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Creative team building ideas

Team building has come a long way from the now-cliche “trust fall” of yesteryear. These days, team building can take many forms: adrenaline-pumping ropes courses, mind-relaxing meditation sessions, competitive cooking challenges and spirited bowling matches.

In recent years, creative minds have dreamed up a host of new ways to get groups working together in exciting activities. If your meetings need a spark of interaction, considering the creative team-building ideas at one of these destinations.


Culinary Classes at Fearrington Village

Pittsboro, North Carolina

No matter what the occasion, everyone always seems to end up in the kitchen, and bonding over food is the concept behind Fearrington House’s culinary team-building activities, which include cooking challenges and wine-pairing classes.

Fearrington House has been offering culinary challenges and classes for several years, but by far, the most popular is the Ready, Steady, Cook challenge, said Samantha Whitaker of corporate sales for Fearrington Village, a mixed-used development in Pittsboro, North Carolina.

During the two-hour Ready, Steady, Cook event, groups break into teams of about five people, and each team is tasked with creating a menu, preparing dishes with limited resources, using a secret ingredient and doing it all in a set amount of time before presenting their food to the restaurant’s executive chef or sous chef for judging.

“You don’t usually see your coworkers cooking,” Whitaker said. “It’s a different element you see your co-workers in, and it gets them all working together.”

The restaurant also offers wine-pairing classes, when teams learn about pairings from the wine director and compete to pair wines with foods, she said. The wine-blending challenge allows groups to learn the basics of blending techniques before trying to create the best blend from five varietals.

Wine and beer classes are also available, although they tend to work better as group icebreakers than team-building activities, Whitaker said.

Depending on their size and needs, groups also have several venue options at Fearrington Village, including Fearrington House, the Fearrington Granary, the Barn, the Old Laundry or the Garden Terrace.


Bowling and Games at Holiday Lanes

Bossier City, Louisiana

No matter how skilled a bowler the boss may be, Play Therapy at Holiday Lanes in Bossier City, Louisiana, evens the playing field. The bowling alley began offering Play Therapy, its corporate and business team-building program, a few years ago. Play Therapy includes bowling, darts, arcade games and other activities.

“We look at it as a triathlon of fun,” said Robin Williams, whose official title, marketing maven, conveys how serious Holiday Lanes is about fun. “Most people think they’re going to come to a bowling alley and they’re just going to bowl, but we incorporate more activities to make it more unique.”

Williams breaks groups into teams that compete at bowling and other activities and games, and participants should expect twists. For example, the first bowling match will be a traditional game, but the second will include wacky tasks. In one frame, someone may have to bowl blindfolded while being guided by a coworker, and in the next frame, everyone will bowl with their nondominant hands.

“People work together every day in a very serious environment, but they don’t really get to see the fun side of each other,” Williams said.

Play Therapy usually lasts two to three hours and works well for groups of all sizes, she said, but groups of 20 to 25 are ideal because they’re big enough to have good competition among teams but small enough to keep the groups together on events.

The event wraps up with a meal at the bowling alley’s restaurant and an awards ceremony. If there’s a tie, the teams have to do a tie-breaking cheer, Williams said.


Outdoor Team Building at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Destin, Florida

Building a cardboard boat is harder than it looks. Katie Tyler, the recreation coordinator at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, Florida, can attest. She thought she and her colleague would nail it, considering they’ve watched so many groups build ships during the cardboard boat regatta, one of the resort’s most popular team-building events.

But they sunk.

Each team gets some cardboard, a roll of duct tape and 45 minutes to build a boat, then they race — or just try to stay afloat.

“It’s hilarious; it’s so much fun,” Tyler said. “Some people get in and sink; some make it across. The cardboard boat regatta seems to be a favorite.”

The resort offers a wide variety of outdoor team-building activities and events, such as a bike scavenger hunt using the resort’s 200 bicycles. A brand-new team-building challenge is Laser Battle, Tyler said. Sandestin brings in a company that runs the tournament-style, laser-tag-like game in a wooded area of the resort.

The Baytowne Adventure Challenge at the resort offers zip lines, a three-story ropes course and a rock wall for “more active groups that are looking for that adrenaline rush,” Tyler said. Groups can also include stand-up paddleboard relay races with the Baytowne Adventure Challenge or do paddleboarding as a stand-alone activity.

The resort also recently started offering Minute To Win It, which is just like the television game show. Individuals have to complete crazy tasks such as bouncing quarters into jars or stacking clothespins. Another popular option that could be turned into a team-building activity is a glow-in-the-dark putt-putt golf tournament, Tyler said.


Health and Wellness at Doral Arrowwood

Rye Brook, New York

Doral Arrowwood partners with True North Teambuilding and the Blum Center for Health to offer health and wellness team-building activities such as yoga sessions, meditation courses and healthy cooking classes.

Smaller groups go to the nearby Blum Center to use its kitchen, and larger groups use the kitchen at the hotel and conference center. Every Blum Center cooking class is gluten-free, and most are also dairy-, egg-, soy- and corn-free, said Bernadette Valcich, the center’s manager of wellness programs and events. Those are the five most inflammatory food groups, and the center wants to teach people that food can be creative and taste wonderful without any of those ingredients, she said.

The Blum Center and True North also work together to offer Doral clients various meditation experiences, such as guided meditation, guided visualization and biofeedback, as well as therapeutic-yoga and restorative-yoga sessions.

“Yoga is the moving meditation,” Valcich said. “We just have them learn how to breathe and move with their breathing.”

Michelle Powers, director of True North Team Building, said events or classes that provide mind-body-spirit connections have been a huge trend in 2013, and her corporate clients and company executives are frequently asking for those types of activities.

“They generally want to add some kind of spirit workout or mind-body classes,” she said. “There’s an acknowledgment that sitting in that room for eight hours, we also need to do something for their spirit. We’re seeing a much bigger uptick in that kind of thing.” 


Arcade Games at Dave and Buster’s

Dave and Buster’s restaurants around the country are known for fun and games, but the company is perhaps less well known for its team-building business, which, naturally, features fun and games.

The nationwide restaurant, bar and arcade venue has been offering team-building activities since the ’90s and was an innovator in the fun-as-team-building arena, said Benjamin Maddy, regional marketing and tourism sales director for Dave and Buster’s.

The company offers six team-building activities, but the Company Challenge and the Ultimate Quest “are our two classics that are both very popular,” Maddy said.

The Company Challenge includes four to five games in the midway, usually skee-ball; the classic basketball-shooting game; Daytona Racing, a car-racing video game; and Super Trivia, similar to being on a game show. Each person plays each event, and then the teams’ average scores determine the winner.

The Ultimate Quest is an interactive scavenger hunt that works well for small or large groups; Dave and Buster’s has done it for as many as 300 people, Maddy said. Players get a list of questions that involve games in the midway as well as food and drinks in the restaurant and bar. Questions could include, “What’s the general manager’s name?” or “What are the ingredients in a specific cocktail?” The game is also easily customized, so it can be used as a training exercise or for a product launch, Maddy said.

During Ticket Master, teams race against the clock to solve a puzzle, and the D and B Great Race is based on CBS’s “The Amazing Race,” except teams compete during a fast-paced tour of the midway rather than during a tour of the world. Balloon Pop and Mad Dash are Dave and Buster’s two newest team-building challenges.

“The great thing about Dave and Buster’s is you can do breakfast, lunch, your training, your meeting, your team building, and then cocktails and fun all under one roof,” Maddy said.