team building myths

Exploring Team Building Myths with Chris Cavert, Ed.D.

Part 1 of Our Interview with Chris Cavert, Ed.D.

Dr. Chris Cavert is an internationally known educator, trainer and speaker and recipient of the AEE Karl Rohnke creativity award. He has been working with groups of all ages for more than 25 years. Chris is the author of over a dozen books related to activity-based experiential group development. He holds an undergraduate degree in physical education, a master’s degree in Experiential Education and an educational doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction. As an educator Chris focuses on how to use team building activities to develop social-emotional intelligence and pro-social skills within groups of all ages. For more information visit:

What is a one of the common team building myths you encounter?

A lot of people call outings team building. So in their mind going out together is building teams. And I don’t disagree with that. I think part of it is true in the sense of, when you do things together, you have an opportunity to learn about each other a little bit more. You’re going to have conversations. Find out similarities and differences. You’re going to see how people have fun, see how people deal with maybe challenges or stress. Because any kind of outings where you have to make decisions together has some level of stress or possibly conflict. So there are all those parts of building a team in there. What’s missing, is the idea of we’re reflecting on an experience. These outings that people call team building is more what I call accidental team building; it just kind of happens because you’re together.

Have you come across any misperceptions about team building in your work?

I think the overall idea of the misconception in team building is how a group of people are prepared for a team building experience. My most challenging situations with groups are where the main contact, whether it was a manager or the assistant to the manager wants the group to go do an activity to become better communicators because they’re having a hard time with understanding what each other’s needs are. So they want the group to work on team building. But when the group comes in, they have no idea that they were there to do professional development versus just coming to play and have some fun. In their mind, they were going to have some fun together. Because every year they go to a ball game or paint balling; that to them was their team building experience.

Well, now it’s been upgraded to a professional development experience but they didn’t know that. It should be more transparent to groups of what they are getting themselves into. It shouldn’t be a, “Surprise! You’re here. And now you have to work!” Because team building in the sense of professional development is work. We’re working at learning and growing. We’re working at deciding whether to keep, change, or get rid of certain behaviors. So I think that’s the biggest misperception: groups coming in without the understanding of the level of team building they’re going to be involved in.

What would you say is the biggest between a team building event versus a social event? You touch on this in your previous answers, but I’d like you to restate it.

It’s about the outcomes and the group understanding the outcome is going to be a more professional development program where we are going to learn something.  Professional development is about learning. That why the resume line item is, “What professional development have you been involved in?” not what social gathering have you been involved in.

What would you say the difference between teamwork and team building is?

Team building is exploring how the team functions. Explore how you as a team take on a task or work through a challenge by going out to do an experience together, I.e., go out and do some teamwork. Then reflect on the experience by looking at behaviors you want to keep change, or add. That time of reflection or skill development is team building.

So it sounds to me like teamwork would be a component of team building? You could have teamwork, as in people working together; but until you add in that professional development or reflection piece of it, it’s just that – teamwork.

Yes, exactly.

But if you want to transform teamwork into team building, you need to add some of these components you’re talking about?

I believe so. There’s got to be a purposeful reflection on something. It has to be an experiential learning cycle, not just an experience. We have to purposely look at how we do things to see if we want to keep or change them.

Now that we’ve covered the topic of team building myths, stay tuned for Part Two of our interview with Chris Cavert, Ed.D. next week. He’ll give some practical tips for managers on how to build better teams on a daily basis. Additionally, Chris shares a team building idea you can do right at your next office meeting!
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

Irvine,CA Team Building with AutoAlert

AutoAlert brought HUGE spirit and energy to the Iron Team Challenge we created with them! Their enthusiasm was high during the challenge rotations and jumped even higher during the final “Gauntlet”. We want to thank them for letting us be part of the AutoAlert family for the day. Check out some of the images from Mason Regional Park in Irvine where we held the team building event.

If you’re interested in your own team building in Orange County, please contact us at 877.267.1939 or

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