CAR; CARE; SCARE. This is another great one to try as a group. (Remember, solving puzzles together strengthens social bonds.)
1. Carton; Social class; Fortress
2. Footwear; Push; Garden tool
3. Knot; Layer; Jungle cat
4. Sacred; Festive plant; Entirely
Finding ways for your team to get up and get thinking is good for you and good for them. The mental skills you develop are crucial to your health as well as your career, and the shared challenges inevitably bring people closer together. Collaboration in an unexpected environment presents opportunities to showcase skills previously unused – or unrealized! By fostering opportunities for your team to think in new, fun ways, you build goodwill, good health, and good times.
Here’s one more tough question for you: what are you waiting for?
Answers to the puzzles
Puzzle #1 Florida and Georgia, Illinois and Indiana
Puzzle #2 Chrome, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, Photoshop (Common computer programs)
Puzzle #3 CASE, CASTE, CASTLE; SHOE, SHOVE; SHOVEL; TIE, TIER, TIGER; HOLY, HOLLY, WHOLLY
It's been a while since I gave you a good old-fashioned puzzle to solve, so I'm remedying that today.
In each clue below, remove one letter. Then, scramble (or unscramble?) the remaining letters to form a new word or phrase. If you've done it right, the items in the resulting list will share something in common, and the removed letters will spell, in order, a word that's related to the list.
Perhaps you were at Klyde Warren Park. Or the Arboretum. Or a restaurant, like Hat Creek. And you heard the name of your hometown being hollered across the lawn. Is this about me? Does someone recognize me from high school? And then you see the kid. The kid responding “what, mom?” It’s happened again. You’ve seen another case of a kid named for a Texas town! They’re all over DFW. And they can rep any hometown. Which is why we now present the top 17 kid names inspired by Dallas-area towns.
By the way, if you’re looking for Lucas, Celeste, Lillian, Aubrey, Anna, or Melissa, they’re not here because whether it’s true or not, they sound more “people names that inspired Texas town names” than the other way around. But don't assume the parents weren't inspired by a sign off the highway. Ready for a little road trip? Here we go!
Ah, sweet little Addison. Like the spot that inspired her, she's gotten a lot cooler than she used to be, and she's really into food. Unlike the town, the food is mostly Goldfish and fruit snacks.
This kid had a belt buckle on his diapers, and his face is recreated -- quite well! -- in tattoo form on his dad's thigh.
Yep, he's clever, like a coyote, though it usually manifests in mischief. So, like the coyote. Do not accept any packages from ACME.
Celina is number one in her dance class, even though they don't actually rank the dancers at her age. She just decided it.
Ever been at the State Fair, enjoying some funnel cake, and a kid walks by tugging a sheep on a rope? That's Forney.
You can find Cash reading Mo Willems at The Wild Detectives, wearing an Old 97's shirt and Honest Company diapers. He has a better haircut than you.
Don't assume you know anything about little Rowlett. He brews his own tea and his favorite show is The Good Fight.
Boyd, in about 4 years, you're gonna be QB whether you like it or not.
Whitt could do that thing where you slap your fingers on the top of a can of dip before he turned seven. He loves Big Red.
Brock is already wearing a Vineyard Vines Polo and a Patagonia vest. Can currently be found knocking over the younger kids at the Arboretum Children's Garden.
Parker is an Instagram influencer with over 12,000 followers, about 2000 for every year she's been alive. She exclusively wears yellow.
Ever since Cooper realized that his name meant barrelmaker, he's done everything he can to live up to his name. Go Cooper go!
Weston is so mean. Just the meanest, and everyone loves her.
Murphy is the most laid-back kid you'll ever meet. Catch him at the sandbox at The Lot, just pouring sand on his toes.
Despite what her name implies, Godley is a little hellion. She loves bottle rockets and steals gum from Dollar General. Banned from the Perot.
Garrett is several decades younger than you and still managed to whip you in Fortnite.
Merilee finished the DFW Scavenger Hunt in record time, and then went to give the other teams hints, and not even in a condescending way. Super cool kid.