When one thinks of team building activities the word “fun” comes to mind. Some examples are the marshmallow challenge, Two Truths and a Lie, and Trust Fall. More elaborate activities are half or full day retreats off-site that include water games, building exercises, etc.
Regardless of the exercise used, the idea of team building is to have fun but also to function as a means for others to learn more about themselves as well as their teammates. Some leaders may negate fun as wasteful time but in reality having fun actually makes for a more creative environment. Children are always developing new things when they free play. They may create fortresses out of items around the house or imagine fairies or super heroes living in castles they made with sand. They also delegate tasks to each other and may even select a leader. Whatever they choose, they keep their minds open to new possibilities. Unfortunately over time though their lives become more structured so creativity decreases.
The objective of team building activities then is to encourage everyone to “let their hair down” and reveal more of themselves to others in a non-threatening setting. Exercises should have minimal instructions so that the participants can try different methods and let everyone make suggestions. Team members will learn things about each other that they never knew and will hopefully have a better appreciation for each person. They may also identify similar areas of interest that they did not know before i.e. certain genres of books they read, an interesting hobby, etc. which helps with bonding within the team. The point is that they get to spend time together in a non-threatening environment where the outcome of the activity is not as important as the interaction between the team members.
So for that reason when evaluating team building activities, you must consider also that these exercises should increase trust within the team, improve one’s confidence, and lay the foundation for better communication back in the office. They should also reinforce the values and mission of the organization. Free flowing of ideas through team building exercises may seem unconventional but some of the greatest products and services came from these types of activities, so they should be considered a priority when assessing human capital development. A few other things to think about are – what levels within the organization participate or are they segmented by department, frequency of these activities, and/or measurement of their effectiveness.