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Far be it for us to stand in the way of fun, whatever the form, but we’ve noticed a trend lately: Some organizations are blurring the line between team building and recreation. Most corporate adventures pursued under the guise of team building sound ridiculously fun—excursions that include bungee jumping, paintball, GoKart racing, rock climbing and so on. And while we whole-heartedly approve of the spirit of these exploits, there is a key distinction between recreation and team building. If it helps, think of the difference between flowers and trees: Both are plants, but only one provides shade. Similarly, recreation and team building are both fun, but only one offers challenges specifically designed to help teams work together toward a common goal.
Toward that end, team-building activities usually include elements that combine problem solving, delegation and communication. The same cannot be said for skydiving, white water rafting or heliskiing, where a hired guide makes all of the important decisions (thankfully). Granted, team building sometimes includes recreational activities (some trees also bloom, right?), but the two are fundamentally different.
Don’t get us wrong: We endorse play in most any fashion. Recreating with colleagues is an opportunity to drop the work façade and get to know people better, even if it’s just for a round of golf after work. If a company can afford extracurricular recreational pursuits, it’s a grand idea. Recreation recharges the batteries—and there’s nothing wrong with that. Our only suggestion is to allocate funds toward team building separately from recreation.