Businessmen And Businesswomen Dancing In Office Lobby

Usually when we hear the phrase “Use your head” it harkens us back to our mothers imploring us to act rationally or think logically. I’m thinking about this phrase in a different context though; when I say “Use Your Head” I’m literally talking about unlocking brain power in the way we work and the way your organization approaches team building activities for work.

The perceptions about team building activities for work can range from “waste of time” on the negative end to “very fun and informative” on the positive end. Unfortunately, though, the kinds of words that organizations do not often associate with team building activities are things like “long-lasting,” “sustainable,” “ROI,” “valuable,” or “performance-oriented.”

Are these words just not in the nature of team-building activities or are we approaching team-building activities for work in the wrong ways? Instead of focusing on the fun, teams need to recalibrate to create real objectives for team-building activities and a plan for continuation of learning. In the blog, I read an interesting post, titled “5 Key Reasons Why Teambuilding Doesn’t Work,” and their conclusions were valid—lack of leadership support, lack of follow-up, superficiality, lack of time, and poor conditions for success. I agree with these, but I would offer another:

For team building activities to transform the workplace and the participants, they need to go beyond traditional work roles, experience, hierarchy, and other common ways organizations stratify employees. There’s a deeper connection level that is magnified by team building activities, and that’s the cognitive level.

If employees are no longer looking at team building activities through the lens of power or influence but, rather, through the unique ways that they cognitively approach problems, the activities can thrive on a more substantive level. Imagine a team of left-brain thinkers trying to do a highly “creative, conceptual” exercise (which many team building activities call for). They’ll more than likely accomplish it because you’ve hired smart, capable people who problem-solve. But what will they learn? In essence, it will reinforce a need to rely on the same old approaches.

Now imagine if you paired two left-brain thinkers with a right-brain thinker, an abstract thinker, a concrete thinker, a more quiet person and a more assertive person? This team, beyond their roles, now has extremely diverse cognitive perspectives to draw upon. Team building activities for work actually begin to mimic real work. Novel concept!

By taking a look at team building activities for work through the lens of thinking and behavioral styles and pairing groups in new ways, the sticky-ness factor can skyrocket. Teams actually begin to remember the lessons because it more closely mimics their daily challenges (which aren’t usually task-related, but rather relationship-oriented, which is the crux of learning how differently people think about the same problem).

So…use your head in your team-building activities.

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