When we started running team building events in the late 1980s the choice of activities was, compared to now, pretty limited. The typical choices were basic activities such as off road driving, traditional clay shooting and sailing. The alternative was a day at a sporting event, for example horse racing.
The industry has evolved significantly over the years and now you can take part in such activities as chocolate workshops and film making. This change in focus may have occurred because there are now as many women as men working for large corporate organisations and it’s generally these and government departments that book such events, although we’ve not seen so much of this last group in recent years.
Admittedly, top-level management is still playing catch-up, as the number of females in the boardroom is still not representative. But further down there’s usually a much more equal spread of sexes in most industries. To reflect this, team building activities must appeal to both sexes these days, instead of just comprising fairly ‘macho’ outdoor events.
Activities such as cooking and painting are now very popular. Not only can they be enjoyed by both sexes but they can also teach people new skills. At almost every painting event we hear someone saying that they had forgotten how much they enjoyed it and that they plan to take it up again.
Despite this progress, there is still some way to go towards total inclusivity. For example, we’ve run hundreds of events for thousands of participants over 20 years, but we have only ever seen a few attendees in wheelchairs. Does that mean wheelchair-users are not invited along with their able-bodied colleagues, or that not many of them are employed in the first place?
Perhaps it’s part of the same problem that the photograph accompanying this blog illustrates. We have 30,000 business photos on a CD that we can search and use for articles. The only pictures of business people in wheelchairs are almost comically ‘diverse’.
An event where one of the participants was blind comes to mind. Throughout the day’s challenges he was absolutely invaluable because his ability to listen was so developed. The team would turn to him for a recap on the game instructions and he would often give the team really good feedback during the task based on what he was sensing. Despite this value, which must transfer to the office, we have rarely seen blind people on events.
With preparation there are many events that can be participated in by someone in a wheelchair. It’s more often the venue rather than the activity which limits accessibility, but there are many venues with excellent facilities for disabled people.