Here’s an e-mail I received from a regular web site visitor and subscriber to my monthly newsletter. My response follows:
“I am an ardent reader of your articles. The latest improvement point article on Team Development is indeed good. The only point where I disagree is where you have brushed aside the adventure games as just “fun,” nothing more. This is not true.
I would like to point out that these – the games or the wilderness experiences – are the means of educating people on how effective the team work will be. Of course, the teams have to apply what they have learned in their workplace. Nature teaches us best, like the penguin story you narrated in The Leader’s Digest.”
I am sure that some teams get value from those activities. I am not a fan of these approaches because I have spent so much time with teams who have tried these techniques and not received much value from them. It might be argued that those same teams likely wouldn’t get much value from any team development activity because they aren’t open to learning or don’t diligently apply the lessons that are available for them.
But what most teams really need are practical approaches they can apply to real issues now. Perhaps some of these games and exercises obliquely do that. But many have a high play or entertainment value and a very low relevancy or application value. Participants see only theoretical connections between this make-believe world and their real world issues. Too many team games or ‘experiential learning’ don’t get very practical. They can be fun and energizing. But if they aren’t helping the team address real-time problems and opportunities, they ultimately frustrate participants. They can raise dissatisfaction and decrease teamwork because team members contrast the theories and team ideals they are learning with what they’re experiencing every day in the team, and feel an even bigger disconnect.