Toronto Team Building to Foster Innovation
Team Building to Tune-up Toronto Teams
The need for Canadian companies to gain more bench strength with respect to innovation has been highlighted a number of times.
With respect to high-tech innovation:
In Investing in Innovation ….The 76-page document outlines Canada’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to fostering high-tech smarts in the private sector and the country at large.
In its report, the Conference Board concluded that, despite some encouraging trends and pockets of activity, Canada’s overall commitment to innovation is lackluster, and that the ramifications of that attitude is costing the country money, job-creation opportunities and slowing productivity.
The Conference Board sent a particularly strong message to Canada’s business executives, saying they have failed to show a “passion” for innovation. The report urged them to show more leadership by making more risky, but tech-savvy and potentially rewarding investments. (Gilles Rheaume, the Conference Board’s vice-president of policy, business and society in Ottawa)
…changing the mindset of business leaders presents a tricky problem, one that won’t be easy to resolve. “These are soft issues … so they are hard to deal with”
Lack of Innovation Hurting Canada: report
There are no quick fixes for this. Clearly, Canadian companies need to place an emphasis on devising strategies to:
- equip the members of their team with tools to brainstorm and design innovative solutions to business challenges
- reward top performers
- encourage the development of new products and services for the global marketplace
Canada’s lack of innovation, a 13th place ranking or a D Grade in Innovation, among the 17 OECD nations, is leading to mediocre socio-economic performance compared to other developed countries.
Conference Board of Canada (February 2010)
An important key will be to re-shape corporate cultures so that they reward instead of punishing team members who foster and role model innovation. Far too often, the reverse happens. The “good old boys network” and “that’s not how we do it here” prevail.
Team building to promote openness to new approaches and introduce teams to tools for brainstorming and thinking outside the box will be important.
Team Building that Can Help
Team building is an important part of a total strategy to foster innovation. Yet so often this is not recognized.
Team building consultants see it daily. Never before have there been so many inquiries from very junior company employees. They have been tasked with requesting quotes for “team building” programmes small groups (7 – 15 people) for which the company has allocated $50, $40 even $30 a person. The more experienced administrative assistants are clearly embarrassed to make the call.
Team Building is not Enough
Other important steps that are needed to re-shape organizations to promote innovation include:
- identifying core competencies and pinpointing those that are required to produce a truly innovative organization
- using competencies as a basis for interviews, the performance management process and developmental planning
- tying a portion of the bonus structure to the extent to which each employee embraces and displays innovation in their approach to work
- promoting team members to management on the basis of strong people skills and commitment to innovation
In a previous blog entry, we shared a number of specific tools that can assist organizations with the identification of core competencies, developmental planning and corporate culture transformation.
Consideration should also be given to extending incentive travel and special corporate events to team members who champion innovation and serve as role models for innovation. Currently, these perks are reserved for top producing members of the sales team.
When I was at Bell Mobility, in the early Bell Cellular days, we had the President’s award of Excellence. This type of recognition goes a long way and has a great impact when innovative teams also receive recognition.
Business Team Building vs Corporate Events
In Canadian companies, far too often team building is an afterthought. It is astonishing that so many Canadian companies have “dumbed down” team building down to the point that it is a strictly recreational event delegated to inexperienced team members to organize
As we have discussed previously, a recreational activity that involves a team is just that…. recreation or a corporate event. There is a place for that, however, recreational corporate events should never be confused with team building or used as a substitute for it.
The key to successful team building is to have clear business related objectives and combine facilitated business exercises and cases with activities to invigorate your participants and boost team spirit.
Opportunities for Team Building in Toronto
The Greater Toronto and areas accessible to it (e.g. the Muskokas, Niagara-on-the-Lake) offer many possibilities for team building. Your options will vary depending on the time of year and, of course, your budget.
Here are a few examples of Toronto team building that combines business facilitation and activities. After reviewing these ideas, here is where you can find more information about:
Indoor Team Building
Thriving in the Midst of Turbulence, Innovation, Change Management, Leadership Skills, Sales Strategies, Sales Skills, Marketing Strategies, Business Strategy, Marketing Innovation, Executive Summary Presentations
This intensive business team building simulation involves teams in the execution of a real project. It can be business related, a charity event or something recreational. The simulation provides a refresher and review of some of the more common brainstorming, decision-making and problem-solving tools. It also introduces some new tools and models. After projects are completed, teams meet in the boardroom to present their strategy. Based on results, a winner is selected and prizes are awarded. A full debriefing and business application session ensures that learnings and insights are transferred back to the job.
Breaking Down Silos, Cross-Functional Teamwork, Dealing with Change, International Teamwork, Leadership Skills, Brainstorming, Problem Solving
This high power business simulation creates a simulated organization that parallels and reflects the realities of your organization. Your group is divided into 1 or more companies with its own departments. The least experienced members of your team are promoted to the executive suite. Your executive team will get a reminder of what it’s like to work on the frontline and experience firsthand some of the bottlenecks in the organization as they are re-enacted during the simulation. This simulation is like a blank canvas and it is amazing how accurately organizational dynamics are played out and reflected back to the team.
Marketing Strategies, Creativity, Innovation, Brainstorming
A team building simulation that involves cooking differs from a cooking event for teams that is strictly recreational. How?
First, parallels are drawn between cooking and the ingredients required to run effective teams and organizations. In teams, a cooking challenge is presented. Observers record team dynamics so that feedback can be presented by the facilitator.
Usually, just before dessert is served, feedback is provided about team dynamics and the dishes that the teams have created. At this point, prizes are rewarded. This is followed up with a debriefing session to identify practices that can be transferred back to the workplace.
There is a range of options for team building simulations that involve cooking.
- Team Cooking Simulation: This simple approach is similar to the TV shows Next Great Chefs or Top Chefs. In teams, participants prepare presentation plates and then present them for judging.
- Black Box Challenges: This is not recommended for beginners. Using a process similar to TV’s Iron Chef, participants are divided into teams and presented with identical ingredients. After some brainstorming, there is a specified timeframe during which the teams have to prepare their creations and presentation plates for judging.
- Restaurant Simulation: About a week before the simulation, teams do some brainstorming to come up with a theme and menu for a restaurant. The teams discuss their ideas with professional chefs and receive feedback to make their ideas realistic. Then, each team is given a budget to purchase decor for their restaurant. The chefs go away and prepare the recipes for the selected menus, shop for ingredients and prep. the kitchen on the day of the challenge. Each team must prepare their dishes , create presentation plates for judging and decorate an area of the room like a restaurant.
This is not typically a low budget option but the cost of the cooking component can be reduced with a “just desserts” option.
Innovation, Marketing Innovation, Brainstorming, Problem Solving
Charity team building with toys is another flexible option that can be used as a business simulation or strictly recreational option. The group can be divided into teams or departments of a simulated organization. The toys that are assembled or built are donated to charity or schools in low-income areas. It’s a perfect way to give back to the community. Here are some options:
- Dollhouse & dollhouse furniture assembly
- Bicycle assembly
- Scooter assembly
- Assembly of toy kitchens or workbenches
- Shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse or Another Charity
- Remote control cars
Moderate to High Budget
Outdoor Team Building
Outdoor team building combines outdoor recreational activities with facilitated indoor team exercises that can be completed on-site or off-site at a resort or hotel.
Spring, Summer, Fall
Sales Strategies, Marketing Strategies, Business Strategy, Innovation, Marketing Innovation, Brainstorming, Problem Solving
Wilderness survival team building is similar to Winter team building but the activities are tailored to the season. When the weather is warm, in addition to the accommodation options for winter team building, a camping trip at a conservation area will boost team bonding and help keep costs down. Activities can include:
- firestarter challenges
- GPS Challenges
- Outdoor Cooking Challenges
- Horse Riding
- Hot Air Ballooning
- Treetop Walking
Sales Strategies, Marketing Strategies, Business Strategy, Innovation, Marketing Innovation, Brainstorming, Problem Solving
This is one of the best ways to inspire your team. Through a combination of business exercises, cases and outdoor recreational challenges, your team will be painlessly introduced to brainstorming, problem-solving and decision-making tools to help them generate solutions to business challenges, even within a short time frame. This flexible session can be offered at a luxury resort or, to save money, by doing the business exercises on-site and a half day of recreational team challenges at an inexpensive conservation area or camp.
Themes can include Winter Olympics, a winter wonderland, winter survival, or Survivor.
Activities can include:
- ice skating
- sleigh rides
- ice carving contests
- ice climbing
Finance for Non-Financial Managers, Finance 101, Decision Making, Problem Solving
Robert Koyasaki’s popular board game is a perfect choice for an indoor activity for teams. It can be offered on-site or off-site depending on your budget. Through this board game and the debriefing that follows it, participants will learn about how markets work, strategies for small business and personal financial success, balance sheets, and income statements. The best part is that they will have fun doing it and learn painlessly.
Toronto: Team Recreation Ideas to Reward Teams
When the time is right to reward teams and express appreciation to clients, all of these team building programmes can also be offered as strictly recreational corporate events simply by removing the business exercises and debriefing.
For a recreational team or client appreciation event, here are some other ideas for:
Brainstorming, Problem Solving, Just for Fun
Ever since The Amazing Race hit TV screens around the world, race events have been popular. While these are typically offered for strictly recreational purpose, with some adjustment and facilitated debriefing, they can be used to hone teamwork, communication, and planning skills. They are also a great way to have your group work in teams to find the mystery location for your team building retreat or corporate event. Customized itineraries exploring various parts of Toronto can be offered.
The range of transportation options a travel agent can arrange and activities that can be incorporated can vary depending on budgets.
- Fancy cars
- Hot air balloons
- TTC passes
- Shuttle busses
Just for Fun
This isn’t team building. It’s available as a stand-alone recreational event for teams or as an add-on to a team building session, retreat or corporate event. Your group will work in teams and spend a couple of hours following clues and exploring chocolate shoppes and other chocolate-related locations in downtown Toronto and the Distillery District. The first team to solve the puzzle and report to the final checkpoint will be declared the winner. Your group will relax over light refreshments topped off with a delectable chocolate treat. Everyone will leave with some chocolate goodies to take home with them.