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A multicultural team-building event

Published on 31 Jan 2013
Lia Marus


I first came across Elephants in Main Street about two years ago, I must confess that I didn’t read up more about the company and made the assumption that the team-building events they put on had something to do with elephants…

Well, I was horribly embarrassed when I found out that this was not the case! However, I was really intrigued about the team-building ideas that the company does offer. And big companies such as Alexander Forbes, Telkom and Kimberley-Clark have benefitted from these.

Steven Blades, CEO of Elephants on Main Street, told me about a very interesting team-building event that they put on for HATCH.

Lia Marus (LM): Who was the teambuilding solution for?

Steven Blades (SB): HATCH, which is an engineering, procurement and construction management firm.

LM: What brief did the client give you when they approached you to stage the event?

SB: In this particular brief, we had two clients, Sven Heiner and Connie Lesch, who had both worked with us before.

Connie knew that for delegates to be able to absorb the knowledge, technology and skills they would need to, she would need to create a bootcamp-type environment that intimately linked the project-controls vision with both the individual and the broader organisation.

The bootcamp would need to shift people out of their comfort zones in a structured and professionally-facilitated manner to challenge people to learn, share and grow in a way which was respectful, collaborative and aligned with the HATCH Stands and Manifesto.

Our job was to help design and deliver cognitive experiential team-building processes which:

  • Empowered delegates;
  • Made the link to the project-controls methodology; and
  • Ignited the minds and hearts of experienced specialists around the globe.

Our additional challenge was that we had to work in Chile and Brazil, in Spanish and Portuguese.

LM: What format did the project take?

SB: This project was one of our typical large-scale, team-building interventions. However, it didn’t involve taking 500 people and turning them into full-blown rock stars or something similar!

This was one of our traditional corporate culture change programmes, a service experience which took us back to our roots when we started Elephants on Main Street.

Initially, we were asked to run two of our high-impact team-building experiences, which follow the following steps:

a) Experience a real-life situation;
b) Analyse how you performed;
c) Realise what you did and did not do, and why;
d) Learn a new skill to change your performance; and
e) Practice it to a resultant ability!

All our work starts with a thorough pre-intervention analysis. During the process, we usually spend between one and three days with a client:

  • Discussing outcomes;
  • Working through options; and
  • Selecting the most appropriate interventions from our five different categories of team-building products.  

Typically, clients can benefit from starting or ending a conference with one of our creative expressive processes, for example:

  • Art Jam; or
  • News Room.

They can sustain the process with one of our creative technical processes, for example Crime Scene. Alternatively, they can accelerate motivation levels and cement team methodology with one of our creative adventure processes like Amazing Race.

At the end of the journey, they can celebrate the change using Rock Band or DJ Nights.

LM: In the end, why did you decide on this particular format?

SB: When we sat and workshopped the outcome that we wanted to get from the event, versus the investment which would be needed and the desired impact of the programme, we came to the conclusion that we needed to adopt a holistic approach.

So, we used a number of our team-building products in an integrated agenda:

1.    Art Jam. During this activity, participants paint what they feel about their company on a canvas. This helps them to tell the story of:

  • Who they are;
  • Where they had been;
  • Where they had come from;
  • Where they were going; and
  • How they were going to get there.

2.    Amazing Race. During this activity, team members have to race each other to a defined finish line and follow clues along the way. This pushed people out of their comfort zones and highlighted the importance of communication, control, destructive and constructive personalities in team success or failure.

3.    X-Factor/Rockband. Team select songs that they want to sing, choose the parts that each individual wants to perform, choreograph their “moves” and then sing their hearts out! This unleashed the spirit of play, ignited the desire to perform and awakened the sense of team spirit and imagination.

4.    CSI. Here, teams work together to solve a “crime” just like in the hit TV series, CSI. This demonstrated the power of collaboration, cooperation, problem-solving and managing by data instead of emotion.

LM: Was the event successful?

SB: We usually do quantitative assessments after each team-building event. However, these results appeared unreal as we were all given phenomenal praise and recognition, almost unbelievably so!

But it was the viral and internal feedback that confirmed we’d done a good job. The unsolicited telephone calls and emails that followed were the testimony that we had developed a winning recipe.

The process was an incredible success. We galvanised 15 groups of people around the world in multiple times zones, from multiple cultures, languages and nationalities into a united movement, dedicated to delivering on their organisational vision. In addition, we changed the lives of the people on a personal level.

HATCH shareholders voted the project as the winner of their Knowledge Management Award at the end of 2012.



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