Team Building and Decision Making: 7 Ways That Team Building Helps to Improve and Sharpen Decision-Making Skills on Teams

In our last blog post for our series on decision making on teams, we look at how team building and decision-making are connected. Team building can help teams notice their decision-making processes and how to make them better.

This past month we’ve been focusing on decision making in our blog posts. We’ve talked about different models of decision making on teams, biases that affect decision making, and techniques that teams can use to make their decision-making processes go more smoothly.

For the last blog post on this theme, we’re going to look at the connection between team building and decision making. As a team building company, Invite Japan has developed a variety of different programs and activities that help improve teams’ competencies in areas such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork. 

But team building is also highly beneficial for improving decision-making skills on teams as well. The challenges in team building give teams the opportunity to test their decision-making process in real-time, and with a time limit no less. So teams can see what they may be doing wrong and how to make their decision making more efficient.

Perhaps more importantly, team building also provides teams with a low-stakes environment in which to experiment with making decisions. Because team building challenges don’t carry the same consequences as work, teams can be more open and try new ways of making decisions without worrying about getting fired or failing at an important task. 

So in the following post, we’ll be looking at the relationship between team building and decision making, and the most important lessons that teams can learn from team building about how to make decisions effectively, inclusively, and productively.

Team Building and decision making: 7 lessons 

1. Make decisions on the fly

While we all want to have as much time as we’d like to make decisions, sometimes that doesn’t always happen. There are times when we as teams need to make tough decisions quickly. Being able to do this in a way that keeps the team together is the mark of a strong team.

Team building teaches teens how to make quick decisions, and how to maintain flexibility in those decisions as well. Team building activities, like the ones at Invite Japan, usually have a time limit. So teams have to complete all their challenges within a set amount of time.

This creates a situation in which teams have to decide things rather quickly. There’s not a lot of time to waste on long meetings, and so teams have to come up with a plan and implement it as fast as they can. 

But teams also learn how to pivot quickly as well. Sometimes the decisions they make don’t work as well as they’d hoped. Thus, teams have to remain flexible, and adapt their decisions in cases where they don’t work out. This is good practice for when teams have to make tough decisions efficiently while under pressure in the real world.  

2. Learn how to go back to square one in real time

Going along with keeping decisions flexible, sometimes it’s necessary to go back to square one. In decision-making, acknowledging feedback and measuring the effects of a decision are crucial. Which invertible means that sometimes you have to go back to square one. 

In team building, there are times when teams have to go back to the drawing board. Their decision doesn’t turn out well, and they need to gather more information about how to solve a challenge, or they just need to work it out some more.

Learning how to do this in a timely way is a good lesson for teams. In order to make better decisions, teams need to be able to let their decision go and start from scratch, if that will produce a better result. And so a team building environment is the perfect place to practice this important decision-making skill.  

3. Test your assumptions–and break them if you need to

Connected to this last point is that one mistake that many teams make in their decision making is framing a problem before the decision making happens. When teams create a preconceived frame around a problem, they inevitably narrow their decision making options, and as a result overlook other alternative paths that may be better.   

The key to avoiding this problem is to test and challenge your assumptions before framing the problem in a certain way. Think about why you are thinking this way, whether the assumptions you are making are true, and if it’s possible that there are other perspectives that you could incorporate. 

Team building provides the perfect opportunity for your team to test assumptions. The team building activities at Invite Japan are designed to make teams think outside of the box and to consider alternative ways of thinking. This can help drag teams out of their preconceived frames and allow more constructive, creative and productive decisions to happen.

4. There are no shortcuts

In decisions, as in life, there are no shortcuts. Trying to make shortcuts on decisions, especially important ones, will lead to worse decision making on your team in the long run, which may create resentments and ignore members’ opinions. 

While we said above that making decisions on the fly is important as well, this does not mean that teams should make shortcuts and try to find the “easiest” route. Decisions are always tough, even when they need to be made quickly. Only by focusing together as a team can you make decisions both effectively and quickly.

In team building too, there is no shortcut to the right answer. We always say that teams need to work together in order to succeed in our challenges, and that is true. When teams try to find the easy way out, or try to make one person do all the work, they inevitably fail (or at least, they never have as much fun). The only way out is forward, one step at a time.    

5. The more options the better

One of the most important lessons that teams can learn from team building when it comes to decision making is that the more alternatives and options they have for each decision, the better. More options produces a greater window for making decisions. But many times, teams narrow their windows, and thus limit their alternatives, either based on their preconceived frames, or because they don’t allow other perspectives in.

Expanding the range of options is an exercise in creativity, openness, and inclusivity. It’s better to include as many perspectives as possible, in order to be able to see the problem from different angles. “Thinking outside the box”–that is, in a more creative way–can also allow your team to come with alternative approaches and try to overcome blind spots.

Team building helps teams to do this by inspiring creative approaches to the challenges. Good team building challenges require teams to think differently than they do in their regular daily lives. But it also tests different ways of thinking, too, like lateral thinking, which means that teams are forced to utilize different members’ strengths and skills, and include everyone in each decision that they make.   

6. Decision making is about communicating

This brings us to a major overlapping area between team building and decision making: communication. Communication is vital to how decision making works on teams, since decisions on teams require input from many people. Teams that communicate well, share their opinions and criticisms, and openly discuss options without feeling anxious about the consequences–are more likely to make better and more effective decisions.

Team building therefore is the perfect way to improve decision making, by teaching teams how to communicate better. In team building challenges, teams are made to talk together as a group in order to figure out solutions and make decisions. 

In many team building activities, teams are broken up into smaller groups as well, which might include members that they aren’t as familiar with. This mixing up and around of team members allows them to gain different perspectives and learn about different viewpoints, which can have a positive impact on their decision-making skills. 

7. Realize the importance of team buy-in 

The last key point that team building teaches teams about decision making is the importance of buy-in. Buy-in means that all team members are committed to a decision, and that they all realize the benefits of making the decision together.

The more buy-in the team has in any decision, the more it will work out because the whole team is behind it. This is one of the problems with one person making all the decisions on a team. These types of decisions aren’t inclusive, and they make team members feel excluded from the decision-making process, and any effects the decision may carry.  

Buy-in is equally important in team building. Teams that move forward together get more out of the activity, and end up succeeding better than teams that don’t. Team building therefore induces teams to naturally make their decisions together as a group, with all members involved. And at the end, the teams that have done this are the ones that celebrate the most, since they know that all deserve credit for the results. 

Conclusion: Team building and collaboration

Ultimately, what team building teaches teams when it comes to decision making is the power of collaboration. When we talked about the various styles of decision making (command, consult, democratic, consensus and collaboration)–we noted that collaboration was perhaps the ideal, even if it was the hardest to achieve. 

Collaboration, when teams not only make decisions together, but are generally happy with the results, can only occur when teams really work together, communicate, and share together. True collaboration is a creative and productive synthesis, a melding of minds, ideas and hearts. 

Team building may not teach every team how to accomplish this in one day, but it does open teams up to the possibilities that collaborative decision-making holds. And it gives them the tools to develop within themselves the ability to make more creative, effective and inclusive decision-making processes that will bring them closer to their goals.   

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

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