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Three Terrific Team-Building Activities for 2017

Joetta L. Wagner

Joetta L. Wagner

team-buildingWhen an announcement is made about an upcoming team-building, intra-company event, it’s often greeted with a great deal of eye-rolling and heavy sighs. Employees shudder at the thought of the next painfully embarrassing activity that will be deemed appropriate by management as the perfect team-building exercise.

It doesn’t have to be that way. And in the current business environment, a failure to provide good team-building exercises, plans, and management can cost millions upon millions of dollars, sucking the life out of even the best employee engagement plans. Let’s look at some statistics. Vitru, a team management company, compiled some very interesting stats from a wealth of sources.

• 20% of the time is spent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues for help (

• 70% of respondents in a study by the University of Phoenix cite being part of a dysfunctional team (

• Poorly managed work groups are on average 50% less productive and 44% less profitable than well-managed groups (Gallup)

So what does this mean? It’s time to take a look at effective team-building exercises to learn what’s possible even on a limited budget, and how team building will benefit a company’s financial well-being. And people will have fun and learn in the process.

Team Building with Pasta and Marshmallows

HR teams communications strategy puzzle

According to Wikipedia, “Team building is a collective term for various types of activities used to enhance social relations and define roles within teams, often involving collaborative tasks.”

So what can you do to make the teams stronger and better? Oddly enough, one excellent way to go is to play a game. A game can actually inspire both creative problem solving and the need for collaboration – two factors at play nearly constantly in the business world.

One of the most challenging and popular games is the Spaghetti Marshmallow Tower. Developed by Peter Skillman, this game’s a real doozy. Each team is given 20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti, one roll of masking tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The idea is to create the tallest tower, with the marshmallow at the top, which can remain freestanding for at least five seconds. Oh, and there’s a time limit — 18 minutes, to be precise.

The funniest fact about this game is that kindergartners always do better than MBAs. Tom Wujec, a frequent speaker for TED, notes that none of the children are jockeying to be the boss, or spend time with orientation, design, or obsessively concentrating on developing the “perfect plan.” The children actually create several prototypes, learning what works and what doesn’t work through experimentation. He notes as well that virtually every project has a “marshmallow,” no matter whether it’s goods or services. The top-scoring people who play this game, thankfully, are architects and engineers.

A Real Feel-Good Moment: Corporate Social Responsibility


Some team-building exercises can have a real effect in the real world. First and foremost is spending a day – as a one-time thing or a repeated project – volunteering. There are many, many options available to companies of all sizes. Work at a soup kitchen. Visit a children’s ward in a hospital on a holiday. Clean up a beach or a park. Help out an animal rescue group. Visit and chat with senior citizens at an extended care facility. The list, like the needs, is nearly endless.

What are the benefits? The activity will grant a huge sense of achievement to the team members, creating a profound bond. It will expand the “concept” of corporate social responsibility into a wonderful reality. And the team will be part of something memorable, which can’t always be accomplished in cubicles, offices, or a conference room. Volunteering also provides employees new outlets to apply work skills to, such as a set builder doing actual house construction, or a salesperson handling a church’s rummage sale.

Can You Hear Me Now? Communicate and Collaborate

Today’s business environment calls for as much bang as can be created for as little money as possible. Emily Bonnie, in her 2016 article “Ultimate Guide to Team Building Activities That Don’t Suck” for Wrike offers up a simple activity to inspire better communication called Back-to-Back Drawing. Each team of two sit back to back. One is given a simple shape or image, and the other a pen and paper. Without simply saying what the image is, the image-holder gives verbal instructions to the drawing partner to recreate the image. After a set amount of time, the original image and the recreation are compared to see which team was the most accurate.

What elements make a successful team building event? According to the Forbes Coaches Council, trust, collaboration, willingness, feelings of connection, fun, equality and a safe environment are necessary. The only thing left to provide might be more marshmallows, chocolate bars, and honey grahams to make victory s’mores.

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