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Why the Johannesburg Impact Hub’s Amazing Race Is An Excellent Alternative To Team Building Workshops

At the beginning of this year I attended a bursar development programme. This is basically just a fancy shmancy word for team building day or workshop. The dread! One of the facilitators noted that previous bursars had said that they were there to get a PhD in Life Orientation when asked what their expectations were and those sarcastic remarks caused the workshop to have an impact on only a few of the attendees.

This was not surprising to me. Not many people who I have spoken to end up having great remarks about team building workshops. Some of my friends who are already working even pass it off as a tedious and unnecessary exercise as they feel that it doesn’t change their morale and that of their colleagues.

I had the opportunity to work with Lesley Williams of Impact Hub Johannesburg on a teambuilding workshop that she did with 86 MBA students from GIBS and her approach to the whole thing was different. It had to be. She was dealing with people who had the brains to qualify for the rigorous two year programme and the deep pockets or funding to do it. However those brains are quite difficult to use when having to adapt it to an environment that requires street smarts rather than book or boardroom smarts.

Johannesburg Impact Hub

Her approach was to put the students (feels weird referring to them as students) through an Amazing Race challenge so modelled after the TV programme. They would have to do various tasks in and around Joburg with a mere R200 in their pockets. She also has programmes themed after The Apprentice depending on the group sizes. Here is why this format works:

  • The students are put in an environment that they are not necessarily used to, but it is not as uninteresting as a game farm that with their deep pockets, they might have already been to, but rather the city where life is happening around them as they do their tasks.
  • They have no idea what the R200 is for so they can’t put their office budgeting skills to use, but rather need to be creative.
  • There was no facilitator going with them on the challenges so they had to interpret the instructions for themselves. One particular instruction said that they had to buy “any” of three items. Most teams bought all three items while one team bought one item – interpreting the instructions with their R200 budget in mind.
  • They get to see and experience the city like they probably never have before and most probably never will again.

I must admit it was fun watching this smart and “chosen” group of people (and they do have ego) having to sweat when trying to complete tasks that they are not used to, using strategies that they are not used to. What was even greater to note, was the change in their attitudes from when they first came in and as the day progressed. That is what team building workshops should be about. Self-development as well as developing teamness. This would otherwise be difficult for these people who will be working together for the next two years and who will be leading teams in the workplace thereafter. So take a leaf from Lesley’s book for your next team building workshop.

Article written by:

Richmond Sajini is a musician and media entrepreneur in the public relations, television, radio and retail spaces in South Africa. He studied Public Relations and Communication at the University of Johannesburg and has worked on brands such as Coca Cola, Tsogo Sun, Heineken as well as the South African National Roads Agency. He has been told to shut up many times by people who don’t understand that he is in love with the sound of his own voice. For this reason he decided to start his own blog where he would share his thoughts and experiences without inhibition. Visit his blog, and follow him on Twitter @richmondsajini.


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