(About an 18-minute read)
Are there benefits to 'long-form' team building activities?
If you've been around the OnTeamBuilding (ideas) and FUNdoing (activities) for a while, you know I like to take deep dives into ideas and activities. Over the last two years in particular I've been encouraging team builders to revisit the concept of 'less is more' and to consider a Stoic practice of 'do less better.' Think about these two ideas for just a moment. What do they mean to you? Less is more. Do less better.
I know, and have lived the argument, that if we do a lot of activities we have done a lot and can justify our time together with our clients - we gave them 'a lot' for their money. (Have you ever been in that position where you want to get that "one more" activity in and then you run out of time to reflect over the program in a meaningful way? So then it's, "Oh, we have time for the 'One Word' Whip." I've been there. I've done the Whip. And what did I miss? What did my clients miss?)
I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this? Before we continue the exploration, let me frame my thinking about activity 'form' (in other words, the length of time it usually takes to go through an activity). I've recently begun using the terms 'long-form,' 'short-form,' and 'mid-form' activities when talking about program design with team builders (it sounds more methodological). Long- and short-form are common terms in journalism, blogging and publishing. Mid-form I made up to designate an amount of time between long and short. In my mental model, short-form activities take 10 to 15 minutes (e.g., energizers and warm ups). Mid-form activities take 20 to 50 minutes. And long-form activities can take 60 minutes or more.
As I mentioned above, we are very familiar with short-form and mid-form activities. We like 'changing it up' to keep everyone's attention and meet different learning styles and 'kinds of smarts' - the more we change it, the more people we can connect with - so the argument goes. And it's a good argument. And it works. And what else can we do? I'm suggesting here, more long-form programming.
How about an example? I invited my friend and colleague Bill (Ph.D.) into my "College is an Adventure" course when I was teaching in higher ed. (The course was for college freshman - I taught college success strategies using team building activities.) I heard about his multiple-session "Swing-To" activity and wanted to learn how to facilitate it. He joined us for three 50-minute class periods and it was well worth the time. The experience was, without a doubt, a genuine example (metaphorically speaking) of getting through college.
The Swing-To is a version of 'Prouty's Landing' - a swinging rope to a platform activity. Bill used Hula-Hoops as safe landing areas and the apex of our swinging rope was about 25 feet high which gave us a lot of room to swing. The goal was the same for each of his three meetings, "Get everyone into a hoop. Each hoop needed at least one person in it." The only way to get into a hoop was to swing.
The insights these students had and the connections/transfers they made to life as a college student was exactly why Bill designed Swing To. And designing it to take a long time was on purpose. It takes a while to 'get it' - challenges in life are not always in short-form. It's good to practice for the long-form challenges every now and then.
I left out a number of the finer details of the activity, but I hope you can see my intent. Over those three classes, think about the 'obstacles' the students had to navigate. Just like college. Think about how they evolved into a group to achieve more success on one particular goal. How does this relate to college? (It's much harder to do it alone.) What are all the things they had to overcome. What was ahead of them, what did they need to overcome throughout their years in college. How long does it take to 'see' and 'feel' what's possible? Can we help our learners practice what it takes? Which leads me to my current interest in long-form team (human) building activities.
Concepts we can dive into with long-form activities:
Long-Form Activity Ideas:
I'd love to add more activities to my long-form list - what do you/would you do in long-form? Please share in the Comments.
If you made it this far, you just experienced a long-form blog post. Worth it? Waist of time? Benefits? Drawbacks? Did it make you think or roll your eyes? Both? Needed? For what?
Keep doing the good work out there!
All the best,
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
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Dr. Chris Cavert is an educator, author and trainer. His passion is helping team builders learn and grow.