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What are the limitations of adventure-based team building activities?

Adventure-based team building activities have gained some popularity in recent years as people seek to copy some reality TV formats in the events market, or mimic an adventure hobby of an enthusiastic manager or leader at an off-site.

In certain environments where there is a common benchmark of fitness and physical resilience, such as the military, adventure formats can be a successful means to foster camaraderie, collaboration, and problem-solving skills among team members. While these activities offer numerous benefits in such an environment, they have profound limitations in general corporate, government and education markets.

Firstly, adventure-based team building activities can be physically demanding and exclude individuals with certain physical limitations or disabilities. Activities like rock climbing, hiking, or any form of physical obstacle courses invariably requires a certain level of fitness and mobility, making them inaccessible for some team members. This exclusion can lead to feelings of isolation and can hinder the overall goal of building a cohesive team.

Moreover, adventure-based team building activities often focus on short-term goals and immediate outcomes. While these activities can be exciting and engaging, they may not necessarily translate into long-term improvements in teamwork and collaboration. Team members may enjoy the adrenaline rush during the activity, but fail to apply the lessons learned in their day-to-day work environment. Thus, the impact of adventure-based team building activities on overall team performance may be limited.

Adventure-based team building activities also tend to emphasize competition rather than cooperation. Many of these activities involve teams competing against each other to complete tasks or reach a specific goal. While healthy competition can be motivating, it can also create an environment of rivalry and undermine the spirit of teamwork. Individuals may become more focused on winning or outperforming others rather than working together towards a common objective.

Furthermore, adventure-based team building activities often lack real-world relevance and may not address the specific challenges faced by the team in their professional context. While these activities can be fun and enjoyable, they may not directly translate into improved problem-solving or communication skills in the workplace. Team members may struggle to connect the lessons learned in the adventure setting to their actual job roles and responsibilities.

Adventure-based team building activities can also be quite expensive to run properly and can be time-consuming. Planning and executing these activities requires dedicated resources, including financial investment, time for preparation, and scheduling logistics. For organizations with limited budgets or tight schedules, adventure-based team building may not be a viable option. This limitation restricts the accessibility of such activities to a select few.

Adventure-based team building activities have their place in certain niche organisations, but have their limitations for most. Failing to take these into consideration can have serious consequences for individuals and the overall team dynamic.

To maximize the effectiveness of team building efforts, organizations should consider a diverse range of approaches that cater to different individuals' needs and promote long-term collaboration in the workplace.

Sabre aims to design team building formats that are not only inclusive, but that can also use evidence-based tools like Belbin to uncover and work with actual behavioural team dynamics for longer-term outcomes.


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