Learning & Development

The Quest to Build a Better Team Activity

The very mention of a “team activity” can elicit audible groans from even the most engaged employees. That’s because team activities often feel forced, awkward, and pointless. “What’s the benefit of a trust fall, really?” one might ask.

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But just because many team activities are duds doesn’t mean all team activities are duds. Some organizational management gurus believe they can use scientific principals to develop more effective team activities.

Effective Team Activities

For example, in an article for team-focused software company Atlassian, Johnathan Thompson pitches the company’s Atlassian Team Playbook, “a free online resource of team workshops (or ‘Plays’) to help teams build trust, play to their strengths, troubleshoot difficulties, and encourage positive team dynamics.”

Without going into the specifics—readers can determine for themselves the activities’ potential appeal—it’s interesting to consider the “science” Atlassian bases its teambuilding formula on. The common denominator is finding ways to get team members to open up to one another, breaking down the social walls many build up around recent acquaintances or in professional settings.

“The number one area we’re trying to build on here is a sense of openness—with each other, with the team as a whole, and with the greater organization,” says Eugene Chung, an Atlassian team coach and advisor on Team Playbook. “Whether a particular Play is about expressing vulnerability, sharing an honest perspective, or trying not to shoot down ideas, it can become a blueprint for modelling what ‘good’ looks like for everybody. Ideally they don’t stop as one-off Plays either—they become habits moving forward.”

Being Open to Teambuilding

Obviously, openness is just one of many potential objectives for a team activity. Others might include increasing collaboration, greater creativity, getting to know remote team members better, establishing trust, etc.

While openness may not be the ultimate goal of all team activities, it is a necessary precondition to start pursuing some of these other objectives. It’s hard to stimulate collaboration if the team isn’t willing to open up to each other; without openness, team members may be hesitant to share creative ideas, but trust is often built off of opening up to one another.

There are a multitude of existing team activities and endless possibilities for creating new ones. Fortunately, there are some fundamental principles, such as openness, that may increase these activities’ chances of success.