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Elementary, My Dear Watson

It's an air-tight case: Staging business-related mystery events proves positive!

There was no mystery about Michael Gordon's motives for gathering Angelo Gordon & Co.'s employees together. The New York City investment firm's co-owner and COO wanted to give his 40 employees an evening of socializing, relationship-building and fun. The time and date were set. The place: a New York City restaurant. Which left only one question--who done it?

Five years ago, Gordon, now 54, held a corporate mystery event. Over dinner, his employees were challenged to solve a make-believe murder staged by hired actors as part of an exercise in team-building, problem-solving and icebreaking. "It was very good," reports Gordon. "Everyone got involved, and it was a fun, relaxing night."

It turns out plenty of other corporate types have been sleuthing in the name of management. Companies such as Dell Computer, Samsung Semiconductor and Hershey Chocolate are just a few of the name-brand firms that have hired one of the burgeoning number of theatrical companies that mix mystery with business goals. And the idea works just as well for entrepreneurial firms.

The combination is a legitimate one, says Austin, Texas, communications consultant Lynn Segall. Although sleuthing might seem far removed from everyday management practices, placing employees in the middle of a pseudo-mystery is, if nothing else, a great way to engage their attention while imparting a bottom-line business message. And, Segall notes, "The amount of information you [need to dispense these days] is so overwhelming, any chance to plug entertainment into training is a plus."

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This article was originally published in the March 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Elementary, My Dear Watson.

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