Teambuilding Activity: The "Take Flight" Challenge

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Culture

Teambuilding Activity: The \

Back in January I wrote about the best employee gift I've ever received:

Last Christmas, our manager gave each of us an electric conversion kit to power a paper airplane, assigned us to small teams, and tasked us with building, branding and marketing a fleet of high performance airplanes using the kits provided.

I promised to follow up with a post highlighting the results of the 2014 "Take Flight" Challenge. Well, here’s how the challenge went down…

Earlier this month, each of our teams had the chance to present our fleet and brand to a panel of "expert" judges (from outside our department of course). Then (due to inclement weather) we took to a local indoor soccer field to see whose plane flew the furthest.

The brand presentations

The brand presentations were really fun. It was great to see all the different approaches people took, from branding their planes to branding fictitious airlines.

Our multinational team played up their transatlantic connection. One team presented themselves as "Southworst" airlines and aimed to "lower the bar" on airline travel. Another team branded themselves as "SophisticAir" – exclusively 1st class.

We had a group play up the whole "Mayor Rob Ford" shenanigans, complete with a case of beer (empty). Another focused on efficiently shuttling staff between our various buildings. And my team branded itself as providers of high-thrills paper airplanes for adventure lovers, using a Top Gun theme.

We saw emails, videos, PowerPoint presentations, song lyrics, homemade cupcakes and cookies, costumes, and even nuts, cocktails, and flight safety brochures:

take flight teambuilding challenge


Some teams went all out; others were more restrained. But everyone contributed to the fun.

The “Take Flight” challenge

Flying paper airplanes is a lot harder than it seems. Some of us practiced; others "winged" it.

We'd planned to do our flying outdoors, but rain forced a last minute move to an indoor soccer field. And while we thought the indoor locale meant we wouldn't have to deal with wind, the indoor ventilation system had most of us veering off course.

We saw all kinds of airplane designs and launching styles. We even had one employee pull his plane across the room on a string.

The longest flight award went to one of the teams who'd attached their plane and motor to a helium filled balloon. It was touch and go though; another team came up with the same idea, but was thwarted by the room's ventilation system that blew them backwards a fair distance:

Here again, I was amazed by the creativity and variety of designs and approaches.

The winning team – Team Southworst:

southworst team take flight teambuilding challenge

What this teambuilding exercise reinforced

I had a lot of fun during this teambuilding exercise. It was unique – I’ve never had to build a paper airplane using an electric conversion kit. Competition was fierce. Teams really got into the spirit of this challenge and it was a lot of fun seeing how each team branded their fleet.

The experience provided a few key takeaways too…

Read the directions and be creative

You see it on programs like "The Amazing Race" all the time… you really need to read the directions carefully and check your assumptions before proceeding.

While I thought I had done that, I was amazed at what I'd missed when I saw people flying planes not made of paper, using balloons to float their planes, putting together entire marketing strategies, etc.

Teambuilding is important

We tend to get wrapped up in our work and the small set of people that we interact with every day.

Every now and again, it's important to collaborate your co-workers in a different setting and context. It helps you to see them for who they really are; and helps them to see you for who you are.

Teambuilding activities also provide an opportunity to interact with people we might not work with directly. They help us use our skills in different ways. They help us have some fun with the people we work with. They help us bond.

And sometimes, you learn something new about yourself or someone else.

Do I still think an electric conversion kit for paper airplanes is the best employee gift ever? When it’s turned into this kind of teambuilding activity…you bet.

Your Turn: Tell us about one of your favorite teambuilding activities. Why was it so successful?

Intentionally creating your organizational culture — Leslie Whatley

Leslie Whatley explains the concept of organizational culture


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Intentionally creating your organizational culture — Leslie Whatley

Leslie Whatley explains the concept of organizational culture


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