Team Building Should Be a Blast – Not a Burden

Southern.California.Team.Building.Trivia.jpgSouthern California Team Building Trivia

Whenever people find out that I founded a trivia team building company, invariably one of the first questions I am asked is, “How did you get into this?” It’s a fun story, which you can read more about here – basically, I was working a full-time job in event programming, while also freelancing on the side at a scavenger hunt company, as well as hosting bar trivia nights. When the financial crisis struck in the late 2000s, I recognized a need for a new and compelling means for businesses to reward hard-working employees, who weren’t being compensated for the tremendous amount of work they were suddenly being asked to do.

That’s the nuts-and-bolts reason why I started up TrivWorks. The bigger picture reason, however? It’s because I thought that all team building activities in Southern California, NYC and everywhere in between sucked.

It’s no secret, and one which I don’t try to sugarcoat. By and large, people hate teambuilding. Despise it. Just the thought of it leaves most folks cringing, as images of cheesy trust falls, obstacle courses and lame exercises coupled with mind-numbing lectures and hokey group bonding activities percolate up from deeply-buried memories. I know that I personally had to suffer through some truly unsavory afternoons when I was an employee, being compelled to mix it up with colleagues in ways both uncomfortable and awkward.

The example I often cite is from my first job out of college: my department was divided up into teams, and we were told that we had just survived a plane crash, and that out of twenty items available to us, we could only use ten. Not only were we tasked with identifying which ten we would use, but we also had to RANK the items in terms of their importance. After a solid hour of arguments, heated exchanges, condescending insults and hurt feelings, we then had to present our list to the entire room; when each team had finished, the moderator then shared the list of an unnamed “survival expert,” and we were awarded points based on how closely our list matched up to his.

It was an awful experience, one which managed to A) make my colleagues and me feel more alienated from one another and the company, and B) reinforced the preconceived notions each of us already had about corporate team building events. It was a complete and abject failure, and but one of many similar experiences I was forced to undergo during my years in the workforce as an employee.

With TrivWorks, I knew that I wanted to create something different. I knew from my time at the scavenger hunt company that these types of employee bonding ideas could in fact be fun, and didn’t have to be a dreaded, painful practice. What did I love about scavenger hunts? In short, I thought they were an absolute blast; small groups of individuals, racing through a city neighborhood or museum, trying to solve clues and take funny photographs for the chance to earn points. The company I worked with had a really great formula in that they had all of the teams then meet at a final destination for a “recap party,” where not only was the winning team revealed, but all of the great photos taken along the way were displayed in a slideshow for the entire audience. So I knew making it fun it was possible.

And yet, as much as I enjoyed putting these events together and seeing the response of the attendees, I knew in my heart that it was also possible to do more. I didn’t like, for one thing, the fact that this wasn’t a shared experience for the entire group; rather, the larger group was broken down into teams. While there was indeed a recap party at the end, for the vast majority of the scavenger hunt, attendees were with only a handful of their fellow colleagues.

I also didn’t like just how limited we were in our ability to customize these gigs for specific audiences and goals. Once a template hunt was written, it was pretty much set; sure, we could modify a clue here and there to make it feel more personalized for the client, but really our hands were tied. There are also elements inherent to scavenger hunts which are just plain challenging, such as the fact that they tend to be quite physical, and not everyone might be able to participate – particularly those with a disability or infirmity.

And thus TrivWorks was born! With our live trivia events, we are able to deliver an extremely fun, laugh-filled and impactful event which not only promotes positive team skills such as collaboration, communication and problem solving, but which systemically addresses each of the concerns I’ve laid out above. There is SO much that we can do to tailor the trivia content, to make it feel personalized and customized for the specific group in attendance. Because everyone is in the same space together from beginning to end, the entire positive experience is also shared, meaning each of the teams will get to talk and laugh about whatever happened afterwards. It’s also low-impact and low-risk, meaning everybody can play.

I want to close by saying that I don’t mean to sound preachy, or hold it against those who are making a genuine, good-faith effort to get their teams working better together; to be more productive and efficient, or to reduce workplace conflict, boost morale and reward hard-working staff. What I hope to convey is that if you are committing the time and resources to produce dedicated team building activities, SoCal or anywhere, you at the very least want to make sure that the experience is as enjoyable as possible for those participating. If it isn’t an absolute blast, if it’s not something that they’re going to remember fondly, that they’re going to look forward to doing again, then frankly it’s not something worth doing.

Who knows – you may even find one of your employees writing a cautionary blog post about it someday, after starting their own Southern California team building company!

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