Day 2 in Telluride – still inspired by the snow-capped mountains hugging the valley and icy snowmelt rivers and streams criss-crossing hills and valley floor.

It’s the perfect setting to get outdoors and play some games.  While I initially was hesitant about the learning value of games, I quickly discovered that I love games.  It’s fun to immediately bond with your teammates that share a common purpose, to strategize, and test how successful your strategies were.

By this point, we’ve played the domino game and teeter-totter.  Domino Game: can 2 people set up a domino pattern, where one person sees the pattern and can talk, the other cannot see the pattern or talk.  Variation on round 3: both can talk.  Teeter-totter: get 7 people balanced on a beam across a cinder block.  2 people remain off the beam and can observe/instruct.  Eggs are placed underneath the ends of the beam, with adorable faces drawn on them.  Great sadness ensues if you crush an egg.

To acheive the goal, the games require planning a solid approach, excellent communication, and trust that whoever can see the bigger picture (whether the domino pattern or the full line-up entering the teeter-totter) will make a good call, relay instructions well, and in the cases where feedback is allowed, adjust the approach appropriately.

These were games, and as such, designed to be fun in addition to educational.  However, quality improvement initiatives at work are often viewed as onerous requirements from a source unfamiliar with the day to day work.  Why should they be?  They have the same elements of games.  You have a team united around a common goal, certain strategies will enhance chances of success, and in a hospital, feedback is immediate.

We may not want to call patient safety a ‘game’, but we can work to ensure that we view the pursuit of patient safety as a common goal, where certain approaches have been demonstrated to work well (buy-in acheived by working with the team to develop the approach), and the ultimate goal is not completion of a random requirement, but the goal we all seek: the patient recovering.