I’ve recently been involved in some team building exercises, both the running of and participation in, which got me thinking about the philosophy of team building. Many people are very cynical about team building exercises and activities but I would argue that they can be incredibly effective as long as the following have been taken into account:
Context: is the exercise / activity appropriate for the culture, age, professional make up of the group and the location?
Cost: has too much / too little been invested in the activity? Will this be obvious to the people involved? Will they resent a high investment if they are paid below market rates for example.
Timing: has the right amount of time been allowed for the exercise? Is a weekend away sailing too much time to spend with a small group that you don’t know well? Is one hour building spaghetti towers really enough to gel a team of people who often choose not to speak to one another in their every day working life?
Therefore one of the most important elements of any team building activity is the preparation. There is no off the shelf solution to team building needs so the person delivering needs to ask questions; who is coming? what do they do? what is the age profile of the group? what is the ultimate goal of the exercise? If they can get a good grasp of the context and deliver an activity that is timely and seen to be cost effective then there is every chance of success.
The most recent activity I’ve done was one called ‘Feed it Forward’. You identify a challenge that you are currently facing in business. You then have a small amount of time with each person in the room and they give you the first 3 solutions to your challenge that they can think of, solutions which you neither question nor try to understand deeply, you simply write them down and take them away. For me, my challenge was resolved in under 10 minutes but most of all I saw that all the people I was with had a level of creativity and understanding that I don’t think I’d ever have appreciated otherwise; and thanks to them I now have a super efficient and organised on line diary!