University of Rochester Simon School of Business Executive MBA Team Building and Leadership Create-Learning (60)

My favorite team-building activities are more mental than physical. I think this better reflects the world of work & examining how people work together. Having a team work on a shared challenge that is similar but different enough to work challenges they face may allow unique perspectives & ways to achieve the goal.

One of my current favorites is an activity that uses a bunch of PVC pipes & connectors.

The teambuilding activity has several names:
  • Closed Network
  • Putting it all Together
  • Emergent Solution
  • The PVC Network (Jim Cain the originator of this activity)

It does not matter what you call it!

Team Building is not an activity. It is part of the corporate development & training. As long as you treat it as an ‘activity, it will be a silly game that you had us play.
Suppose you treat this as an opportunity to connect the content (whatever it is) to an actual behavior change & how we get work done. In that case, you will be seen as a person who adds value to the organization and makes the training connect in the participants’ heads.

PVC pipe team building activity create learning team building and leadership
How is connecting PVC pipe into a closed structure corporate learning & development?

You can begin with the end in mind only when you know what the end will look like. You cannot see the end in innovation & complex work.

This team-building activity shows that the simple (or ordered) approach to complex & innovative work is constricting & not possible. There is no way of knowing what this will look like; to have an end in mind will harm this process.

The pipe activity is a complex Team Building activity.
Pictometry Team Building and Employee Engagement - Create-Learning Team Building and Leadership (17)

Whenever you move a pipe or connector, it impacts every other piece & the process itself in ways that are not understood until the movement is made.

Only when you have completed the pipe connection can you look back to figure out what’s been accomplished.

This activity illustrates that what works best in innovation & rapidly changing environments needs a different team approach.

The approach in an Unordered Complex manner. Within those areas it is best to:
  1. Determine what attractors (good stuff) you want to have happen. Determine what detractors (bad stuff) you don’t want to have happen. Plus agree on how you will identify & discuss attractors + detractors
  2. Define the broad boundaries and explain why they are in place
  3. Create several safe-to-fail experiments
  4. From those, tests learn how the attractors are happening so you can amplify them. Find out how the detractors are happening so you can dampen them.

When you complete the structure, you can look back and see some pattern (because that is what our brains do – they make patterns where there is none).