title graphic team building

How Bowling is Ruining Corporate Team Building

I  work in an industry that focuses on growth and being positive. But sometimes you need to practice tough love. People of Corporate America! Bowling is NOT team building. You will not see productivity increase because your company went bowling. You haven’t increased cohesion. You failed to address problem solving, communication or innovation. Worse, you’ve set the bar so low that your company will begin a downward spiral into mediocrity, thinking that for the cost of 2 hours lane time, a bowling shoe rental, and soggy nachos they’re “team building”.

Many social activities like to tack on the buzz phrase “team building” to their marketing schemes without bothering to actually offer anything actually useful to team development beyond a fun time.  Bowling is a common offender and I’m calling them out.  So what exactly should you look for in team building activities that bowling doesn’t have?

There Is No Teamwork At the Line

Teamwork is another buzzword, but one that most already understand.  Bowling, though occasionally played with teams, requires no teamwork.  I suck at bowling, and there is absolutely nothing my team can do during the match to help me be better.  They can’t help me hold the ball, or knock my pins down.  My success during each frame is solely my responsibility.  Now sure, there’s something to be said for owning your own accomplishments, but how does one person’s successes or failures bring a team together, especially if each person’s success means another’s failure?  In true team building activities challenges require team members to rely on one another.  A success is the result of the team effort, not the one super star.

7-10 Splits Don’t Equal Problem Solving

What’s the biggest problem in bowling?  The dreaded 7/10 split.  Unless you possess a great deal of hand/eye coordination and a physics degree you’ll be hard pressed to overcome that problem.  Proper team building allows teams to solve problems.  To examine a challenge, make a plan of action, and most importantly- fail, then try again.  Chuck your bowling ball down the lane and hope for the best as it ricochets back and forth against the gutter bumper rail.  What has your team learned from this challenge?  Back at the office should they use the same strategy of wild guessing and blind luck?

Bowling Reeks of Minimal Effort

Changes in the office have your staff stressed out.  You want to plan an outing to brighten the mood and unite the team.  So you take them to the neighborhood bowling alley and shell out for pizza and maybe a pitcher of beer.  You already put in the work to get results in business, and the same rings true for team building.  I’m not saying you need to spend a load of money to impress your staff.  But bowling reeks of minimal effort, and you’ll get out what you put in.

Small Talk Isn’t Enough

Throwing your staff at each other and hoping they’ll make small talk in between frames does not promise any team bonding and does even less to improve communication strategies. Instead: brainstorm ideas, debate plans, give directions, ask questions, cheer, yell, laugh, cry.  Team building engages staff in conversations about the activity, which opens communication channels later on.

What Does Bowling Even Mean?

When asked what my profession is I often quip “I play with a purpose.”  It usually gets a chuckle, but it’s an accurate description of team building.  After an event I always debrief the activity with the teams I’m playing with.  I lead them in a discussion of their strengths and weaknesses, how their communication worked, why they attempted the challenge a certain way and above all – What will they take with them back to the office. The activity itself is neutral. It only has value when viewed the workplace lens.

Team building can be used to unite staff, solve workplace issues, improve communication and so much more.  It makes sense places want to advertise with it, but a group activity does NOT a team building program make.  At Firefly, we know we can gamify anything for teams.  So if you have your heart set on bowling, why not make it team bowling?  A new challenge presented each frame, that requires communication and collaboration.  To improve these skills, they need to be practiced.  Before you take your team out to play, we challenge you to play with purpose.

For team building activities that I think are better than bowling, contact James@fireflyteamevents.com