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Team Building Games vs. Experiential Learning for Organizational Change

By Ian Cornett on June 8, 2017

Creating change in an organization is undoubtedly a challenging task. Whether the goal is a complete culture transformation or specific improvements in key areas, lasting change depends on fostering new behaviors and attitudes in every individual in the company. A comprehensive strategy for organizational change addresses certain behaviors that have been identified and uses various methods to help shift the way individuals think about their work. Both team building games and experiential learning are tools that can be used to spark change, though like any other type of tool, it’s important to employ them appropriately.

When to Use Team Building Games

Team building games are typically short group activities that take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. You might employ these types of activities when your goals are to:

  • Break the ice in a group that does not work together often
  • Build camaraderie among teammates
  • Warm up a group before diving into deeper or more intense issues
  • Introduce a fun activity to break up a long day of meetings
  • Help individuals in a team learn more about each other

Download the FAQs of Experiential Learning for Organizational Development.

One of the advantages of team building games is that they require little or no facilitation skills, so almost any individual can organize the activities. They also don’t require a significant investment in time or resources, so it’s often easy to get buy-in for including them in a work gathering. On the other hand, games typically don’t deliver long-term behavior change in the workplace. They might be fun interludes that boost the relationships within a team, but they can’t in and of themselves effectively create organizational change.  

When to Use Experiential Learning

Experiential learning activities are typically longer, more immersive events that can take anywhere between two hours and a full day, depending on the content or debrief. During the event, participants:

  • Build personal conviction that individual behavior matters
  • Actively engage in an immersive experience
  • Participate in an activity that serves as a metaphor for a real-world challenge
  • Learn new skills and behaviors by practicing them
  • Absorb the benefits of behavior change by experiencing failures and successes
  • Link the training activities to the real world through a skilled debrief

The results of experiential learning are learning that lasts and motivation to change individual behaviors to improve overall team and organizational performance. When done right, this approach has the potential to impact the company’s goals and culture, creating measurable and sustainable results.

A successful experiential learning event requires an experienced facilitator to guide the activity but also to provide a debrief that connects the lessons learned to applications in the workplace. Without this, the experience can be misinterpreted as a game that does not have the larger objective of creating lasting change within a team. Because experiential learning requires a more significant investment in time and resources, it can be more difficult for event organizers to achieve buy-in from executives. However, because it produces longer-lasting results than almost any other type of training approach, it is arguably worth the investment.

There Is No Silver Bullet  

Tool belts have more than one tool for a reason: You need different devices for different jobs. The same can be said of team building. In some cases, team building games are the perfect approach to make individuals more comfortable with each other or get the channels of communication flowing before a meeting. On the other hand, when the larger goal is organizational change, it’s time to bring in tools like experiential learning to help shift the behaviors that contribute to better team and organizational performance. If you’re not sure what approach makes the most sense, start by identifying your goals and then select the tools that will help you achieve them most efficiently.

FAQs of Experintial Learning for Organizational Development 

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Ian has been with Eagle’s Flight since 1997, and is Executive Vice President, Global Accounts. He holds an MBA in Finance and Marketing from the University of British Columbia. Ian spent 12 years at Nestlé Canada and brings a wide range of experience that includes practical business experience in management, sales, program design, development and mentoring. He works closely with the Global licensees to ensure their success as they represent Eagle’s Flight in the worldwide marketplace. He has developed outstanding communication skills and currently is the Executive in Charge of a large Fortune 500 client with a team of employees dedicated to this specific account. As a result, Ian has been instrumental in driving the company’s growth and strategic direction.

About Eagle's Flight

Founded in 1988, Eagle's Flight has earned its reputation as a global leader in the development and delivery of business-relevant, experiential learning programs that achieve specific training objectives and lasting behavior changes.

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