Wednesday, February 18, 2009 by Dave Blum

One of the first things I always ask new clients when booking one of our corporate team building activities is:

“Do the participants know that they’re going to be doing a treasure hunt?”

Inevitably, the answer is,

“No, we’ve been keeping it a secret. We want it to be a surprise.”

alt=”I’ve got a secret” title=”I’ve got a secret”>I used to think this was kind of charming.  “How sweet–everyone’s going to be so delighted when they hear about the day’s exercise.”  Lately, though, I’ve changed my opinion.

Keeping things secret certainly has it pluses.  In the process of guessing, people tend to become quite engaged. Our clients often report participants going to inordinate lengths (including bribes) to find out what their secret team building exercises will be.  Generating pre-activity excitement is a good thing, right?

Sure…BUT there’s a darker flip side.  Much of that engagement and excitement tends to be based on fearful preconceptions:

–“How can I prepare for this team building thing when I don’t even know what it is?”

–“Will there be a lot of walking?  I hope not — I’d hate for people to see how out-of-shape I am.”

–“Is it some sort of sporting event?  I sure wouldn’t want people to see my lack of coordination.”

–“I’ll bet that this is one of those encounter groups where I have to fall into other people’s arms.  I hate that kind of squishy thing.  So embarrassing!”

From the facilitator’s stand point, what this means is that people arrive at my scavenger hunts with their guards up.  Their imaginations have run wild — in anticipation, yes, but even more so in dread.  Simply put, they’re sure that this mystery activity will make them look bad.

How much better it might go if the organizers would:

1) Let people choose their team building activity (see yesterday’s blog post), or…

2) Inform people in advance about the event and let them ask questions… let them prepare.

There’s already enough uncertainty in our world, wouldn’t you say.  Let’s be more transparent in our decision making.  What you sacrifice in excitement you make up for in buy-in!