The Height of Stupidity in Team Building

Silly Team Building


“Dangerous activities being passed off as ‘team building’ ” would probably be an even more appropriate title.

Remember a while back I did that spoof “A Modest Proposal to Shrink Team Building Budgets” and I had an activity called “The Height of Frivolity” using Pac Man? That was tongue in cheek. I assure you I wasn’t serious. I was just making fun of some of the silly activities that were being passed off as “team building”.

Well this has one has me beat. I can’t take credit for discovering it though. @teambuildingny shared it on Twitter. He saw the first video on the Backpacker Magazine Blog. On Twitter they are @backpackermag

Before we go any further, based on Michael Cardus’ comment, let me be 100% crystal  clear:

Tree Jumping, Ski Tree Jumping, Parkour, Free Falling, & Base Jumping are NOT Team Building

I would not even put them in the category of “team recreation”. Treetop walking (a safe activity) as an energizer during a retreat or as a recreational activity for a team outing is one thing. Tree jumping, ski tree jumping and free falling are very dangerous activities with significant risks.   Companies have found themselves involved in lawsuits when they pressured employers to participate in activities that are dangerous or even humiliating.

I want to stress the fact that NONE of these activities represent real team building. They have nothing to do with team building yet some of these activities are being marketed and presented to companies as such.

Adrenaline junkies in some executive suites combined with an “anything a group does together is team building” mentality is a slippery, dangerous, and, at times VERY expensive slope.

Tree Jumping

I found another clip that shows this happens in the winter too. In this video, the jumper misses his target.

Here is my response.

In case you think organizations aren’t really spending money on this, check out this story about taxpayers in the UK who are FUMING about the wasted spending:

Taxpayers foot the bill for County Hall ‘jollies’

On another day, 54 staff were treated to a day of outdoor pursuits at Treejumpers in Paddock Wood at a cost of £6,404 to the taxpayer.

The reason stated for the Treejumpers away day – which was repeated just nine days later for a smaller number of workers at a cost of £2,891 – was that it was a ‘team event’.

This is equivalent to about US$10,000 – US$12,000. This could have provided professional business facilitation and less risky recreational activities for 2 days, 1 day per group or a 2 day combined retreat for both groups.

By the way, the same company in the UK that offers this also offers “Alien Invasion” and “Spy Plane Down” in the Corporate section of their website for “team building”. 😆

I wonder what’s next. Ski Tree Jumping? Parkour? Free Falling?

Ski Tree Jumping

As ridiculous and dangerous as it seems, this extreme “sport” is gaining increasing popularity in Norway. The way things are heading, it’s only a matter of time before it reaches North America and some company decides to offer it as “team building”.

First here is a short clip to show how it works. Apparently, the goal is to go as high as possible in the tree and grab on to it.

Apologies for the title of this next video but it was the only clip I could find that was long enough to fully demonstrate how it works with a group. I will replace it as soon as I can find another clip:

Here are is the link to the video for the:

Ski Tree Jumping Championships in Norway

I don’t know about you but I can’t stop laughing. Laughing isn’t really the appropriate response though as someone could get serously hurt engaging in this type of activitly but I just can’t believe how ridiculous this seems. I don’t know of about any companies that have done this for “team building” yet. I hope I don’t have to eat my words.

Parkour & Freerunning

I didn’t know about this until a week after I did the blog. I have my mother to thank for this. She wasn’t aware of the focus of my recent blog post. Call it serendipity. She sent me the link asking “A wha’ dat?” I had no idea so I decided to check into it.

I was going to let this next video clip speak for itself. Now I am sorry I Googled it. Yes folks, I DO have to eat my words. There IS a company (in the UK) marketing Parkour for, you guessed it, corporate team building. Think this can’t happen in North America? Time will tell. Earlier this year, permission was granted to build the first Parkour park in the USA in Texas. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

Parkour Starts at 01:26

Birdmen – Free Falling: Extreme Skydiving

All of this reminds me of the extreme sport that 60 Minutes profiled a few months ago in which people hurl themselves off cliffs and then (half way down) release a parachute. There has already been one death from that. You mark my words, it’s only a matter of time before some company spends money on this for “team building”.

Update: Unfortunately, people are starting to die from this.

Base Jumping

I knew I would have to eat my words before too long. Yes there are companies in Australia, New Zealand, the USA that offer something similar for corporate groups. The companies in Australia and New Zealand market it as team building on their websites. The company in Las Vegas doesn’t… least not yet. It’s called Base Jumping and it involves a parachute not a wingsuit as in the example that was on 60 Minutes. Unbelievable!! Take a peek:

Base Jumping is illegal in many countries. In New Zealand, there is even a company that offers base jumping (with a harness) from a tower in an urban area that is as tall as a highrise. They are marketing it for team building. While they have attempted to reduce the risk, my quetion is “What’s the point and what does this have to do with team building?”.

Extreme Team Building: Does it Work

Honestly, what some companies will do in the name of team building. I wonder how much money they spend on that one and how they can cost-justify an activity like that in terms of R.O.I.

Seems like a case of WAY too much testosterone to me. However, there is more to it than that. Remember, that CEO I wrote about a few months ago? She thought giving her team giant boxing gloves and putting them in a ring to beat each other up was a great team building activity. I guess I should let her know about THESE options….no thanks.

The question is “does an extreme team building approach work?”. I’ll let you be the judge:

Ousted Seagate CEO to get $5M; company won’t contest any unemployment claim

Extreme Team Building: Is it worth it?

Wilderness Survival team building is one thing. We offer it in safe and controlled environments. Why take things to this extreme:

  • Into the Wild [Inc. Magazine]
    For 11 students out of 85,000 taught by NOLS since 1965, the consequences have been fatal.

Creating Team Building That is Effective Fun AND Safe

These articles deal with best practices in team building and the ingredients that are need to design and deliver team building that is effective without reducing the fun factor.

Reactions? Thoughts?

  • In this economy, why do companies continue to waste money on silly and even dangerous activities instead of spending it on real team building?
  • How do companies cost justify this type of spending? (I hope some CEOs or CFOs will tackle this one)

Photo Credit: tysoncecka

More About Silly Team Building

Executive Oasis International is a Toronto based management consulting firm that designs and facilitates team building retreats and simulations in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Canada, Asia, and the Caribbean.

17 thoughts on “The Height of Stupidity in Team Building

  1. Steve says:

    Surely the best way to enthuse a workforce, who as you state, spend all day at a desk, is to take them out of the environment they associate with work. To hold another office based team building event with blindfolds, paper towers, and silly pathways marked out on the canteen floor would most definitely count as a way to demotivate staff to come out of their shells, open up, and communicate on a GENUINE level, instead of going through the motions for the sake of the team building day.

    Take someone out of their comfort zone (in a controlled and safe manner, and I accept some of the clips you show do not appear safe), and people open up on a totally natural level, and that is the type of communication a workforce should be promoting.

  2. Anne Thornley-Brown, M.B.A. says:

    I think Parkour works well for commercials and movies aimed at a certain demographic. I’ll blog about that sometime. I’ve done a lot of tweets about that. A parkour demo can even work as entertainment for an event. Getting employees to participate in it as an activity for team building is IMHO risky and I would strongly advise against it. W.r.t. your comment, no it’s definitely NOT team building.

  3. Mike Daly says:

    On the subject of parkour for team building I recently went on a parkour stag party. Imagine having to tell the bride that the wedding is off because the groom broke his neck doing parkour! But in fact it was great fun, and in a way it was team building. Being a stag party event there were a number of guys who didn’t know each other, and after two hours of (gentle, well supervised) parkour games we were all friends and worked well together for the rest of the weekend. There is even a video of it here

    It may not be what you call team building, I don’t know if it’s good for corporations, but it worked well for us!

    The video, by the way, was made by the company that ran the event for us.

  4. Anne Thornley-Brown, M.B.A. says:

    Since I wrote this feature (to which I added Parkour), I have made a point of speaking to as many young adults 18 – 24 as possible. With one exception, all the males had heard of Parkour. They thought it was super cool and many were into it. None of the females had heard of it.

    I did not even know about Parkour until my mother sent me an e-mail with a link to a video asking “A wah dat?” (we’re Jamaican). It was just after I had released the Height of Stupidity in Team Building article. Initially, I wrote that it’s only a matter of time before some company starts marketing Parkour as team building. I thought I was being really provocative and “out there” witih that comment. Almost as soon as I posted it, I did some more homework and determined that, yes, there are companies marketing it for corporate team building. I was absolutely stunned so I know I came off quite strong in my comments.

    I can understand Parkour as a fitness activity and I can, of course, see the value of Parkour for the military. If a company is targeting young adult males, it makes perfect sense to feature Parkour, hip-hop, skateboarding, snowboarding, etc. I did an entire series of tweets with Parkour videos and Parkour based TV commericials and marketing pieces. One day, I’ll pull them all together for my executive blog. Passing it off as corporate team building is misleading. For recreation for corporate teams, it’s very risky. Using it for a group of office employees in primarily sedentary jobs is definitely not a good plan, especially if they have not been working out regularly. Maybe construction workers, firefighters and other professions that involve rigorous physical activity would enjoy it for team recreation as long as there are a lot of checks and balances. Extreme Parkour such as jumping from one building to another is just asking for trouble and I am still shocked that companies are doing this. Ditto for base jumping, extreme stunts, and weekend warrior events. Trust me, Youtube has nothing to do with it.

  5. kate says:

    Actually, despite what YouTube might have you believe,Parkour is not an extreme or even particularly dangerous sport – at least not on the basis of a couple of workshops and. In order to overcome fears (replace the prospect of a 6 foot jump with the potential embarrassment of being outperformed on a groud-level balance exercise such as walking a curb) or learn about how your skills mesh with those of others for instance, you need to feel supported, able to make mistakes in order to learn, and in the first instance, have a go! If you are looking to promote openness to new ideas and alternative ways of doing things (not taking the obvious, some might say ‘lazy’ route – I’ll avoid ‘safe’ for obvious reasons of missinterpretation, but you get my gist), then why not encourage people to try something that is non-competitive, has a strong sense of mutual support, and is equally unfamiliar yet applicable for all? Oh, and there’s a ‘risk’ and they might even enjoy it!

  6. Guy Farmer says:

    Great post. It’s amazing how many companies believe that team building is about going outdoors and scaring their employees within an inch of their lives. It may be exhilarating or fun on some level but team building is more effective when we help people practice behaviors that will help them collaborate and build empathy.

  7. michael cardus says: i re-read my comment “used to site the thing you are trying to de-bunk”…..mis-wrote there.

    I meant that perhaps when people quickly read posts that mention what team building is-not…they may forget the “is-not’ line and just remember tree-jumping as team-building.

  8. Anne Thornley-Brown, M.B.A. says:

    That was fast! I’m not sure where it is being cited since it was just released very late last night. Please do share the link so that I can add my comments there.

    Unfortunately, companies are already marketing this as team building. Maybe I need to go back and put in big bold letters, Tree Jumping is not team building. What do you think?

  9. michael cardus says:

    this post is great…and I have been reading and thinking about informing people about team building. It seems the idea of trying to de-bunk an idea can actually reinforce the idea within their minds. So for example – Tree Jumping is NOT team building; then a couple months later two people are talking and one says “I remember reading an article about tree jumping for team building.” now putting the idea of tree jumping as a team building idea. Plus your article is being used to site the exact thing you are trying to de-bunk!

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