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What are Team Building Exercises?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2016
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Team building exercises are exercises developed to strengthen teams of individuals, or to encourage bonding among people who are in school together or cooperating on a project. In some cases, a group may have a budget for team building exercises which includes special trips and retreats: in others, the exercises may be simple games that are carried out in the “home base” environment to foster friendships. In all instances, team building exercises require cooperation between participating individuals, which encourages team work and allows strangers to get to know each other better.

The most common types of team building exercises are those which are designed to be done in an office or classroom environment. These types of exercises might happen in the early weeks of school, or when a group of people is preparing to collaborate on a project or training. Many of them include simple logic puzzles, word games, or other activities that require physical or mental cooperation. In addition to getting a group thinking of a team, these team building exercises also serve as ice breakers, letting people learn interesting things about each other and shed some of their natural shyness.

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More advanced team building exercises involve going to the outside world on a trip or retreat. Corporations often do this, and some colleges and institutions do as well. Examples of outdoor team building exercises include orienteering, scavenger hunts, ropes courses, and camping trips. These team building exercises usually require an even greater level of trust and cooperation between the participants, and in some cases may last a week or more at a specialized retreat. Usually the participants return with deeper connections to one another that serve them well in the months or years to come.

Simple team building exercises to try with a class or office include trust falls, in which participants are asked to stand with their back to the group and allow themselves to fall backward, relying on other members of the group to catch them before they hit the ground. Scavenger hunts are also popular, and can be restricted to a small area or expand over an entire city, depending on the level of participation desired. A popular way for people to learn more about each other is “Walk Across the Room,” an exercise when the facilitator reads statements such as “I have no siblings,” or “I am from a small town” out loud. If the statement is true for a participant, he or she steps forward: if it is false, the participant remains in place. By looking around, people can acquire basic facts about each other.

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shell4life
Post 4

@Perdido – I lean more toward the conventional team building exercises. Though a trip together might make people more familiar with each other, they still don't know if they can solve problems together and work to find solutions.

At my office, we started out with a game where everyone wrote one fact about themselves and tossed it into a hat. As each employee drew out a fact, they had to guess who it belonged to. This was a starter, but the exercises progressed from here.

The employees were divided into teams to solve various puzzles. We did everything from crosswords to actual jigsaw puzzles as teams, and I think that helped people see how well they could work together.

Perdido
Post 3

@orangey03 – I totally agree! Unless the team doing the exercises is a sports team of some sort, there is no guarantee that they will be in good enough physical shape or even good enough health to participate in physical exercises.

I manage an office of fifteen employees, and my idea of a team building exercise is something that we all enjoy and can do together. We often schedule lunch outings, and we even took a company vacation together last summer. We did various things together on vacation, like take a dolphin cruise and visit a lighthouse museum.

Some people might say that these aren't actual exercises, but I think that any positive experience you have together builds camraderie. When those employees went back to the office on Monday, they looked at each other in a more familiar light than they did before we vacationed together.

cloudel
Post 2

My office did trust falls before, and it is a lot harder than it sounds. People like me who have trust issues find it nearly impossible to fall backward without catching themselves on the way down.

I know that my teammates probably got a little insulted when I kept stopping in mid-fall, but I simply could not bring myself to do this. It was my own issue, and it was totally unrelated to my feelings about the team.

Other people had no problem free-falling, and no one let anyone else fall to the ground. Even though they offered to let me try again after everyone else had done it, I still couldn't bring myself to do it.

orangey03
Post 1

I think that indoor team building exercises are much better than outdoor ones. They tend to be more focused on mental and emotional things, rather than physical abilities.

I went on a retreat with my coworkers once, and the boss had set up some obstacle courses and divided us into teams. He meant well, but a couple of my coworkers were overweight, and they had extreme difficulty running and bending over to get through the course. It was embarrassing to them, and I think it did more harm than good.

After that, we stuck to non-physical team building activities. I'm glad my boss had the presence of mind to see that he had made a mistake with the obstacle course.

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