All Together Now: Destination Team-building Experiences

My teammate and I have separated. I can’t find her or the treasure and I hear galloping behind me. I duck into some bushes but, when I pop back up, the tracker is there. I surrender my armband.

I’m taking part in the Team Tracker Team Building experience at the Beaver Creek Ranch & Horse Centre just outside Regina, Sask. The objective is to find 14 treasures scattered throughout 70 acres in 90 minutes. And to keep my team’s two armbands from the “Mantracker”—it’s loosely based on the TV show of the same name—who is following us on horseback.

After all three teams return, we sit around the campfire and chat with Brenda Clemens, Beaver Creek’s owner. One team returned first with some of their armbands, but not all the treasure. My team was second with all the treasure, but no armbands. Another had some treasure and some armbands. So we chat about strategies: whether it was a good idea to separate (not really), whether starting first was an advantage (it was) and who really won (my team, obviously).

But, at the end of the day, it really wasn’t about who won.

It was about working as a team—precisely why so many companies regularly schedule some sort of pro-team exercise or retreat. Sephora employees participate in flash mobs, workers at Google and Apple play The Go Game (a scavenger hunt with hired actors), and staffers at Walgreens volunteer together—all to boost their productivity and foster better relationships in a relaxed atmosphere. Need more incentives? Team building tackles communication problems in a neutral zone, builds confidence, renews energy and acts as a reward.

We share the wealth on four destination-specific team-building activities that don’t make concessions.

Caving in

It’s dark and sometimes very cramped. There are bones, ancient artifacts, bats, insects and spiders. And then the noises: the dripping of ground water that makes its way into the cave, your own breath and an occasional squeak. The squeaks come from the bushy-tailed woodrats for which the cave is named.

Welcome to Rat’s Nest Cave under Grotto Mountain near Canmore, Alta. While an office cubicle is probably as close as most people want to be squeezed in with their co-workers, Canmore Cave Tours offers a fun alternative.

The “navigation challenge” sees teams of four to eight find their way through the cave complex to the Grotto, 55 metres below the entrance, without direction from their safety guide. Team leaders assign tasks like reconnaissance, communication and group well-being. Guests don’t need to have previous caving experience, although they should be in good physical condition, as they must descend to the Grotto via fixed ropes.

Once teams find the Grotto and return to the surface, they engage in a session to discuss strategies and what could have gone smoother. The six-hour experience costs $115 per person and all equipment is supplied, but participants should bring warm clothing and rugged, closed footwear.

Graveyard shift

“It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

So reads a clue that participants may receive on Secret City’s Haunted New York Scavenger Hunt in which groups of four run around Manhattan after dark with flashlights looking for information—and maybe even a couple of ghosts.

This particular clue will bring them to the Northern Dispensary, said to be haunted by Edgar Allan Poe (he didn’t die there, but he was a patient). Guests should keep their eyes peeled for the ghost of the ghoulish writer and for the three words that describe the strange locale’s purpose (hint: the triangle-shaped building is filled with rusting dental equipment).

An abandoned warehouse from which a mysterious light shines, a graveyard where thousands were hanged, old churches…it’s all in a night’s work as teams must put their heads together (figuratively) to solve clues about the haunted spots and work out a strategy to beat their co-workers.

The suspense continues when they retreat to find spirits of another kind at a local bar while their Secret City host tabulates their scores and then announces the winner.

Teams from Google, Macy’s and Bank of America have all taken part. The experience takes two hours and costs around US$600 for up to 20 people.

Whistle while you work

Where better to build strong relationships than the happiest place on earth? In Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort, Mickey, Minnie and Pluto cheer on teams while they create promotional videos.

The amateur Mouseketeers begin their experience with TV Commercials 101 where a Disney Institute facilitator offers tips on production, then separates participants into smaller groups and gives them a product to sell. From there, the teams brainstorm a name and purpose for their product and complete a 60-second pitch to the facilitator.

Then the real fun begins. Teams whip up a script and film the commercial in the park, producing their own graphics and sound effects on the spot. The day ends with a screening of the commercials and an analysis of the TV spots and the individual team members. Oh, boy!

The three-hour experience is US$6,500 for up to 50 guests.

You dig?

It might seem counterintuitive to operate heavy machinery in Las Vegas, but that’s exactly what companies are doing at Dig This.

Their team-building experience begins with a “construction breakfast” of burritos (served in a tin lunchbox) and a thermos of coffee. Next, guests head to a giant sandbox where they learn to operate a D5G Bulldozer and a 315CL Hydraulic Excavator.

Groups are divided into two teams and compete in a problem-solving competition that may include excavations, moving large objects with the machinery, or manoeuvering through an obstacle course while pushing a boulder.

The whole experience takes several hours and includes an internal and external evaluation. Outings can be catered for groups’ needs and typically start at US$1,100 for up to 10 people.