Better teamwork can give your business a real competitive edge. Productive collaboration can inspire innovative thinking, enhance the contributions of each individual, improve communication, trust and efficiency, and can speed problem-solving. Successful team building can increase productivity, job satisfaction and positive office morale while reducing stress. Targeted activities to improve teamwork should be energizing, imaginative and engaging.
Is and Is Not
Team building is not a zip-lining expedition or bonding over drinks at the local pub. It should be a structured event or an ongoing series of exercises to resolve conflicts and problems, get everybody on board with new business opportunities or initiatives, break down traditional silos and encourage inter-division communication, spark inventive thinking about old products or new services, and create a positive office culture. Activities are usually fun but always goal-directed, such as the game Two Truths and a Lie.
How To: Team members each write down two outrageous true things about themselves and one credible, but fictitious, fact. The group has five minutes to mingle and ask each member one question to help determine truth from fiction. Then all form a circle as each person reads the three "facts" and the rest vote on which statement is the lie. Team members can have fun, engage in lively conversation, and learn interesting and unsuspected things about co-workers.
The Marshmallow Challenge
Smart collaboration can overcome a sticky situation in the absence of power jockeying and rigid linear thinking. A single marshmallow can bring down a group of adults without even slowing a kindergarten class.
How To: In the Marshmallow Challenge, teams of four people have 18 minutes to build the tallest possible tower from 20 strands of uncooked spaghetti, a yard of paper masking tape, one yard of string and one marshmallow. The marshmallow must top the tower. The race elicits in equal parts both frustration and laughter. Most of the towers collapse. Kindergarteners usually win. The winners are better at experimenting with prototypes, communicating and collaborating. They embrace the instant feedback inherent in a team effort. The only way to win is to build immediate rapport, respect all ideas, be willing to fail, and innovate to solution.
The Minefield Exercise
The Minefield Game is a proving ground for trust and collaboration, indoors or out.
How To: Set up a "minefield," a large space filled with randomly scattered chairs, traffic cones, cardboard boxes or other obstacles. Leave enough room for people to navigate through the obstacles. Divide players into two teams — scouts and navigators — and assign one of each to work together in pairs. Blindfold the scouts, who must remain silent throughout the exercise. Tell the navigators to verbally walk their scout through the minefield without touching the obstacles. Depending on space, several or all of the teams should start at the same time. It gets slightly crazy with all the overlapping instructions, so partners must pay close attention to each other and listen carefully for instructions. Bump an object and you are escorted back to the start line. The game builds trust and relationships as players race to finish first.
The Go Game
The Go Game is a cell phone-guided scavenger hunt that sends teams out on a "mission" that includes crazy clues and directions delivered via phone app, optional encounters with scripted actors or flash mobs who pose challenges, and incidents and obstacles that must be managed and surmounted.
How To: Teams have a mandate to document the exercise in pictures that will be judged for creativity in an office-wide gathering at the end of the challenge. Members earn points for their team by succeeding at various tasks throughout the exercise, and the winning team gets a giant trophy after the photo judging. The Go Game enhances communication and general hilarity, group problem-solving, creative collaboration and risk-taking, and camaraderie. The documentary evidence can be uploaded to a private website that can be revisited to spark discussions about teamwork.
About the Author
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has worked in executive management for global advertising and marketing firms, in finance industry regulation and as head of her own successful small business for 15 years. Sources
Photo Credits: Todd Warnock/Photodisc/Getty Images