When people manage challenges from the inside of the organisation, the organisation itself becomes less able to face the challenges from the outside. People are the core of any company. A team that works cooperatively and overcomes challenges as a unit is worth investing in. Team building activities and events are an effective way to simulate fun problem-solving tasks that a team can work through, in order to achieve something 'together'. 'Together' is the key word in the equation. Here is the dilemma: how often do you attend a team building event to discover weeks after, poor habits resume.

A low to no result team building event causes an apathetic sentiment, and ultimately distrust towards what should be a valuable experience. Your colleagues sitting around a table in a hired out conference room, an exercise is given on a piece of paper: "stranded, you must work as a team to survive with only the limited items available", sound familiar? Perhaps you tried an escape room experience or went paint balling, maybe you and your team tried problem-solving activities at a far away outdoor centre on a corporate retreat.


Where team-building exercises fall short:

  • Paper based scenarios (e.g. survival scenarios): ideal for teams that want to develop their skills including problem-solving, organisation, planning and execution. However it is all on paper and make-believe, and so the impact will mirror the same. If your team realistically was stranded and forced to survive with limited resources, people would most definitely learn valuable lessons for the rest of their lives. However the real question is how would they work as a team in real time? Would it not be an interesting insight to observe your colleagues, and recognise how they work under pressure with each other, and their environment in a real life-threatening scenario?  More over, to achieve an goal that represented life or death? More importantly how can the team transform for the better? Unfortunately, organising this would be no easy task, not too mention unethical. Nevertheless, the results could be outstanding or alternatively forever traumatising.  
  • Classic problem-solving exercises (e.g. Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower or Bomb Diffuser): create circumstances for cooperation and generic or ad hoc methods to be used, in an orderly manner to find solutions. This is useful in the workplace – however effective it may be – the maximum potential is lost in the generality of exercises. Not to mention, team members can become uninterested or overly ambitious with the activity’s goal and lose sight of the objective – teamwork. Thus potentially causing conflict and tension after the event. Classic problem-solving exercises are out-dated, and do not deliver results in the new world that incur constant changing environments.
  • Dynamic activities: escape rooms, paintballing, murder mystery, safaris etc, are great for getting your team to interact with one another and to have fun. These activities are advantageous to open up organic communication, boost morale and potentially mitigate conflict. So where is the short coming? The experience is similar to a couple in their honey-moon phase; exciting, different and entertaining. After the honey-moon phase, it is back to work and the experience becomes a fond memory rather than a useful experience.

“What worked yesterday is not going to work tomorrow. However, we can prepare for it.”

Solving the equation of achieving an efficient team is not answered by a one hit wonder team-building event. So what?
Let’s start with what we know: paper based scenarios are effective, but ultimately are make-believe including the results. Classic problem-solving exercises are out-dated. Dynamic activities are memorable; nonetheless, if an engaging activity is done routinely the results are beneficially exponential. Every month your team committing to an activity perceived as important, as their daily work could build a healthy culture and unify your team overtime. Being part of team and doing something that all members enjoy and belong to, other than the shared and common reality of their work, will irrevocably build respect, trust and loyalty in one another. These values act like lubrication opening up communication; reducing friction and creating conditions conducive to performance.

Team building, rather than a single event, is a lengthy progress, and like anything else requires persistence and commitment. It is important to collect meaningful feedback on what is working and what is not within your team. Any challenge can be overcome by an efficient team, compared to a group of effective employees. 

“Team work: coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success”

– Henry Ford.

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