Written by Kathy Caprino
Before I owned my own coaching business, I was in the corporate arena as a director and VP, focused on marketing and product development. In every company I worked for, every once in a while, we’d be asked to engage in some form of “team-building” – from a few days away from the office in a place like Las Vegas (complete with dinners out, casinos and a Cirque Du Soleil performance), to a golf outing (where most of the women didn’t actually play golf), or a nature retreat filled with embarrassing “trust falls,” circle sharing, and more. Did these experiences really build team engagement and connection? Occasionally yes, but most often, any kind of bonding that was forged during the event evaporated the minute we stepped foot back into our contentious roles and stressful work-lives.
Interested in learning how the most innovative companies engage in team-building today, I caught up with the inspiring Jenny Gottstein, 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree and director of Games at The Go Game, a new interactive and creative approach to team-building. At The Go Game, Jenny has led large scale interactive game projects, creativity trainings and design workshops around the world. The Go Game combines mobile technology and augmented reality with actors and real-world locations. Go Games are used for marketing, training and entertainment purposes by clients ranging from Google to Bank of America to Johnson & Johnson. After 10 years and 10,000 games, Jenny and her team have refined the art of engaging engineers, marketing teams, lawyers and everything in between.
Kathy Caprino: What are companies like Uber, Facebook and Salesforce choosing to do for team building?
Jenny Gottstein: To understand what Uber, Facebook and Salesforce are doing, you have to understand the overall climate of Silicon Valley. These are incredibly savvy companies attracting top talent from all around the world. In other words, trust falls and ropes courses just don’t cut it around here. So when these companies make an investment in their team, the experience has to be not only wildly entertaining, but deeply impactful.
So when we produce team building experiences for these companies, we use our Karaoke Rickshaw, we design espionage-themed adventure games, we create massive music video competitions, or we take over an island and turn it into a fortress of fun.
Caprino: So how are these companies using powerful team-building to achieve corporate success overall?
Gottstein: Interestingly, we’re seeing companies use their strong corporate culture as a bargaining chip to recruit the best and brightest talent. When applying for jobs, millennial employees are not only assessing their salary and benefits, but also whether or not they relate to the working environment, and enjoy rolling up their sleeves next to their peers. As a result of this culture shift, team-building is being used as a marketing and recruitment tool. Often we will produce games for prospective employees or interns of large companies as way to show off the perks of the company’s working environment.
Caprino: What are some of the best ways to engage your employees and help build company culture?
Gottstein: The best way to engage employees is to build a culture of trust. Nothing is more isolating and damaging than a fear of taking risks or voicing one’s opinion. A team that trusts each other, and respects everyone’s contribution can make significant cognitive leaps when innovating or problem-solving. Often, we’ll design games that drive this concept home – for example we once designed a game for a large company that demonstrated the importance of diversity and inclusion when building strong teams.
But most of the time, effective team-building creates a culture of trust simply by giving employees an opportunity to strengthen their interpersonal relationships, be vulnerable in a low-stakes environment, and try out new ideas with a safety net of humor.
Caprino: How have you seen millennials respond to team-building as opposed to older generations?
Gottstein: Millennials have a low tolerance for corniness, but are generally more willing to let loose and embark on adventures with their colleagues. Based on our research, they are also more likely to find the value in team-building as it relates to the workplace.
Published by Forbes on the 14th of January, 2016