Competitive team building

Alex Kjerulf, the Chief Happiness Officer has a (typically excellent) article pointing out the top 5 reasons why most team building events are a waste of time.

Companies today want their employees to cooperate more, to work well in teams, to share knowledge and to work to achieve success together. That is why it makes absolutely no sense to send them on trainings that are mainly competitive in nature. Even when these events let people work together in smaller teams, competing against other teams, the focus still ends up being on competition, not cooperation.

There’s a simple reason why these events are almost always competitive: Competition = instant passion. Setting up a competition activates a primal urge in many people to win at all costs, making them very focused and active – which looks great to the organizers.

But there’s a huge downside to this – which means that not only are many team building events a huge waste of time, they can be actively harmful to teams.

Alex goes on to point out the top 5 problems with competitive team building events. For a less competitive approach to team building I encourage you to consider the following:

First, try to take the pressure out of it for all the reasons Alex mentions in his article.

Second, try to keep it loosely structured. For example, a trip to a baseball game is great because it gives everyone a common experience but also leaves plenty of time to chat and get to know each other.

Third, involve everyone! You’re not going to get everyone all the time but it’s important to do things that everyone is able to do. It’s fine to encourage people to go slightly out of their comfort zone, but don’t plan an event that you know certain people won’t go to.

Fourth, have at least some of your team building/social events during work hours. Lunches can be a great opportunity for this. The important thing is to involve the people who may not make it to after work events.

You can’t force people to have fun, but you can certainly give them the opportunity. Honestly the best team building experiences I can remember have been practical jokes – always in the best of humor of course. It may seem unlikely, but you’d be surprised how many people want to help when you say you’re going to fill the CEO’s office with balloons!

team building, office, work, leadership

Working from home – Have healthy snacks around

Working from home is great. You’re not a slave to the snack machine whenever you get the munchies, but you are likely to chow down on whatever is in the house when hunger hits, so my working from home advice for the day is to have healthy snacks around no matter how expensive they are.

My current preference is for flavored pretzels. They’re far from the cheapest thing in the store, but anything is better than paying a dollar for a one ounce bag of chips! Buy the healthy snacks that you like, otherwise you’ll always be reaching for those old grease-laden standbys.

home office, office, telework, work, telecommute

Working from home – Buy a nice chair

A nice chairAbout three months ago I started working as a remote Oracle database consultant, remote meaning I now work from home most weeks. Though I’m still fairly new to telecommuting it’s something that has always interested me.

In the few short months I’ve been working from home I’ve found that I am amazingly productive, but also that there are a few things I couldn’t do it without. Mileage will vary of course, but I wanted to write about some of the things I’ve found most helpful when working from home and one of the most important of these is a really good chair.

I’ve found being comfortable helps me work longer without loosing focus and the office chair is the most essential part of that. Working at the couch works for me for half days, but long stretches lead to neck and upper back problems. I even knew a woman at a previous job who got a pinched nerve from working with her laptop on her couch too much. When I need a change of scenery I’ll move to the couch, but I work at least half of every day from my desk chair.

I found a nice fabric covered Morrill chair at Staples but it’s essential to test-drive your own and choose the best one for you. I tried dozens of chairs before settling on this one.

I’d say plan to spend up to $350 on a good chair. It’s likely you’ll find one for less (mine was on sale for $129, regularly $179) but this is one thing you don’t want to compromise on. Height, padding, back support, arm design and tilt and swivel features should all be considered. If this seems like a lot to spend on a chair, just consider what you’re saving in gas by working from home (in my case no less than $200/month) and you’ll feel better.

You will also probably want to consider some type of floor protection for under your chair. The plastic mats are good on carpet and a version is also available to protect hardwood floors. After seeing recently what only a couple years of office use can do to even industrial carpets I was glad to have picked up a good mat.

I’ll be writing more about working from home in the near future. If you have tips or questions about working from home feel free to leave a comment.

telecommute, telework, home office, office, work

USB Missile Launcher – Hands On Review

USB Missile LauncherWhat do you get for the geek who has everything? Of course! Their very own USB Missile Launcher! But is it really worth it? Yes! Read on and find out why.

Overall Rating: 9 out of 10

Pros:

  • Roughly 12 foot range
  • Accurate within a foot or two even at range
  • 180 degree pan
  • Limited but reasonable tilt control (about 30 degrees above to five degrees below level)
  • Fires three darts one at a time
  • Soft foam darts are safe around the office
  • High quality molded plastic construction
  • Free Mac software better than included PC software

Cons:

  • Couple second delay between clicking “Fire” and actual launch
  • Batteries required (3xAA)
  • Included software does not allow for simultaneous pan and tilt (movign diagonally)

Details:

Launcher in boxThe USB Missile Launcher came to me from the folks at KlearGear.com who have quite a line of toys and gadgets appropriate for the office. They sell the USB Missile Launcher for $55 which I consider a fair price for a toy this cool.

It comes quite attractively packed… the type of thing that you wouldn’t be able to keep on shelves in the right locations. It would make the perfect trade-show giveaway for the same reasons. Have a stack of three or four of these at your booth and you’ll get some attention (hell, at the price just give away a dozen.)

The USB Missile Launcher was equally impressive out of the box. The unit quickly pans through 180 degrees and tilts about 35 degrees. The PC software that ships with the unit is limited to only moving in one direction at a time, while the free Mac software allows movement in two directions.

You can fire one missile at a time and the missiles shoot out with surprising speed, propelled by a small spring which is compressed when you load the missiles. Both software versions suffer from a second or two delay when firing. I have a feeling this is a limitation of the device, but it’s the only major flaw in what is otherwise a great piece of office artillery.

The launcher is solidly constructed and the darts have held up well for me. There is nothing with the unit or on the KlearGear site about replacement missiles, but I’m sure if there’s a demand they’ll become available.

Conclusions:

This is a great office toy and would be a great gift idea for anyone who regularly engages in cubicle warfare. At a cost of $55 from KlearGear.com the USB Missile Launcher is one of the most unique toys you could get someone this holiday season.

I had hoped to get a couple videos up of the launcher but haven’t been able to get any I’m happy with. Perhaps it’s time for a new digital camera.

Thanks to the folks at KlearGear.com for giving me the chance to evaluate the USB Missile Launcher.

cubicle, warfare, office, office toy, office humor, work, fun, usb, robot, robotic, computer, toy