The Power of Play

Learn a different way to build morale in your small business.
Publish date:

Participating in a TV game show, creating an ice sculpture or building teddy bears sound like creative weekend activities, but they can also benefit your small business during the workweek.

No matter one's age, play is a great learning tool. In the office, it leads to increased self-awareness and a sense of trust among coworkers.

In operation for 20 years, morale-industry leader

Teambonding specializes in creating activities that build community within your company. Founded by David Goldstein, Teambonding gives employees several ways to play, including scavenger hunts, game shows and culinary showcases. You name it, his business can create it.

According to the Teambonding, play has many benefits that have been evident throughout history. The ancient game of chess, for instance, has been played since the sixth century to hone analytical and military skills.

Many employees don't get the chance to get to know their colleagues beyond small talk by the water cooler, because of difficulty communicating or mounting job stresses.

Engaging in play, however, encourages cooperation and creativity and gives employees a chance to take risks without the fear of reprisal. It also gives employees a chance to try new ideas and experiences.

It's not all play -- companies in industries ranging from tourism to health, finance, legal, pharmaceutical and telecommunication have sought Teambonding's services. And Goldstein's ideas are successful; his company took in $2 million last year.

Teambonding has worked with big names such as


(GOOG) - Get Report



(EBAY) - Get Report



(PFE) - Get Report

and smaller businesses including music company Machine Head, party-store chain iParty and specialty chemical manufacturer H.B. Fuller.

Teambonding's offices are bicoastal, in both Boston and San Diego, and the company also has event facilitators in Atlanta, Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C., as well as an international presence in Toronto and Sydney, Australia.

Goldstein takes many factors into consideration when planning activities for clients, including group size, location, corporate culture and goals. Events can be customized on the basis of each company's needs and structure.

Custom Fit

Who doesn't dream of being in the movies?

To meet this desire, Goldstein created the "'Canned' Film Festival," a mock movie event designed to inspire creativity and build teamworking skills among employees.

A facilitator divides employees in groups and hands each a video camera. The individual groups then assign roles -- actors, director, camera operator, props and costumes, even a movie-house marketing group.

The event is supervised by professional actors, so employees can really learn the inner workings of moviemaking. Additionally, employees get a copy of their film as a keepsake to remember the creative process and the fun they've had.

Goldstein can come up with something for everyone -- there's even a "Chocolate Company Challenge," which is designed for groups anywhere from eight to 200 people and can last from two to four hours. It involves working together to build a small chocolate bridge, which can be done competitively on elements including design and strength -- as well as all the chocolate an employee could ever dream of.

A new activity this year is "Drumming Up a Team," which is just what it sounds like: Participants are given drums and are taught the basics by an instructor.

Even though the event may seem like simple fun, participants learn how to listen to each other and to connect rhythmically -- a way not usually possible in an office. Additionally, some employees may get to experience a hobby they always dreamed of but never had the opportunity to try.

Teambonding has other creative ways to get employees know each other.

The "Progressive Dinner" is a four-course, table-swapping meal, in which employees have an opportunity to mingle with different colleagues as an MC coordinates several tabletop games. As a result, coworkers learn the importance of unity and communication through their own actions, without it being pushed on them.

Teambonding also is also involved with nonprofit charities such as the Boys and Girls Club and Bikes for Tykes, or a client can pick a favorite charity. One related event, "Build-a-Bike," has employees building bikes for disadvantaged children. Another teaches employees how to make teddy bears for kids with Down syndrome. "There wasn't a dry eye

after giving the teddy bears to the children," notes Goldstein.

Not only do employees feel good after these activities, they also learn problem-solving and time and resource management.

Follow Through

After each event, participants are debriefed by the Teambonding facilitator. This gives employees some insight into what they have experienced and learned.

"This is something that the facilitator tailors to the team ... it is taken from the information provided and the goals discussed. The debrief is not something that is packaged or scripted," says Goldstein.

And as Goldstein points out, employee-morale events can work in all marketplaces. "When the economy is strong, people are working so hard

that they don't get a chance to know each other. When the economy isn't good, companies have some downtime to give employees the chance to really know one another."

The prices for Teambonding's activities range from $1,500 to $5,000, but the effect on a company's employees -- and its resulting product -- will be far beyond that.

So the next time you are thinking of creative ways to encourage communication and problem-solving in your company, think about play -- you might be surprised at its benefits.