Back to the lab again: The case for team building activities

Laylan SaadaldinLaylan Saadaldin
  27 November 2017

It’s said that if you stand in front of a mirror in a dark, empty room and say the words ‘team-building activity’ out loud three times, you can hear your colleagues groan from miles away.

I can’t promise that the small group tasked with creating said activity didn’t groan either. But being a creative, well-rounded team, I think we came up with a memorable activity, sure to be remembered for years to come. Here’s how we did it and why you should too.


Our recent company workshop in Athens had a few goals, among them to:

When the whole team gets together. Credit: SJM Photography

1) Get team members from different locations to work together.

With folks in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and the UK, the vast majority of us don’t see each other every day. There’s little opportunity grab a coffee together across the company and not all projects cross paths.

2) Reconsider what we do (communications, broadly speaking) from a different point of view.

Communications is still keeping up with advancements in technology. Social media is the main source of news and entertainment for the general public. And where once text was the novelty – be it in 140 characters or longer – visual media is quickly taking over.

Of course, many factors go into what type of medium and platform you use. And that’s precisely what we wanted to explore. In mulling all this over, it occurred to us that while we were in a brainstorming lab, of sorts, why not get the whole team in there with us?

It’s alive!

The task at the heart of the Content Lab was simple: Take a story and cast it in different ways using different tools for different audiences.

We split the group into 4 teams and played three rounds of our ‘game’. In each round, we presented the teams with the same news story. Each team then picked out a card from the MEDIA pile (comic, video, infographic, etc) and from the PLATFORM pile (YouTube, interactive website, Twitter, Facebook, etc). The objective was to rework the news story for their media type and platform and present their product.

Brainstorming. Credit: SJM Photography


For a simple game, the results were interestingly complex.

In one round, two teams pulled the same media card (infographics) but for different platforms (Facebook vs. general website). Despite working with the same material, the teams came up with very different products.

In the other two rounds, some teams selected ‘wildcards’ like designing a meme campaign and an audio product. It was a chance to get creative, but that isn’t always easy, as we learned.

Presenting ideas. Credit: SJM Photography


Across all teams and scenarios, here were some takeaways:

  • Diversity is a plus: Workshopping ideas with people of different ages, experience, and background is never a bad thing. After all, a ‘general audience’ is a mix of those three factors.
  • Content needs the right platform: Knowing your audience also means knowing what platform to use to best reach them. This in turn affects your tone, length, budget, the project overall. This point was very clearly made with the infographic example above.
  • There is a right and a wrong way: Yes, even in the seemingly lawless world of social media. Like any language or tool, social media has its own rules and conventions. If aiming to use effective testimonials, for instance, you need to get the right people on board and well before a campaign launches. Spontaneity on social media still takes planning! Doing it wrong means doing it at your own peril.
  • Keep it need-to-know: When focussing on audience and platform, don’t forget your actual content. Keep your call-to-action in mind and lead your audience to it by including relevant info only.
  • Memes are hard: But fun and well worth the effort, if done right! Remember to use them like salt – a little here and there to add flavour.

It was an intense and slightly sweaty 3 hours, full of laughter, frustration, and a mess load of ideas. But everyone worked hard, together, and left inspired. And there’s nothing like an energized team ready to tackle anything.


Here are some tips on planning and organizing a team-building activity that we found made the Content Lab a success. We’d love to hear about your experiences as well. Good luck!

  • Assign teams: People will naturally gravitate to those they know. But when the goal is to create a spirit of cooperation and exchange among people who don’t normally work together, it’s important that you preselect those teams.
  • Give examples: When your activity time is limited, there’s little room for trial-and-error. Instead, prime the creative pump with examples. Before we kicked off the game, we presented some samples of outside-the-box comms campaigns to get everyone in that frame of mind. After explaining the rules of the game, we ‘played’ a quick example round to show rather than just tell.
  • Less really is more: Keep it simple, from details to props to presentations. The topics we chose for each round were accessible, the game rules short and sweet. Too many details create confusion and complication.
  • It’s the little things that count: Small challenges like coming up with a team name in 30 seconds go a long way to building comradery and team spirit, especially when there’s a countdown clock!