Don’t Talk about Team building, Experience It

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My colleagues and I are often brought into corporations to do team building. Whether the audience is executive management or employees that work on the manufacturing line, the purpose for hiring my organization is to help teams strategize how to be more cohesive and productive. Early in my career it was theory, structure and small group exercises that illustrated effective team building, but that has all changed. Talk is out the window: taste, touch, feel and experience are in.

I recently read an article in a popular business magazine that suggested video games and online gaming are responsible for the change in what organizations are looking for to help increase team building. I have also heard that Millennials are more action-oriented and need to experience business strategy rather than read or talk about it. Regardless of the origin of change, training in team building is now an out-of-your-seat, participatory experience that reveals vulnerabilities, leadership styles, communication and problem-solving skills, and a myriad of other strengths and deficiencies of all parties involved. The learning is in real time with adequate time built in for feedback, reflection and application in the workplace.

In response to the need for a new delivery style, the training industry has responded with training approaches that can be divided into three categories: simulation, real escape and theme adventure. Simulation exercises have a written adventure scenario, background information, maps, and usually a pressure-sensitive scoring form. There is a group task, individual task and a problem to solve. The timed activity is done on-site and concludes with reflection on how effective the team was, how they could improve team performance, what insights they gained about each other individually and as a team, and how they could transfer the experience to their daily work.

Real escape teambuilding has its roots in gaming, and some give credit to real escape games that began in Japan in 2007. There are many variations of real escape team building, but basically it requires that groups be put into an off-site room specifically designed for the task of finding a way out. The group has to work together using clues within the room to gain their freedom. It is a timed escape at a minimum of an hour. Participants apply communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership skills to escape. Companies such as FedEx, Frito Lay and 7Eleven have used real escape team building with their employees.

My favorite theme adventure is from a company called Recipe for Success. All of their team building exercises revolve around preparing food. Their exercises are held off site and run for a minimum of two hours. Themes such as Team Breakfast, Chili Cook-Off, and Ultimate Pizza Challenge can be adapted for groups of 10 to 250.The benefits include building skills in negotiation, prioritization, communication, innovation and problem solving. When the task is complete, the team has an enhanced sense of teamwork because they have completed a project that they can see, touch and eat. It is important to note that the skill sets used in theme adventure teambuilding exercises, such as Recipe for Success, are immediate and transferable.

Whatever method your organization uses to promote team building, the desired result is better communication, a more cohesive unit and increased productivity. Talking about team building no longer produces the desired results in today’s interactive market. The employee of today needs to experience in order to learn.