The very nature of team building activities encourages participants to co-operate with their team members to achieve success, but a lot of these activities rely on competition rather than co-operation.
Messages about the importance of co-operation and communication across the whole organisation rather than just within a small team can therefore be missed. With this in mind Fresh Tracks developed a new large scale team building exercise a couple of years ago – The Team Machine – based on a construction exercise that many will recognise from their childhood.
In fact many childhood games and activities rely on co-operation, helping children to realise what they can learn from each other. They are a fun and interesting way of learning to work together and of respecting the contribution of each individual.
In the same way that the games many of us played as children taught us how to work together to “win”, co-operative team building such as the Team Machine give participants the opportunity to practise a range of skills, to be a valued member of a team and to be an effective member of a larger group. It encourages discussions on risk-taking and common needs, how to achieve success and how to plan a project within time constraints, taking into account the roles and skills of participants across a wider group.
Cooperative activities emphasise participation, challenge and fun rather than defeating an individual or another team. There may be competition involved, but above all the activity will be about effective teamwork and cooperating with other teams to obtain a successful outcome.
These criteria were important in the development of the Team Machine, an energetic, large scale team building exercise requiring participants to co-operate with other teams to achieve a common goal. It was designed to demonstrate the hidden value of co-operation and the danger of unnecessary rivalry between teams that serve the same organisation.
The activity is eye-catching and colourful, using giant construction kits to create a series of mechanisms that need to be worked on individually and collectively. Each team is given a set of tools and building materials to create their own working mechanism. The plans are muddled requiring sharing of data before building can commence. The group then set to work on their devices ranging from a model launch device, to a helter-skelter. Components must be assembled in just the right way for the individual mechanisms to work. Later the teams must work together to find the correct sequence of mechanisms, so that each element will trigger the next in a chain reaction building to an explosive finale!