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Why teambuilding activities always involve games?

Team building activities are becoming increasingly popular with organisations in Singapore . Organisations are paying sums of money to consultants to get their staff out of the office to play games with them. So why play games during teambuilding? Will these games ultimately generate any benefit for the company?

People are the most valuable assets of any organisation. People – humans – have been created with the capacity to achieve beyond boundaries, but, the catch is that not everyone comes close to unleashing their latent potential. Why so, you may ask?

Oftentimes, mentoring and support is essential for a person to realise his potential. Each individual’s ability to learn and change, and to subsequently put more energy into their work, very much stems from how they feel about themselves. An environment where people feel valued and capable is an environment that fosters growth – and is poised for success.

Any organisation intent on success should be mindful about grooming leaders, nurturing individuals and creating synergy among individuals. Every individual must be empowered with skills that would directly influence their job scope, as well as skills that build camaraderie across job scopes.

How then to learn?

In his book ‘Understanding How People Learn’, author David G. Reay explains that learning is in fact a natural phenomenon – something which all animals do to a greater or lesser extent, particularly during their maturing period, but also throughout adulthood. Learning is:

1.       Continuous

Consciously or unconsciously, we are learning new things all the time, be it superficial – like learning it’s hot today – or profound – like learning what it means to fall in love!

2.       Natural

Wanting to learn is a natural state of affairs. Knowing how to do something is associated with success; not knowing is associated with failure – and no sane person wants to be a failure.

3.       Closely related to practical experience – ‘doing things’

Learning through theory is an acquired skill but learning through doing is a natural skill. Take the example of a child trying to force objects into a box with cut-outs of different shapes in the quest to understand spatial relationships. The child makes attempts to match shapes until he understands how it works and successfully completes his ‘game’. It is only when you can do something can you actually claim to understand how it is done.

Now that we know that learning is a natural process, how is that some people don’t learn? There are several barriers to learning, being:

·           lack of motivation

·           unsuitable work environment

·           inappropriate subject matter

·           past experience

·           self image

·           inadequate study skills

·           poor memory

Any combination of the above factors will hinder the learning process and cause resistance to learning. One ingenious way to overcome these barriers is to introduce and encourage learning through play – the playing of games.

Studies show that we remember well when enjoying ourselves. In her book ‘The Power of Mindful Learning’, Ellen J. Langer encourages introducing learning materials through play. The rationale behind it is that people seek novelty in play and have no difficulty paying attention in those situations, because when something is novel, we notice different things about it. In playing games, players look more closely at all aspects of the situation to figure out how to win – to win/overcome is a strong motivating factor in itself.

Moreover, when playing games, people are in a relaxed mode and are therefore less self-conscious and less conscious of past experiences. Defenses are also down in an informal setting, assuring low, or little resistance to the intended learning values.

Another good news is that playing games does not require comprehensive study skills or extensive use of memory – at least not for the games developed by us at änergy. Thus, anyone in an organisation can participate, regardless of educational qualifications, and everyone can benefit from the intended learning points of the games.

Co-authors of “World Class Training”, Kaye Thorne and Alex Machray, state that, “most memorable learning experiences usually take place in a special environment”. The correct choice of location and layout are vital to encourage learning. To play games require out-of-the-norm settings, away from the rigid work-stations, structured boardroom tables or classroom/theatre-style arrangements. The different settings would prove to be a refreshing and certainly more interesting change for people. With games, the informal atmosphere also sets the stage for people to sub-consciously reveal traits otherwise concealed during formal settings.

Another research by the National Training Laboratory, USA , has also proven that learning by doing (playing games) proves to be most effective, next to personal coaching.

"If we find ways of enjoying our work – blurring the lines between work and play – the gains will be greater." – Ellen Langer, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University

Yet another gratification from playing games is the bonds that will be established within teams. When team members strive together to achieve something, the spirit of camaraderie is inculcated, and it lingers even after the event. Through having fun together, team members also gain more in-depth understanding of each other in a non-threatening environment. This would eventually help in managing differences in personality styles, and adds to the greater cohesiveness within an organisation.

What more can we say? In a nutshell, learning through games would prove to be more productive, effective, memorable and thus, more worthwhile! As articulated by a wise man of the old, "What I hear, I forget; what I see, I remember; but what I do I understand.” – Confucius 451 B.C.

© copyright 2003-2005 reserved. Singapore Teambuilding – team building activies & team building games specialist

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This Personnel Management article was written by Alvin Quah on 9/13/2005

Alvin Quah, a certified behavioral analyst(in business consulting perspectives), who is registered with the Institute for The Motivational Living, Inc, USA. He is based in Singapore can be contacted through the website: