Playing games with business people? At first it sounds incongruous, but games have become well established for team building. New Games in general don’t have quite the same hard edge as traditional team-building exercises because they are played first for fun. After doing the initial games just for fun, however, you can employ games for the specific purpose of team building (and certain games are especially appropriate). Players have to cooperate in several of the games in order to make them work. It makes sense, after getting players to relax by playing just for fun, to use games as a way of studying the behavior and interactions of the whole group and individuals in the group. This can lead to better group work, but the games and the following discussion must be sensitively and properly led.
The game of Knots is a good example. While it allows everyone to touch in a safe way, thereby building trust, it requires people to think and be imaginative to get out of the knot. Further, afterwards the group can start by talking about what went on in the game—who came up with ideas, who felt listened to, who felt they weren’t heard. At this point, people are relaxed from playing the game and talking; the next step for the presenter is to relate the game to the work experience. Is this like what happens at work? Or is it completely different, and how? For this to be effective, management has to be prepared to act on some (if not all) of the suggestions people come up with to improve operations. Otherwise, they will become frustrated and feel manipulated by the whole process.
There are other ways in which New Games can be used for business purposes, such as in meetings. Starting a meeting with a brief game can lighten the atmosphere so that participants relate to each other in a productive way. When the heaviness of the task at hand is lifted, workers do better work. The games also work well as revitalizers when the group’s energy is flagging, and they’re instrumental in getting creative juices flowing. The games call for imaginative input, and a skilled leader can channel that creativity into the work process and discussions.
New Games have been used often to open and close conferences. Immediately a relaxed atmosphere is established when opening a conference with a game. People who don’t know each other and who appear nervous at the start of a game are friendly toward each other at the end. Every session afterward goes better when this initial mood is established. Suggestions of openers are made in the Game Finder in the “Appropriate social purposes” column. Which one to choose depends on your group, the space available, the number of participants, and the mood they’re in. However, this is not the only way to use New Games at conferences. They can be used as energizers at any point when the attention level is flagging. Participants perk up after even one game. Also, the games are a great way to bring closure to the conference, letting people leave with a warm and fuzzy feeling.
For Social Events
Finally, businesses can take the more lighthearted approach to using the games for social gatherings and picnics. The activities create a good feeling and reduce inhibitions without having to resort to alcohol. Having fun together, perhaps even with whole families included, may be the best team builder of all!