Have you ever been a part of a trust fall team building activity? Or how about a ropes course or obstacle course that you were told would bring your team together and unite you? How about a team bowling activity, rock climbing or even bungee jumping?
My guess is that most of you have been a part of some type of “traditional” team building activity. The type of activity where you work together as a team to accomplish some type of non-work-related goal.
The problem is… they don’t work. By themselves that is. But they are the perfect complement to other types of more important team development. I will talk more about this later.
Traditional team building doesn’t work by itself for several reasons:
1. The activity normally has nothing to do with the team’s current job. The activity is more team fun than real team building. Scavenger hunts, racing cars, river rafting, or team golf are a lot of fun, but they have very little to do with moving a team towards a team related goal.
2. There is very little time invested and very little return. There is usually a lot of money invested in traditional team building activities, but they only last for a small period of time. Traditional team building normally last an hour or a day at the most and any type of team building effect (e.g. unity) quickly evaporates as soon as teams get back to their day to day jobs.
3. It can be embarrassing and alienate some team members. Many traditional team building activities are competitive. They focus on agility and skills that many team members may not have and that are not relevant to their jobs, possibly causing embarrassment.
While these are all disadvantages, you shouldn’t completely ignore traditional team building. I am actually a big proponent of traditional team building. Earlier I said that by themselves, they aren’t effective. But when traditional team building is coupled and frequently paired with more non-traditional team building—with non-traditional team building constituting the majority of the focus—it is very effective.
Non-traditional team building is focused on improving team member commitment, trust, communication and efficient healthy conflict. Improving these components requires activities that include a number of somewhat structured, difficult, passionate (but respectful) discussions and activities.
There are several team development companies and facilitators (including myself) that offer this type of non-traditional team building. If you are looking to purposely build your team, I highly recommend you invest your time in doing it right.
Make certain that your next traditional team activity is coupled with non-traditional team building. Don’t just focus on the fun, but also focus a majority of your time on the things that matter most to your team.
Do you agree? Give me a thumb up or thumbs down in the comments below. And if you have time, let me know your thoughts 🙂
Here is a very funny video clip that highlights when traditional team building can go wrong.
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