Incentives & Meetings International Inspired Team Building

Inspired Team Building

By Nancy Mann Jackson
November/December 2006

Why does an organizer bring a group of people to a beautiful destination thousands of miles away from home? Often, an incentive or meeting is about much more than just eating good food and having fun. There are usually a number of goals to be accomplished with a meeting or incentive; frequently, one of the most important objective is team building. And designing events that can truly build teams—helping people trust each other and learn to work together well—can be difficult. “The objective is to put together teams of people who will build camaraderie so that they can work well together when they get back to work,” says Adam Lawhorne, president of Illinois–based Meeting Incentive Experts Inc., which specializes in designing events in Mexico. While team-building events are always tricky, they can be even more difficult when different languages and cultures are involved. It can be challenging to design an event that is unusual, engaging, and gets the message across, but also allows attendees to stay within their comfort.

One of the most successful team-building events Lawhorne’s company has produced in Mexico was a beachside “boat-building tour,” designed for employees of a software company. Attendees were divided into teams of 15 people, and each was given cardboard pieces of wood, string, duct tape, balloons and plastic bags. Using the jumble of supplies, each team was instructed to “put together a boat that will float,” Lawhorne says. Attendees found the challenge both daunting and fun, as each team struggled to build a better boat than the next. “It really brings a lot of brainstorming and interesting ideas to the table,” Lawhorne says. “We really saw some leaders in each group step up to the challenge.” Although only one of 20 homemade boats floated at the end of the competition, the goals were accomplished, Lawhorne says. And not only did true teamwork take place, but it occurred at relatively low costs—no more than $100 per person, he notes. In addition to the boat-building supplies, “you can add some food and beverage to the event,” says Lawhorne. “It’s always great to have a few cocktails when people are trying to put a boat together. And you want it to be fun, not too serious.”

Guacamole Games A Mexican beachside version of the Olympic Games, “Guacamole Games” has become a popular team-building event designed by Meeting Incentive Experts. To participate, a group is divided into teams, which compete in a number of challenging but humorous events. For instance, donkey polo involves playing polo on the backs of donkeys with a broom and a ball. “Donkeys don’t like to go anywhere, so it can be pretty challenging,” Lawhorne says. Other destination-inspired games include a margarita-making contest; a tamale cooking contest; and a muchos huevos contest, a traditional sack race with a few eggs added in. “A lot of people don’t know each other when they go on an incentive, and they certainly don’t feel like a team,” Lawhorne says. “The Guacamole Games help people get to know each other and have a great time doing it.”

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