Monday, November 24, 2008 by Dave Blum
Should we talk about business when conducting off-sites? During a treasure hunt last week at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, I was confronted with this very same question. The client, Baxa Corporation, was preparing for an upcoming product launch; their offsite at the museum was to be their final chance to meld new team members with old, and to get everyone on the same page.
The first thing John, the department VP, informs me as they arrive is that they’ve instituted a “no-talking-about-business” rule for the day. In my experience with corporate team building activities, this is fairly unusual. In general, the point of our scavenger hunts and treasure hunts is generating team building ideas for improving team communication and productivity. But John had a different purpose in mind: to build rapport, trust and comaraderie while having fun away from the office. This is a valid objective, I think, if your objective is merely to break down barriers and loosen up the team atmosphere, particularly if the group already functions fairly well in terms of efficiency and team decision making. A day of light-hearted fun can certainly go a long way towards bonding a team around a common experience.
Interestingly, the aforementioned rule went out the window during the debrief. It’s so difficult not to talk about work during team building activities, perhaps because the parallels between the activity and work tend to jump out at you. We wound up having a lively and productive discussion about the pros and cons of competition and the best ways to motivate people. I guess the moral of the story is: be present in the fun of the experience, and then be present in the reflection afterward.