Teambuilding vs. Adult Entertainment

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I know – this is a loaded title, and there will be a certain cross-section of readers who will be disappointed to know that I don’t mean the kind of adult entertainment they hope I mean.

We’ve all seen the commercials on television with the “failed trust fall” theme, or the “bogus teambuilding facilitator” character. Television loves to parody the field of teambuilding and facilitation. And with good reason! Most of us have heard of events that have been labeled teambuilding, and have at best had no real value, and at worst had a negative result. As a teambuilding facilitator, I myself will regularly meet someone in a group that has this negative stereotype for teambuilding.

An effective teambuilding facilitator is tasked with creating an environment wherein members of a group will bond, positively, through shared experience. The activities and discussion topics selected for the teambuilding event are typically centered around themes of communication, leadership, planning, process-improvement and trust. The longer the amount of time dedicated to this process, the greater and more lasting the potential result.

Unfortunately, many teambuilding companies are in fact delivering little more than adult entertainment. Scavenger hunts, Murder-mystery dinners, aerial adventure parks, paintball, all of which can be fun, actually require so little investment from the members of the group (other than being willing to embarrass yourself in front of your peers) that the lasting value is minimal, and the actual benefit to work teams is nonexistent. In order for a teambuilding event to have lasting value, there must be an activity that is challenging, requires commitment, calls on leadership and planning, has the potential for failure, and has a follow-up discussion that will relate the lessons learned in the activity back to processes and personalities within the team or the organization.

Here’s how to tell if your teambuilding event is teambuilding or “adult entertainment.”

  • If your teambuilding event has members of the group sitting as an audience rather than engaging in the activity – you’re at a show – it’s adult entertainment.
  • If your teambuilding event makes a spectacle of individuals in the group, and everyone is laughing at them – it’s adult entertainment.
  • If your teambuilding event is just activities and no discussion about what is happening in the group – it is more like adult entertainment than team development – still fun – but less beneficial.
  • If your teambuilding event has activities and discussions that focus the group on overcoming a challenge, solving a problem, trusting one another and then relating the activities back to the office – it’s teambuilding – still fun – but more beneficial.
  • If your teambuilding event leads to individuals in your group gaining a better understanding of why they act the way they do in certain circumstances – it’s teambuilding – very beneficial.
  • If your teambuilding event is extremely competitive, with winners and losers, and no discussion of how competition can be both valuable and detrimental to the team – it’s adult entertainment – might be fun (especially for the winners) – but not beneficial (to anyone.)

When searching for a provider for your next teambuilding event, make sure you know what you are looking for. There are a lot of companies to choose from, and all of them are calling their offering “teambuilding.” There is nothing wrong with a little adult entertainment – if that is what you are expecting for your event. But if you want actual teambuilding, you may have to look a little deeper to find it. If you take the time to educate yourself about what teambuilding really is – you’ll have a better chance of avoiding a negative teambuilding experience.