For instance, when a high-tech Silicone Valley client hired APEX Adventures for a team-building project, they had more in mind than a simple hunt and quest adventure using GPS.
So Dunton, who has a Master of Science in Organizational Development (MSOD) degree, designed a quest program incorporating challenges relating to cultural diversity.
“The teams had to find their way through San Jose,” said Dunton, who founded APEX in 1996. “They had various challenges related to cultural diversity. For example, they would have to go into a traditional Asian or Chinese healing center, where they were taken on a tour of the herb room. The participants also got the opportunity to try a healing methodology such as acupuncture, receiving needles or metal beads attached to their ears,” Dunton explained.
Some of the 36 participants were taken very much out of their comfort zones, he said. “Someone might sit down and say something like, ‘I cant believe you’d put that needle in your ear. That is ridiculous.’ And as they continue on their journey, they have opportunity for reflection, and the person says, ‘I said that? I didn’t even realize I said that!’”
In an Evolving Field, Little is Proprietary
While many clients these days demand more reflective experiences, involving debriefing, and how to bring lessons back to the workplace, some exercises still take place in taverns, including one in an odd locale called The Ice Bar, a real bar made completely of ice, encased in a refrigeration unit in Orlando.
In fact, Play With a Purpose has held two exercises in The Ice Bar, one a mixology, or cocktail creation class, and the other an ice sculpture competition done in the second half of 2011. About 20 participants from a technology company were involved in the ice sculpture session, while about 12 people from a hospitality company, who were involved in a team-building event designed as a road rally, took part in the mixology class, Fisher said.
The participants in the mixology class learned to create a syrup, and actually created a bacon-flavored drink. Those in the ice sculpture event created 3D images, including one of the company logo.
“The ice sculptures don’t look as good as professional ones, but they have fun. The exercise was not about results, but about participation,” Fisher explained.
Puttin’ on the Ritz
For some clients, team-building exercises can be unusually lavish- or unusually strenuous, according to John Chen, CEO and The Big Kid at Geoteaming, a 15-year-old team-building company located in Seattle.
“The strangest location where I have ever held a team-building exercise was at secret offsite center near Wonewotz, Minnesota, where 3M owns a hunting lodge and retreat facility,” said Chen, who ran an exercise with 12 executives there in September of 2009. “They have a 4-star chef, trap shooting with a clay pigeon, and an archery range, and the session incorporated all of that,” he added.
Chen ran another high-end team building session for the management consulting firm Booze Allen Hamilton, for 30 to 40 participants who made partner in the firm, he continued.
In San Francisco, participants went on a GPS quest by limosine, and at one of the locations, they had to have champagne at the highest point in San Francisco, said Chen, who noted that he ran the event for four years in succession, between 2003 and 2006.
But some of the tasks on that quest were more daunting. “At a circus center, you had to learn to do a back-flip off a 30-foot trapeze,” said Chen. “One of the guys had a total fear of heights. He said, ‘I never would have done that on my own; the reason I did it is because I’m part of a team,’” said Chen. “That leads to the theory that you’ll do more for other people, sometimes, than you’ll ever do for yourself,” explained Chen, who noted that later in the quest, participants had to fly on a helicopter tour that went underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
To Boldly Go…
Regardless of whether your client’s intention is to reward your staff for accomplishing a milestone, to prepare them for intrepid exploration of the world, or merely to show them unexplored parts of the midwest right in their own backyard, meeting planners have a number of options when it comes to finding new ideas for building cohesion in teams for whom true and tried methods have become simply tired.