Fun experiences create emotional bonds, but they may not make your team more effective. This is one message conveyed by group dynamics and team work expert Susan Wheelan (PhD, president of GDQ Associates and author of numerous thought leading publications such as renowned book Creating Effective Teams: A Guide for Members and Leaders.) To boost team performance, "team building" activities must be related to your actual work and knowledge about your team processes.
This viewpoint is supported by a study of 125 teams, presented in the article "Stop Wasting Money on Team Building" (HBR 2018). The study investigated mechanisms behind collaboration and suggested that creative team building activities are a waste of time and money if the benefits of collaboration are unclear. That is, even if team members liked and valued each other, most of them were unable to see benefits of working as a team. Because collaboration had turned into an idealized, vague goal with no concrete terms or rewards, it was rather seen as an obstruction for their personal work objectives. The result? Most of them would rather work alone.
These insights suggest that collaboration needs to be defined and understood, to be something to achieve. In other words, get back to the foundation and establish clarity on why and how you collaborate. You can do this by considering these two questions with your team:
1) Why is collaboration essential to achieve our business results?
2) What work, which specific tasks, would require collaboration to deliver those results?
At the root of this is the definition of a team purpose: Why working together as a team is more valuable than just the sum of your individual efforts.
It may sound simple and slightly more boring than racing go-kart or singing jazz together. But at Odd Agency we strive to make all meetings between people meaningful. This means that asking why is essential as basis for arranging any activity where you use your teams’ time and energy. So, ask your team why and how, and co-create your own team foundation and purpose. And of course, have fun along the way.