You probably know by now that team-building programs are all the rage at corporate off-sites. Every service provider on the planet, from paintball courses to rock climbing gyms to hotel conference centers, seems to have a team building offering. And with massive head counts, sky-high budgets, and calendars that seem to fall almost entirely on weekdays, there is no end to the income opportunity for aerial adventure parks.

So, what could possibly be wrong with selling team-building programs? The answer is nothing—as long as you, and your clients, know what you are offering.

Most adventure parks that are selling “team building” aren’t actually providing a team building service.

However, most adventure parks that are selling “team building” aren’t actually providing a team building service. Traditional team building incorporates a few basic educational principles, such as a group task or challenge that helps the group build trust through a facilitated learning process. Historically, ropes courses have offered that type of service. So, many human resources professionals and meeting and event planners assume that an adventure park will provide the same level of training. But most of the time, they don’t.

The two most common types of corporate outings are team building and team bonding. The former offers teams the opportunity for growth, reflection, and potential ongoing learning, while the latter refers to fun, recreational programs that may involve networking and rapport building. Both serve a useful purpose, but it’s important to know which is which.

Team Building…
• is designed around a particular goal or outcome that is transferable to the workplace or school environment;
• has an intentional curriculum or flow;
• is typically built around a newly forming or intact team;
• is designed and/or facilitated by human behavior professionals;
• allows for some sort of period where the participants reflect on their experience;
• may include follow-up work.

Team Bonding…
• is designed around a simpler goal or outcome of having a good time;
• may follow a specific schedule, but is not catered to an end workplace goal;
• typically does not require reflection time;
• can act as a stand-alone activity.

Is there value to both types of services? Absolutely. But if you don’t offer true team building, we recommend that you avoid this term altogether, as, among other issues, it will marginalize the term if you decide to expand your services down the road. If you offer true team building, you can refer to it as “team development” to differentiate from the paintball course down the road.

THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE JOB

The characteristics listed above have nothing to do with the specific tool used to deliver the team building or bonding experience. Any of the recreational offerings mentioned earlier—including aerial adventure parks—can act as great team building tools. It all depends on how the tool is used.

For example: a group wants to work on trust. One scenario is that they come out and have a more or less typical two-hour tour, where a few people may organically have an experience that requires them to trust another. A second scenario might involve an experienced facilitator who presents the idea of trust, partners with the staff to create situations on the course where trust is required, and facilitates a post-participatory conversation that connects their experiences with trust in the workplace.

In the first scenario, the group has a great experience where they “bond,” and some people may learn about trust. Nothing has been done to facilitate the process of trust outside of a standard aerial park experience. This lack of facilitation creates an obstacle when you are selling the term “team building,” particularly around specific outcomes.

In the second scenario, you have shown that you are capable of hearing the client’s goals and objectives and can create a program that is designed to meet those goals, which ultimately provides the service the client may have been looking for.