There are hundreds of team building games on the market, but many are confused in how they create long term benefits to organisations. In this article, I will explain three types of team building games and why only one truly delivers sustainable benefit. I will also explain why team building games that intrinsically have development and learning as the goal, are the ones that provide maximum benefit.
In my experience, what matters most about team building games is whether they answer yes to the following questions:
- Does it really develop the people in a way that leads to long term benefit to the organisation?
- Is the game about the team working together, in a way that recognises characters and personalities as they are without trying to force ‘change’ or make people behave artificially?
- Are there many ways to solve the problem (or meet the goal), some that the designer(s) themselves has not thought of?
First, lets discover why the following 2 types of team building games fail our suitability test and therefore fail to provide long term benefits.
Games with a single goal
What they do: Many team building games have a single goal, with one method to achieve it. The fun element of this game is getting the ‘method’ wrong and the ‘instructor’ telling you how to get it right or the teams searching to find the ‘right’ way.
What is the aim: At its minimum it’s about having fun and figuring out the answer as a team. The answers come from a hunch, or someone who has seen a version of these kind of ‘problems’ before. There is massive high on completion, and everyone has a chance to have fun and ‘feel bonded’ about meeting a common objective. Outward bound challenges (e.g. build a raft or bridge) are very much like this as they are a game which has complex puzzles to solve. Sometimes, these games are also about competition which again creates challenge, but not necessarily real learning.
What do people learn: at a maximum it will be about the personalities that came out in the situation, with little about any long term development. The joy of pure achievement is the strongest memory.
Game that test individuals working in a team
What they do: Business scenarios work to bring about personal traits and to see who in the team possesses these traits. e.g. leadership, facilitator, team player etc. They are often long scripted business scenarios which deliberately create possibilities of conflict or diverse views. However, what they bring about is strength of character – not necessarily a deeper understanding of the problem, the overall business processes or systematic issues. The latter take deliberation and time to uncover.
What is the aim: These games are more about individual assessment, not how the team develops together. They are sometimes used in interview scenarios.
What do people learn: These games are less about development, but more about how participants can occupy a role/point of view in the game and then stick to it. They generally creates winners or losers. The games can be satisfying dependent upon other people attitudes to you (they like you) or dissatisfying if they don’t.
Now I come onto the third type of game, and the one I consider the most successful.
The games that matter – Continuous Development
The third type of team building game is one where there is continuous development. There are principles to establish from the game and learning that takes place that builds new insight for the long term:
The benefits can be varied, some not even thought of by the game designer. Learning and improvement takes a precedence over meeting any artificial target. These games also mimic real life scenarios and are never about an individual (although individual learning occurs). They are more about the process, experience and reflection on the process and meet an effective outcome. They are never a test of competence.
There is a natural high on improving and/or meeting goals. However, once this high has faded the natural learning remains in place, like a picture remembered. The learning from the game, sometimes jumps into other areas of people’s lives. For example those that have played our team building game, have not only gone on to improve their business process, but actually go about to improve the layout of their kitchen as they had ‘eureka’ moments about how to make the process flow better.
Taking what we have learnt into consideration, Kinetik has developed a Team Building game which ensures continuous development. Our game will develop 5 key teamwork traits within your employees, creating long term benefits.
Our Team Building game:
- Describes a fictitious Insurance company, InsureFlow, which specialises in asset insurance and trades internationally.
- Is specifically designed for the service sector including; Finance & Banking, IT Service Management, Support Services, Public Administration and Equipment Rental.
- Will provide deep insight on how team building and collaboration can help in process improvement.
- Will lead participants to use teamwork to develop at a minimum, the following traits and learning experiences
“Great opportunity to visualise and discuss how work flows”
In summary, team building games need to:
1. Go beyond just meeting a task, and bring about deep learning.
2. Allow characters and roles to be themselves and develop.
3. Have multiple options and opportunities for success, many not specified by the designer.