Moving From Trust Falls: How Corporate Team Building Has Changed

Corporate team building, for years, have been associated derogatorily with trust falls and rope courses have since been working to shed that association by upping the ante with more creative methods and options popping up across the globe.

Improv training, team cook-offs, “Survivor”-style competitions, as well as Escape rooms like Hidden Door, are innovating team building, bringing in new excitement, and, perhaps, effectiveness, to the once-dreaded outings, aimed at improving employee relations and improve team cohesion and effectiveness.

A while back, United Airlines employees in Chicago went to a Hidden Door-like escape room, with the team of 15 being challenged, and surprised by the endeavour. The group managed to shake up the status quo of the office, with a new intern managing to lead the group, managers included, to freedom and victory.

The question though, is how the scenarios in team building improve skills and how they translate to the workplace, improving it, as is the aim of the exercise in the first place.

According to Prof. Eduardo Salas, an Organization Psych. Professor at Houston’s Rice University, it’s currently unclear how team building actually improves the team, since, after their escapades in places like Hidden Door, which people enjoy because it’s outside of work, the same conditions of work still remain, leaving the long-term effects uncertain.

Team building has long since been the butt of many jokes in the corporate environment, due in no small part to the quintessential team-building activity: the trust fall, wherein one would close their eyes and fall back, confident in the knowledge of your colleagues having your back, or not.

Experts have noted that, while team-building venues have always been common, the old-school activities did not really work. Wendy Bedwell, assistant professor of organizational psychology at University of South Florida, states that team-building didn’t really improve employee performance.

In recent years, however, she states team building has evolved, becoming more creative and engaging, increasing both the enjoyment and potential benefits for those involved, with new options such as solving simulated crime scenes, bike building for charity, among other creative cooperatives.

According to her, these new options, which require further cooperation, as well as critical thinking and problem solving, compared to the typical trust fall, gives more benefits than just falling into some people’s arms.