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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Competitive vs Collaborative in Team Building

Most team building events are run as competitions. Teams are usually given identical goals and are awarded points as they move towards them. Points mean prizes and the winning team members get to take them away. Why?

There are a few answers to that one:

* Competitive events are relatively straightforward to run.

* Put a group of people into teams and it is easier to justify using the training budget.

* Competition generates a buzz.

* Many conferences are for sales people, who are naturally competitive.

If all of these factors are relevant to your conference, then a competitive event is probably a good decision for you. However, two factors might make it a less good decision. Organisations are increasingly looking to arrange events for non-sales functions and many of these see competition as a bad thing. Secondly, senior managers often prefer to stress the “one big team” approach as important to a large department or the organisation as a whole. If either or both of these are relevant to your group, then a competitive event is not the best choice.

The opposite of a competitive event is a collaborative one. The whole group is given a common goal to work on together rather than multiple, identical ones to work on in isolation. They may still be organised into teams or not, but the key characteristic is that everyone is collaborating with everyone else to achieve something as a whole group.

Options designed to be collaborative not only exist – they are among the most enjoyable conference or away day events for the participants themselves. They can deliver a superb mix of camaraderie, corporate message, learning and fun.

Isn’t that combination a great outcome from a team building event? Indeed, isn’t that an outcome that you want from your teams at work – day in, day out? Sure, you want your individual teams to aim to be the best – but not at the expense of the corporate goal or goals. You want the natural motivation that the best teams feel to be productive for the organisation – not detrimental to other teams and, thereby, detrimental to the organisation.

So what does a collaborative team building activity look like? I have written a number of other articles that describe the characteristics that you can expect to find in good options generally. Rather than duplicate them here, I shall concentrate on those elements that can focus on the collaborative aspect specifically. They are:

* There is a single, common goal that all individuals and / or teams have to work towards.

* There is a genuine possibility – indeed probability – of the group achieving it.

* Not all individuals and teams are doing the same thing – multiple, different functions is a feature of the workplace and needs to be a feature of a team activity if the learning is to be relevant.

* As at work, the participants need to exert some form of overall co-ordination to maintain the focus on the common goal.

So at your next team building event, don’t send your people away bragging about how they managed to outdo their colleagues – send them away thinking at least in part how well they worked with them. Then maybe back at work something might just rub off.


Why Team Building Is Important?

Getting your employees to stop thinking of each other as competitors and start working as a team isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, but it is vital if you want to be a powerful force in your business. Among the advantages of team building are the following:

1. Teams are more successful in implementing complex plans and strategies. Because you can split the work into responsibility areas, a team can tackle more complex projects more efficiently than a group of individuals.

2. Teams come up with more creative solutions because they can network and brainstorm. When team members bounce ideas off of each other, they arrive at solutions that none would have evolved alone. As teams continue to work together, many of them find that their individual work benefits from their new ability to see things from other perspectives.

3. Teams build commitment to ideas and plans because they have ownership of the idea. When a team is involved in a project from the start, they are more likely to be committed to the ideals it represents.

4. Teams are more enduring than reliance on individuals. If you have one person who is responsible for a project, the loss of that person can cripple the project. When you rely on a team, the loss of one individual may be difficult, but the work of the team will continue.

5. Team building activities motivate your employees to deliver their very best effort on behalf of the team.


Tips to Generate More Ideas in Your Team

Look at problems in different ways

Get the group to change their perspective on the problem. Once people “lock into” one way of looking at things the idea flow will slow to a tickle. Have people take a new persona. Ask them to look at the issue from the perspective of another group – accounting, HR, or sales for example. Ask them to think about how their Grandmother or an 8 year old would solve the problem. These are simple ways to force people into a new perspective and the new perspectives will generate more ideas.

Make novel combinations

The ideas that land on the flipchart or whiteboard in a brainstorming session are typically considered individually. Have the group look at the initial list and look for ways to combine the ideas into new ones.

Force relationships

Once a group is finished with their initial list, provide them with words, pictures or objects. The objects can be random items, the words can come from a randomly generated list and we’ll send you such a list), or from pictures in magazines or newspapers. When people have their random word, picture or item, have them create connections between the problem and their item. Use questions like, “How could this item solve our problem?” What attributes of this item could help us solve our problem?”

Make their thoughts visible

Have people draw! Too often the brainstorming session has everyone sitting except the person capturing the ideas. Let people doodle and draw and you never know what ideas may be spurred.

Think in opposites

Rather than asking your direct problem question, ask the opposite. “How could we ensure no one bought this new product?” could be one example. Capturing the ideas on “the opposite,” will illuminate ideas for solving the actual problem.

Think metaphorically

This approach is similar to forcing relationships (and is another way to use your words, pictures or items). Pick a random idea/item and ask the group, “How is this item like our problem?” Metaphors can be a very powerful way to create new ideas where none existed before.


Too often people are asked to brainstorm a problem with no previous thinking time. If people have time to think about a topic, and let their brains work on it for awhile, they will create more and better ideas. Allow people to be better prepared mentally by sharing the challenges you will be brainstorming some time before the meeting whenever possible.

Set a Goal

Research shows and my experience definitely confirms that the simple act of giving people a quantity goal before starting the brainstorming session will lead to a longer list of ideas to consider. Set your goal at least a little higher than you think you can get – and higher than this group typically achieves. Set the goal and watch the group reach it!