Is it a team building game or a business game, or is it both?
The term ‘team building’ has become a catch-all for everything from recreational team outings like lawn bowls and cooking to structured team challenge tasks and events.
Typically a team building game, known in old school terms as an ‘initiative task’, is a short and simple problem solving exercise. A team uses finite resources to overcome a hands-on challenge within an arbitrary deadline.
Often stereotyped as the string and bucket or spider’s web style games, they can actually be of better quality than that, and more sophisticated.
Nonetheless, these are usually simpler formats of relatively shorter duration. They also typically tackle one or a small number of themes around behavioural team dynamics quite simply.
Within the ‘team building game’ genre has now been added such things as Amazing Races, art classes, escape rooms, tablet treasure hunts etc. Whether or not they even rate as actual team building approaches will depend entirely upon how well they have been formatted and matched to actual team development needs.
Once again, recreational team activities are not necessarily team building activities.
A ‘business game” on the other hand tends to be of longer duration, and carefully designed to be complex enough to draw out the full spectrum of team behaviours.
A business game or simulation, also known in some circles as an E.M.E (Executive Management Exercise) has a well-planned narrative and flow that more closely mirrors profit and loss outcomes from good and bad decisions, but within a compressed time cycle.
Whilst the theme may be colourful, and deliberately removed from the experience base and nature of work of the target group, the game mirrors closely the complexity of their daily inter-personal challenges.
The quality of team planning, decision-making and of their working relationships can be observed and de-briefed meaningfully.
Ideally, team members will have completed a behavioural diagnostic (like The Belbin Model and its profiles an reports) beforehand.
This provides and evidence-based insight into which business game may best suit them, and also a common language for discussing strengths and weaknesses that arise.
De-briefs can also be linked to meaningful real world follow through steps.
Some straight team building games can offer good behavioural insights (with a good de-brief), but more sophisticated business games will always offer greater scope for observation and learning outcomes.
If a tool like Belbin has been used, then even a basic team building game, if well selected, can straddle the 'team building game' and 'business game' realms.