This was a question raised in the International Teambuilding Association group on Linkedin that I formed some years ago. Have a look at the discussion on the link, but here is my response!
I’ve mentioned in countless articles and blogs about the difference between ‘team bonding‘ and ‘team building‘ activities. I like to think of the range as a continuum with each term at either end and the range of activity options falling into the gap between.
The problem we have is that any company that offers a ‘team bonding’ session will call it a ‘team building’ activity. I feel that we should just call it what it is.
Both ends of the continuum have their merits, but both have completely different outcomes associated with them. The client must ultimately select the correct type of activity depending on their required outcomes. For example, there is no point taking a team paintballing if there are issues within the team that need some type of intervention to help them overcome the problems. Any competitive fun events will only have two possible outcomes in this scenario – either the rifts deepen or a band aid is placed over a much bigger wound. Both are not really the desired outcome that you really want.
Going back to the original question, the value of ‘team building‘ is far more considerable than a ‘team bonding’ activity in my experience. Ultimately, if a company is saying that it’s something ‘they have to do’, there won’t be much you can do as culturally they are not buying into the benefits of developing their teams and I’m sure this will be reflected in their work place. Some of these companies see their annual ‘team building’ session as a way of ticking a box to show they care about their employees.
It’s so refreshing when you visit HR departments where there is a real people focus. They understand that developing their people helps develop their business.
How do we change the situation? Until ‘team bonding‘ becomes a separate entity distinct from ‘team building‘ I think we are pretty much stuck with everything being lumped under the one umbrella. It’s our job to try to get our clients and potential clients to understand the difference so I guess the ball is in all our courts?
Can you spot the difference between the type of activities below?