Team building activities are fun, motivating events that make teams stronger by bringing them closer together. At their best, team building activities boost the skills necessary to make teams more effective. This has always been the goal for team building activities at Invite Japan.
However, sometimes team building activities can get a bad rap. They’re thought of as weird, boring, or a waste of time. This is partly due to the fact that many people aren’t aware of the purpose of team building and what it is actually trying to do.
The purpose of team building may seem simple. It’s in the name–build teams. But the way to build teams is not a simple task, nor is there one size fits all strategy. Team building activities like the ones at Invite Japan take a multi-pronged approach in order to maximize gains across many different teams.
Of course, our clients come with their own needs, goals, and images of what they hope to get from their team building activity. So as much as possible we try to match our clients with the right team building activity. When these two purposes align it creates magic.
In this post we will take you through the purposes of team building activities and what they are trying to accomplish. Knowing this will not only help your team be better prepared for team building activities, but will also hopefully make you better informed about which team building activity to choose that most fits your needs.
Help Teams Become More Effective
The best way to “build” teams is to make them more effective. Even the best teams can stand to gain from improving effectiveness. No team is perfect.
Targeting how effective a team is hits a wide variety of areas related to teams and how they operate (we have a great blog post here about what makes teams effective, which I highly suggest reading through). Below is a quick summary of the aspects of team effectiveness:
- Openness/honest communication
- Helping each other
- Engaging with diversity
- Dealing with challenges
- Common purpose
- Delegation and decision-making
- Getting help from the outside
The purpose of team building activities is basically to provide challenges that test these areas. By going through the challenges, teams become aware of which areas are strong, and which areas need improvement. Think of team building activities as “stress tests” for your team.
For example, when teams play Invite Japan’s Suitcase Mystery, they have to complete a number of challenges within 60 minutes. Teams have to use communication skills and make decisions quickly, decide if they want to seek outside help (hints, advice from staff, etc.), how to divide roles, and much more.
Teams therefore have a chance to really test their effectiveness. But the ultimate goal is not just to make teams aware of their strengths and weaknesses–it’s also about encouraging them to improve.
The purpose of team building should be focused on long-term growth and success. That’s why the best strategy is regular team building sessions. Just like with working out or learning a new language, regular team building practice is best.
Regular team building strengthens those areas of effectiveness and allows teams to better see how they have improved. When teams succeed at team building activities, it encourages them to succeed more and more–creating a positive team building cycle.
Create a Space for Teams to Grow
Team building gives participants with a low-stakes and fun environment outside of the normal routine, where teams can safely test their limits, learn about each other, and expand their creativity.
In order for teams to be able to test their strengths and improve their skills, they have to have separate space and time to do it in. You might think that teams can grow together while they complete their regular projects. While this is certainly possible, there are a few reasons why providing a separate, special space and time for team building is important.
For one thing, teams might not have the time. If teams are busy trying to complete their work and projects, they don’t necessarily have the extra time or headspace to think critically about their team. Providing a time where the whole team is thinking about team building together by doing an activity is a good way to get everyone on the same page and motivated (of course, informal bonding at work is also intrical part of team building, and should be encouraged).
Another reason is that getting teams out of the regular routine of their daily schedules and office space is that it is exciting, and can open up team members to new ways of thinking. It’s very natural to fall into patterns at work. This includes where you go, what you do, who you talk to, and what role you tend to fill. Getting teams out of this rote routine can spur new ideas and creativity. When people are dealing with “newness”, they tend to shed their inhibitions as well.
Team building activities, like those at Invite Japan, also present players with extraordinary situations and challenges. For example, Invite Japan uses puzzles and escape game-like challenges for its team building. These situations–some involving stories, mysteries, and strange objects– take teams out of their regular work lives and give them the space to really move around and think outside the box.
Most importantly, team building activities provide a “low-stakes” environment for testing your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Work and real-life projects can be very stressful, with a lot riding on success or failure. If you want to practice team building, it can be hard to do so in these high-stakes environments.
That’s where team building activities can help. The challenges are real and difficult, but the stakes are much lower. Teams are therefore free to succeed, fail, learn, and push limits without as much fear. Then teams can incorporate what they learned and experience in their team building activity into their workflow.
One of the main purposes of team building activities is to inspire both teams and individuals. At Invite Japan we always strive to leave participants feeling good, happy, and optimistic about what they can achieve. At their core, team building activities open people’s eyes to their own potential as well as that of their peers, coworkers, colleagues.
Part of this is aim is achieved through the challenges involved in the team building activity. These challenges get teams thinking in interesting and creative ways. Furthermore, by making success in these challenges dependent on working together, teams must think together too. This in turn inspires team members to think and make decisions in new ways and incorporate different ideas and opinions.
For example, our team building activities at Invite Japan are based around puzzles. These puzzles challenge different thinking skills like lateral thinking, recognizing patterns, math, spatial reasoning, etc. These puzzles get participants to think in different ways, as well as push teams to use different decision-making methods to arrive at the right answer.
The outcome is that teams are pushed to expand their views and thought processes.Teams also recognize that they have all the tools they need to succeed. We get teams to realize that they have the power to grow and improve if they work together.
Another way that team building activities inspire teams is through workshops. These are more of a formal educational tool than the challenges themselves. The workshops revolve around certain topics related to teams like understanding team roles, psychological safety, and models of team development. The workshops get teams to think about these topics in a new way, which they can then apply in the team building challenges.
Help Teams Bond-Now and in the Future
When teams think together and succeed together they also do something else–they bond. Relationships are at the heart of teams. So one of team building’s main purposes is to activate teams by forging closer relationships among team members.
The best way to do this is by getting team members to talk to each other. When confronting a challenge in a team building activity, team members have to talk and discuss in order to succeed. They also have to help each other and work together to find solutions.
Team building is therefore a great way to get team members to interact in ways they normally wouldn’t. New members can be more easily integrated into the team. And team members who might not talk or socialize that much normally will have the chance to get to know each other better.
When team members know each other better and have shared experiences, they are more able to trust each other and help each other in the future. There’s more of a common and unified bond,, which leads to increased team effectiveness, productivity, and happiness.
Team building activities also create shared memories that teams can bond over. Even if they fail, teams laugh and have fun at how silly they were, or how they were so close. This adds to their collective experience and provides them with fun things to talk about even after the activity is long over.
The above shows that there are a variety of purposes behind team building activities. In other words, there is a method to the madness. Team building activities’ aim is to help teams become more effective, inspired and unified, and give them a space to learn and develop their skills.
Team building activities really can make your team the best that it can be. And hopefully, by understanding the purpose behind team building, your team will be more aware of the benefits that a regular team building regimen can provide.
Oh and there’s one more purpose of team building activities that I forgot to mention–that teams have fun. At Invite Japan we always want to give our clients and participants the most enjoyable time possible. We have an array of activities that can suit your needs and goals, from online to in-person. We also can create customized events that are tailored to your team.