For a long time, the industry has been split into 2 camps:
- REAL facilitated team building simulations usually delivered indoors.
- Outdoor recreational programmes for teams. (Unfortunately, some suppliers have been marketing them and trying to pass them off as team building and we have blogged extensively about why this is a threat to the credibility of the industry.)
Fortunately, a number of team building consultants are now using an integrated approach, delivering “real” team building that integrates facilitated business exercises with outdoor team challenges.
Essential Components of Outdoor Business Team Building
Essential components of outdoor team building are:
- an executive briefing to link the experience to the company’s specific business challenges
- context setting presentation by the facilitator to identify how the selected outdoor theme parallels the realities of business
- facilitated business exercises in teams
- outdoor team challenges
- facilitated debriefing that helps teams glean lessons learned from both the outdoor and indoor components and relate them to business and team effectiveness
Highly Recommended: Business application exercises that go the next step and give participants an opportunity to link what they have learned to specific business issues confronting the organization. If these are not included in the team building session, they should be completed within 2 weeks of returning to the office.
Outdoor Team Building Benefits
Team building that includes outdoor team activities makes it possible to:
- draw rich metaphors and parallels to the business world
- keep team members alert and energized. This can be challenging in a boardroom or meeting room setting.
- create a safe environment in which executives, managers and front-line team members can interact without having to worry about titles.
- provide inexperienced team members with an opportunity to shine and hone their leadership skills in a non-threatening environment.
- customize the experience to fit various levels of physical fitness.
- scale up and down to fit various budget levels.
Outdoor Team Building: Important Considerations
In order to design and facilitate effective outdoor team building, here are some important steps to take:
- Pinpoint your goals, objectives and business challenges.
- Ensure that the simulation is built around a theme that can be customized to fit your objectives and parallel the realities of your organization.
- Allocate sufficient time for debriefing and business application exercises or analytical experience will dismiss the experience as just a day of fun outside the office.
- If the terrain is rugged or if you are conducting a winter retreat, it is essential to allocate extra time so that the group can travel safely
- Be sure to engage a trained and experienced business facilitator, not just a recreational service provider.
- Obtain information about allergies, food sensitivities and plan the menu with these in mind.
- Find out about physical challenges and ensure that you have a variety of roles and activities so that everyone can participate in a meaningful way.
- Keep safety paramount. Avoid extreme activities that may jeopardize the health and safety of team members and even get your company sued. We have reviewed some of the pitfalls extensively in:
- Companies Still Substituting Extreme Activities for Real Team Building
- The Height of Stupidity in Team Building
- Even More Really Stupid Ideas for Team Building
- Ensure that there is a trained first aider on the team conducting the activities.
- If you are going off the beaten track, it is essential to bring a nurse with you and set up a tent, cabin or other area with at least one cot where team members can rest and receive medical care if required.
- Formulate an environmentally friendly plan so that insects don’t interfere with the group’s enjoyment of the outdoor portions of the agenda.
Outdoor Team Building: Sample Team Activities
To energize your group and give teams an opportunity to bond, in between the facilitated exercises and presentations, it is important to include a variety of activities into outdoor team building retreats and simulations. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Dune Bashing (Desert)
- Off-roading (Wilderness or Mountain)
- Jeep Safari (Jungle or Island)
- GPS Challenge
- Tent Pitching Challenge
- Makeshift Shelter Construction
- Firestarter Challenge
- Outdoor Cooking Challenge
- Horse Riding
- Camel Riding (Desert)
- Horse or Camel Watering Relay
- Treasure Hunt
- Snow Shoeing
- Dog Sledding
- Abseiling (Mountain) – can be done safely
- Fun with Dune Buggies (Desert)
Outdoor Team Building: Sample Themes
Here is just a small sample of the outdoor themes that are possible and a few take-aways. There are many more.
- Wilderness Survival Team Building Canada &
Wilderness Team Building USA – charting your course, blazing new trails, getting off the beaten track and leaving the competition behind.
- Oil Rig Team Building Simulation – Uncovering Hidden Business Opportunities
- Pearl Diving Simulation – Uncovering Hidden Business Opportunities
- Desert Survival Team Building Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Jordan &
Desert Team Building USA – thriving in the midst of turbulence, heading in a new direction, identifying new products and services
- Island Survival Team Building Jamaica – recovery (stranded on an island theme)
- Mountain Team Building Oman – new horizons, fresh perspectives
- Jungle Survival Team Building (Malaysia, Latin America) – moving into uncharted territory
- Winter Team Building (USA, Canada, Japan) – surviving and thriving in a harsh climate, resourcefulness
Executive Oasis International is a Toronto-based management consulting firm specializing in the design and facilitation of business team building simulations. Featured destinations include Canada, USA, Jamaica, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Jordan, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, and Europe.