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Designing Memorable & Impactful Teambuilding Activities

by Rhency Padilla

I have been designing & facilitating different teambuilding activities for a long time now. Over the years, I realised that a lot of managers & employees tend to have a one dimensional view about what teambuilding activities really are. Oftentimes, people look at team bonding as the only way to build teams i.e. having BBQ at the park, playing bowling, singing your heart out in a karaoke night, going for happy hour on a Thursday night (yes, that's the version of TGIF in the Middle East) get the point. There's nothing wrong with these activities when you think about strengthening the bond of the team beyond work and after working hours. After all, who doesn't want to have a fun or a relaxing evening after a stressful day at work? However, a team bonding activity is only one of the many teambuilding interventions that a manager or HR should have in their teambuilding toolkit.

Here are my top tips in designing memorable & impactful teambuilding activities.

Step 1 - Start with an end goal in mind

Think about the overall problem that you and your team would like to solve through a teambuilding activity? Write a compelling problem statement. Is it engagement, mindset, behaviors, collaboration, trust, accountability...that you want to address?

Next, define with the team what you want people to think, feel and do as a result of the teambuilding activity? The keyword here is "everyone". Teambuilding is more impactful if co-designed with the team.

Think: Do you want the team to think

differently or adapt a different mindset?

Feel: Do you want the team to have fun, relax, de-stress, energise....?

Do: Do you want the team to strengthen a specific behavior or do something differently?

Clearly define the objectives & realistic outcome(s) that you would like to achieve with the team. By doing this, moving to next step is going to be much easier & more purposeful.

Step 2 - Brainstorm on activities

This is my little secret. Conduct a brainstorming session. If done correctly, it can be a good mini-teambuilding activity in itself. It is a fun activity where people can go wild with their ideas, hence promoting creativity within the team. It also encourages co-creation and builds better collaboration for people to achieve a common goal. You can do this virtually using an online collaboration tool like mural, miro, team retro or physically in the office or offsite using the good old fashioned colored post-it notes. Once you have your long list of ideas, think about clustering these ideas into 4 teambuilding buckets:

  • Team bonding e.g. social gathering like BBQ, karaoke, bowling, happy hour...

  • Activity-based e.g. simulation games, physical games, mind games, sports...

  • Value-based e.g. CSR activities like charity work, community work...

  • Skill-based e.g. leadership, communication, conflict management...

After clustering the activities, shortlist the ones that will allow you to achieve your objectives and desired outcome for the team. Think about the activities as Lego blocks, feel free to mix and match activities depending on what you have identified in Step 1.

Step 3 - Develop how you want people to experience the day

As a design thinking practitioner myself, my experience design work is always inspired by the design thinking mindset and methodology. So, what do you need to take into consideration when developing the agenda of the day?

Step 4 - Plan your teambuilding event

Designing a memorable & impactful teambuilding activities may sound like a daunting task when you think about the planning and logistics that go into it. But there's nothing more rewarding than achieving the objectives of the activity and seeing the lasting positive outcome on the team's performance and overall engagement after the event.

Step 5 - Review the objectives & outcomes of the event

This is the most important and often most neglected part of any teambuilding activity. Most of the time, people have an amazing teambuilding event but fail to follow up on what they committed to doing differently after the event. People just go back to their old ways of doing things. A follow up session post the teambuilding event creates accountability and has a more sustainable change in the team.

So my question is, what do you do to create memorable team building events?

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