Posted March 18, 2015

The Team Building Hypothesis

Hypothesis: Teams that have fun together work better together, especially when they can have fun while doing work.

That’s really the crutch of team building, right? Finding something that brings people together, doing activities that give them fun inside stories, joint experiences and communication style insights so that they can work together with more synergy (*buzzword alert*).

But how do I prove that hypothesis and make that happen? To do it, I look for team building that:

  1. Encourages continuous improvement by challenging them to improve on one or more skills.
  2. Requires them to experiment a bit (without fear of failure) in an area they are not completely comfortable.
  3. Allows the crew to be themselves and speak up.
  4. Inspires them to enjoy themselves daily by incorporating skill building that might otherwise seem mundane and showing them that it can actually be fun.
  5. As subtle and unstructured as possible, maximizing the fun aspect while still accomplishing 1-3.
  6. Easy to facilitate.

Coincidentally, 1-4 are Core Values (sound like something you’d like to be apart of — we’re hiring!); reinforcing all the behaviors that we feel are essential to flourishing here.

Finding activities like this might seem difficult, but they aren’t. They just require you, as a manager, to keep your ear to the ground (and open to your employees and coworkers; listen to what THEY think would fill these requirements).

With the above formula, it’s hard to fail at proving the team building hypothesis. Case studies below of my recent success stories.

  • Activity: Painting with a Twist
  • Why it worked: This is a crew of designers/copywriters/marketing project managers, a group of people that have to be “creative” on a daily basis, yet sometimes it’s hard to stay in touch with these roots. By making them have to paint (a medium most of them weren’t very comfortable with), they had to get out of their comfort zone, follow instructions while still adding their own flair, all while engaging with each other and having fun. Plus, you know, anything that involves Doctor Who and the TARDIS is a win-win.
  • Activity: Houston Escape Room
  • Why it worked: This was problem solving at it’s max. The team, once again, of designers, copywriters, marketing project managers (plus we invited a key stakeholder to also join in on the fun), had to work together and separate to try to escape a room in 1 hour. It involved brains, creativity and sheer mental endurance + a heap load of positivity and encouragement. I couldn’t have been prouder of how they worked together, with different people taking leads on different brain teasers. Only 20% of folks finish task 1, and 5% finish task 1 & 2 and we did it! Having something where the team feels like they won together is such a great sensation – and we’ll be telling stories of the evening for quite a while. MISSION COMPLETE!

Now to look for the next success!

What do you do with your team for successful team building?