Wednesday, June 10, 2009 by Dave Blum

Whether you’re doing an indoor corporate team building event or an outdoor business team building exercise, the question remains the same:  What do particpants get out of the experience?  My typical answer is:

1) New skills (including communication and efficiency techniques)
2) Enhanced trust of their teammates (through increased familiarity)
3) Stress relief and morale boosting

At a minimum, most successful team building exercises deliver the three outcomes above.  But after 15 years in this industry, I’m always surprised by the unexpected take-aways.

For example, during my scavenger hunts last week for Wiginton Corporation, a number of people remarked how much they discovered about themselves — on a personal level.  One guy, for example, learned that, when placed on a team, he tends to defer to authority.  Another fellow noticed that when he gets confused by a situation, he tends to retreat into a self-critical funk.  This is great information–not only for the participants but for management as well.

I recall a hunt program I ran years ago here in San Francisco for Scient Corporation.  This was the year 2,000, mind you, when dotcoms ruled, and Scient was doing mass recruitment of new college grads for positions as on-site web designers.  My job was to take each wave of recruits out on a treasure hunt at Fisherman’s Wharf, onstensibly to keep people occupied while the others were doing more formal, sit-down interviews.   But Scient had “ulterior motives” for the hunt. 🙂 On each treasure hunt team, five prospective employees were joined by two “monitors” from Scient.  For the participants, this felt like “fun” time — a further example of Scient’s wonderfully playful corporate culture.  For the monitors, however, this was all about work.  Their job was to assess each person’s social skills — in other words, could these prospective employees communicate effectively, cooperatively, and with tact?  Interestingly, years later, one of the Scient hunt participants came up to me on the street and remarked, “Hey aren’t you Dr. Clue?  You know, I wound up taking that job.  I figured any company that would do a treasure hunt as a job interview was a place I wanted to work!”  Little did she know that, at the time, she was being closely evaluated!

So what’s the biggest take-away about fun corporate team building events?  In my opinion, it’s what people learn about themselves…and what you, as a team leader, learn about your people!