Unconventional Team Building

November 5th, 2012

Corporate teambuilding activities can sometimes leave a bad taste in people’s mouths, especially if those teambuilding events were accompanied by a plain, overcooked chicken breast served in a hotel meeting room.  We have all been there – whether starting a new job, kick-starting a conference, or maybe as part of a college orientation program – we’ve all participated in the trust falls and the goofy games.  And, looking back, did any of them ever compel you and your colleagues to work more cohesively as a team? 

Probably not.  That doesn’t mean teambuilding doesn’t work.  It likely means you were just doing the wrong activities.  There is no arguing that employees work better when they feel they are part of a team.  This doesn’t just mean getting along with one another, although that certainly is preferable.  It also means they understand their role within the organization and are confident performing their function.  It means they root for one another and never against.  It means that, when there is a crisis, employees pull together instead of falling apart.  Now, you aren’t going to create this type of environment through one afternoon of teambuilding activities, but you can use team building to foster a productive atmosphere, encourage collaboration, and build specific skills.

So, how you do you plan for a team building day that works?  Well, first things first, figure out what you are trying to accomplish.  The activity you select should be appropriate to your goals.  At the conclusion of the day’s activities, take stock of what was accomplished and if you see any measureable improvements that occurred as a result of the teambuilding.

So, what are some ideas for unconventional, fun, and memorable team building?

1)  Cooking Classes – Want to practice communication skills? Get people used to depending on one another?  Have some fun and have something to show for it at the conclusion?  Well, a cooking class might be a good idea for your group.  Multiple people working on a somewhat complicated dish require that everyone do their own part well and communicate with the group as a whole.  People have to ask each other questions.  They have to explain the choices they are making.  They have to have a vision of the final product while performing each small task.

Sporting Clays2)  Sporting Clays – Sporting clays isn’t something that most of us have had an opportunity to do.  This means you will likely have some disparity in skill levels.  Just like in the workplace, some will take to the sport naturally while others will have to learn the necessary skills and make small corrections as they progress.  Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, this could be just what your group needs! – A fun, light-hearted way for people to learn to interact as a team while enhancing their own individual skill levels.  Those with less experience will benefit from taking direction and making improvements.  Those with more experience will get practice assisting their coworkers, teaching, and exercising patience.

3)  Paintball – Paintballing is fast-paced, intense, and fun.  It requires teamwork, cooperation, strategy, and cool headedness.  These are powerful workplace skills that can mean the difference between successful and unsuccessful project implementation.   

Illinois Paintball

4)  Obstacle/Ropes Courses –   You might have done one of these in school or at summer camp years ago.  These courses help foster teamwork and communication as all must work together to complete the course.  This type of activity can be especially helpful for managers looking to observe behaviors and create a reference point to work on improvements in communication.

5)  Geocaching – Geocaching is an outdoor activity where participants use a GPS or other mobile device to find hidden clues and prizes.  A traditional cache will contain a small log book so that those who find it can enter their names and a small item.  The item is continually traded as new people find the cache location, take the item and replace it with an item of their own.  We tried this at a firm I worked for and it was a very fun way to get out of the office and work together to problem solve.  Each of us had a role – driver, navigator, person who had to ask directions when we got lost – but we all also had to help each other.  We only wound up finding one cache, but felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment at the conclusion of the experience!   

Remember, a big part of successful teambuilding is memory making.  People bond through shared experiences.  If you provide a fun, somewhat unusual experience that gets people communicating, problem solving, and enjoying each other’s company, you’ll take positive steps towards helping your employees grow both as individuals and as part of a team.


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