By Brad Foster

You’ve heard it before, maybe even said it yourself in your corporate company role: there’s no i in team. So what is there, and can team-building really bring a group closer together?

Yes and no according to the head of one of the most successful team-building companies in Australia, Talan Miller of Sabre Corporate Development. He says it all depends on how serious you want to get.

“The `Google’ factor and low levels of product awareness from many planners and consumers has seen the term `team-building’ become a catch all for everything from wine blending and lawn bowls to the real stuff,” Miller says.

“As the term team-building implies, the genuine article targets the development stages that occur in all teams and is designed to target behaviour, culture and dynamics.  It can still be fun, but will also have meaningful inbuilt substance. Purely leisure-based entertainment – lawn bowls, Segway rides, races, etcetera – are not `team building’ but rather ‘team activities’.

“The commercial reality is that Sabre offers everything from the interactive `fun stuff’ to high-end development so we can draw from either end as required.  We know that the term team building will still be used to describe it all, as that it is the `Google word’ embedded in the psyche of many consumers.”

Being in existence since 1988, and now with offices and affiliates around the world, the Sabre team know their stuff.

The company has also seen the rollercoaster of programs which Miller says has swayed from sophisticated business games in the 1990s to the post-GFC volatility which brought with it demand for lower quality reality TV knock-offs. Think Amazing Race and Survivor.

Lately, demand has returned for creativity and quality programs with the reality TV-type games having been “done to death”.

“In development / learning and development (which increasingly intersects with MICE), demand has been consistent for quality programs using profiling tools such as Belbin, current neuroscience insights, and even more sophisticated experiential activities. More of our development products are being deployed in the MICE space to obtain better results for clients in shorter timeframes.”

Really changing culture

Miller says while one-off events are better than nothing they cannot realistically make a dent in a team’s functionality.
“People quickly revert to established patterns when they return to work.

“The best approaches use pre-program diagnostics and profiling within the business, and use the MICE-based events as the launch pad for tailored six to 12 month work-based and off-site follow through.  Sabre calls this `Sustainable Teaming’. It’s more expensive than a one-off, and requires absolute confidence from a client that you can deliver the results, but it really does work and measurably impacts bottom line performance.”

And how do you know what a company needs in terms of team building? You ask the right questions, Miller says.

‘[You] use good diagnostic tools then carefully match the right approaches to their needs based on years of experience we have gained here and overseas. In reality though, many MICE clients are purely theme driven.  At the development level it’s about good diagnostics and outcomes, but at the recreational event level it can more often be about themes, bells and whistles.”