The Cure for the Common Clique: 3 Team Building Tips

What our founder learned from writers and editors

team building scavenger huntBefore I created Watson Adventures, my years as a writer and editor in the magazine business taught me one thing about team building: Writers and editors hate it. Usually the closest they got to any team building activity was adjourning after work to the bar around the corner. If the Powers That Be attempted any other kind of gathering—especially with other parts of the company—the editorial staffers would roll their eyes and stick to their cliques.

What can you do to get diverse staffs to actually mix and mingle during a get together? Here are three tips I’ve learned from my 20-plus years of creating corporate scavenger hunts.

1. Pick an activity that suits a variety of personalities.

It’s too easy to think, “I loved that pottery class, so our whole office will enjoy it!” Not that there’s anything wrong with making pottery. It’s just that it’s a bit one-dimensional. If you don’t enjoy that activity, it’s a long hour. Instead, find a multi-faceted activity.

Murder at the National Gallery Scavenger HuntersWhat we’ve found with our scavenger hunts is that even people who hate games end up having fun because there’s also the experience of discovering cool places.

Different kinds of questions bring out different talents on the team, so everyone gets a chance to be a star—the person who’s good with word play, the person who’s great at navigating, the person who’s great at forming consensus, the person whose creativity leads to great team photos, and so on.

Bonus tip: Choose an activity with lots of humor, because nothing bonds people like shared laughter. We include lots of humor in our scavenger hunts—including unsuspected straight lines, for the hunters to make their own jokes.

2. Pick an activity that requires people to interact.

A lot of activities are mostly passive: Sitting and drinking or eating. Watching a show. Watching other people bowl or go up to bat. Instead, group activities like our scavenger hunts put people in small teams and gives them challenges where everyone must contribute and get involved.

Atlanta spell fish tankWe like to keep the teams to no more than six people each because the larger the team, the more you have people hanging back and not getting involved, letting others do the work. For companies that want even more interaction between teams, we created the Mixed Alliances Edition, where teams of three must take turns collaborating with three other trios during the hunt.

Don’t be afraid to form teams that break up the cliques. We’re constantly hearing feedback from clients about how the guy in the mailroom and that gal in the front office had a fantastic time together once the game got going.

3. Look for a level playing field.

Often team building activities wind up being athletic—which is great if you are an athlete. For those of us who don’t frequent the gym, the day is fraught with the peril of embarrassing ourselves in front of colleagues. That creates the kind of memories you don’t want to bring back to the office.

From the first scavenger hunt I staged in 1994, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I’ve always insisted on creating scavenger hunts with a level playing field. No question required previous knowledge about art or the museum. The emphasis was, and remains, on humor and teamwork. As we’ve been saying for 16 years, you just need sharp eyes and comfy shoes.

We do offer the Trivia Slam (a game that can be played at any indoor setting) and Brain Squeeze Trivia Hunts, which do require previous knowledge—but we emphasize questions that, even when no one knows the answer, the team can still work together to produce the answer.

Find out how we can help you

If you’re facing the challenge of staging a team building outing for a diverse group, we’re here for you. We run more than 2,000 scavenger hunts and trivia games each year, across the country, from Boston to L.A., from Seattle to Miami. (See a menu of all corporate scavenger hunt locations.)

We love to make our clients look great to their colleagues. We love getting testimonials like this one, from a client that recently enjoyed our Secrets of Grand Central Scavenger Hunt:

“Overall this was a home run for me and my team. Watson Adventures was very easy to work with. The event was a huge success. Everyone loved it, and we accomplished our goals, and it made me, the guy who coordinated it, look like a hero.”

Want to get in on the fun and work with a great team of professionals? Contact us to explore our hunt options across the U.S. together and see for yourself how fun and easy planning a corporate outing can be!

More team building tips from our blog