Beeping Squares

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Life often presents us with unknown challenges where the right course of action isn’t clear until after we’ve made a move


You must be wondering what I’m about to dive into with ‘Beeping Squares’. It’s a clever team exercise also dubbed the ‘Electric Maze’, concocted by inventor Boyd Watkins. This game is far more than just stepping on the right square; it’s a metaphor for navigating life’s unexpected challenges.


Let’s explore how this simple activity reveals profound insights about failure, teamwork, and learning. Imagine a large room outfitted with a black and grey gridded rug, featuring 9 rows and 6 identical squares. Each square either beeps or remains silent when stepped on.


TASK – The team must identify a path of silent squares across each row within 20 minutes. No row can be skipped, and the only way to figure out the beeping squares is by stepping on them, one at a time. It’s all about trial and error, memory, and collective strategy.


RULE OF THE GAME – Theteam has 20 minutes to complete the task. Only one member can traverse the rug at any given time, starting a new from the first row upon stepping on a beeping square. Before the clock starts ticking, the team gets three minutes to strategize silently, though once the game begins, they cannot speak—only gestures are allowed to guide the next player.


OBSERVE – The first team member steps onto a square, hoping it remains silent. If it does, the team might cheer; if not, groans fill the room. This initial reaction is crucial—hesitation or rushing can waste precious seconds. Typically, teams struggle to find a beep-free path within the allotted time due to hesitation and ineffective communication of previous failures.


ANALYSIS – The key to understanding why teams often fail lies in their reaction to stepping on a beeping square. Mistakenly viewed as a failure rather than valuable information, stepping on a beeping square is the right kind of wrong. It provides essential clues for the subsequent player, helping refine the strategy and path forward.


REAL LIFE INFERENCES – Just like in the Electric Maze, life often presents us with unknown challenges where the right course of action isn’t clear until after we’ve made a move. Many businesses and personal ventures fail because they don’t pay enough attention to the context of their actions, mistaking each failure as a setback rather than a step forward. The Electric Maze teaches us to embrace each misstep as an opportunity to learn. Teams that cheer for both silent and beeping squares foster a more supportive atmosphere, encouraging quicker, more confident movements. This mindset—valuing quick, informative failures—can drastically alter our approach to personal and professional challenges, turning potential stumbling blocks into stepping stones toward success.


This exercise isn’t just a test of memory or agility but a profound lesson in handling life’s uncertainties. By redefining our approach to failure, we can navigate any challenge more effectively, just as teams must navigate the Electric Maze.


Rashna Mistry,
General Counsel,
Tata Projects Limited
Simplify. Create.

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