Posted March 16, 2009on:
Working in a team environment provides an excellent opportunity to develop invaluable skills, positive energy and innovative approaches to problem-solving. The best of these activities uses the dynamics of play and the right amount of humor to encourage brainstorming abilities. In short, an atmosphere of playfulness and a team building exercise with a built-in ‘fun factor’ helps relieve individual and group stress. Without stress, team skills can flourish.
The oft-used term ‘out-of-the-box thinking’ refers to the ability to generate new ideas, as opposed to derivative ones. To think that creatively, individuals and teams must have their intellectual boundaries removed. They must have the freedom to scatter their toys on the floor and make a mess. As a game designer, I find that ‘making a mess’ is often the only way to discover new approaches to solving a problem.
In a team building game, an amount of structure is obviously needed to achieve desired results. However, as with any game design, team activities can be cleverly created with enough ‘play room’ that a real fun factor exists. If the teams feel free enough, perhaps to the point where they don’t notice the structure of the exercise, they will have the play experience we are seeking. This is why very cleverly designed games have what I call ‘Invisible Rules’, a set of rules that are so seamlessly integrated that they never hamper the experience. If team members feel too restricted by rules, they may resist contributing fully and this undermines the activity’s purpose.
The freedom to play is often accompanied by, and supported by, a healthy sense of humor. This combination of play and lightheartedness is difficult to beat.
As Psychologist Rollo May puts it, “Humor is a healthy way of feeling a ‘distance’ between one’s self and the problem.” Finding ways to laugh as we confront challenges gives us perspective-often allowing us to find solutions more quickly”.
When the challenge is difficult, stress will only makes the climb to the top of the mountain much harder. Determination without humor is a recipe for disaster. Humor keeps the mind and spirit flexible enough to cope with sudden changes and longer-term issues. In a team setting, a group that is laughing together is already getting a head-start on the team building process. They trust each other. They have relaxed their individual egos. Laughing together is an immediate way to begin bonding. Play becomes more productive with humor as an undercurrent.
Anyone that a plays a game seriously may concentrate and win that game, but in a team environment, individual victory is not the focus. It is more important to learn to work together, grow together, and explore new options for problem-solving. It is less about winning than it is about trying new approaches. This requires freedom to play. This requires laughter along the way!