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16th September 2019

Heathrow staff play Operation Mindfall

Operation Mindfall can work in any business environment… including the busiest airport in Europe

Playing a game where the objective is to save the world from a brain-infecting virus is a far cry from the normal daily life of an airport. Working with the public in a busy environment with stringent safety protocols does not always leave a lot of time to play games. Especially one involving a suspicious package… but we did it anyway. 

Earlier this year we teamed up with Learning and Development consultant Laura Thomson and the staff at Heathrow Airport to see how Operation Mindfall could be used as a powerful learning tool within a broader leadership development programme. As well as providing colleagues with a fun activity, we look at how it helped reinforce the operational goals, how much preparation was involved in taking part and how armed police and thousands of holidaymakers added to the immersion.

Gearing up for growth with the senior leadership team

A spy wearing shades holding up an Operation Mindfall mysterious game attaché case.

Operation Mindfall was the final section of a two day workshop entitled ‘Gearing Up For Growth’. This was created by Laura Thomson to provide senior leadership teams the time and space to engage with the stretching goals of the 2020’s and discuss how to involve and inspire their teams to achieve them. Laura ran (and invited us to join) five sessions of the workshop, and  for different departments and for her, it’s essential to include a playful element into the day to help maintain energy levels, boost morale and bring all the content themes to life in a fun way, she said:

“The Gearing Up For Growth programme was about being future-focused, embracing technology, energised teamwork, collaborative decision-making and solving problems under pressure, so Operation Mindfall was the perfect way to wrap things up.”

Why gamification was the right move for the Heathrow team

Spy friends working together to solve a mind-boggling mystery game

We’ve already talked about gamification in the workplace, and how immersive gaming improves employee morale and boosts productivity. So how did it help Europe’s biggest airport? Laura explains:

“We found it such a brilliant way to stretch and practice all the behaviours we had been talking about. It was a great way to test the collective cognitive muscle.” 

Being able to improve teamwork, develop critical thinking and practice dynamic risk assessment are valuable benefits in their own right. Maximising individual employees skills and managing blindspots helps to build effective teams, especially during times of rapid change and disruption. 

A versatile skill set is certainly helpful for both working at Heathrow and taking on Operation Mindfall but the game’s overriding value is in getting everyone in a team involved, energised and entertained, Laura said:

What I loved about this was the science and tech vibe to it. Regardless of background, people engage with the dramatic Hollywood-style doomsday scenario better than a routine business challenge. I just love how this captivated young and old because it is fun, provocative and different.”

Driving employee engagement through difference

brighton operation mindfall summer game

It is widely accepted and understood that having an engaged a workforce is key to running a successful company. Beyond replacing every employee with a drone (which is definitely not the best idea for a workplace like Heathrow) the reality is that bulk standard training and social activities will not do the trick. Actually engaging your workforce can be challenging if most of the sessions or ideas are repetitive, predictable or ‘so last year’. Captivating a group with an air of realism seemed to be key to Operation Mindfall’s success at Heathrow. The fact that it was wildly different made all the difference to the team. Sue Ruston, Learning & Development Manager at Heathrow said:

The team knew the minute they walked in the door this was going to be a different end to the day to what they were expecting.”  

If it can work at Heathrow Airport, it can work anywhere – and the environment may even be incorporated into the game itself. Laura added:

“It was such a laugh having the actor which made all the difference as it meant as the facilitator I could focus on the dynamics to reflect upon later knowing that they were in charge of the game.” 

A productive session with added perks for Heathrow staff

heathrow team building escape game

All in all it was a successful session and Operation Mindfall was a great addition to the final day. Laura explains:

“It required some preparation! Not helped by the fact that on our first event there was a real-life security situation taking place so we needed to renegotiate the game route with the armed police.  The aim for any Heathrow colleague is to enhance passenger experience and we did have some fun with the T3 arrivals passengers when one of the team was pretending to be a taxi driver from Fox Travel Agency!”

The leadership team at Heathrow were thrilled with the outcome and loved the unexpected twist. Saving the world from a brain infecting virus certainly wasn’t on their checklist for the day, but they all rose to the challenge and walked away with a revived sense of teamwork and fulfillment. Sue added:

“The work that the leadership teams deliver everyday can be intense and carry a lot of responsibility, so it’s important to add an element of fun to training days and workshops. We all thoroughly enjoyed our Operation Mindfall mission and would highly recommend it for any businesses that want to give their teams an added morale boost with a twist.”

Want to add something truly unique to your next training session?

brighton summer thingstodo operation mindfall

If we can make it work in a live airport terminal we can make it work anywhere. Just imagine the fun you could have in a head office, a hotel or even a stately home? No matter the location we can unlock potential through the flexibility set-up options the game provides.  Forget expensive venues – you could be in a budget place and feel that visceral gaming buzz. 

To find out more about Operation Mindfall or get in touch to enquire about your next team building event you can visit our website or contact