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Origins of Team Building: Games at Work

Mar 14, 2008
Although not really well known to the laymen, the term "Hawthorne effect" has resounded in the social science world since the late 20s in America. The Hawthorne effect is basically known as a study of how high worker morale equals better work output.

The morale is based a great deal on the social interactions between workers -- more so than the actual type and quality of work that is being done. This will be a small touch on what some of the study found as well as some team building techniques that are used today that are popular.

The name "Hawthorne" does not come from the name of the scientist that conducted the study, but is actually the name of the company that the experiment was conducted on. In 1927 the Hawthorne Plant of the Western Electric Company in Cicero, Illinois was a stage set by scientists to watch a group of workers interact on the job over a span of about three years. The team of scientists was led by Elton Mayo, known as the father of the Human Relations Movement.

There were two parts to the study. First they conducted some physical and environmental pressures and changes to see the effects. Some of those tests were little odd touches to the room surroundings, such as shifting the room humidity and ventilation, piping in music and adjusting the brightness of the lights within the space of work to see how these variations affected productivity. But the most profound experiments were done on how each worker formed their group dynamic and how their group belonging resulted in what amount of work was done.

This test was done on workers who were building telephone relays at the plant. The measurement of production output was charted with all the environmental factors changing. But it was found that the small group's ability to get along with each other and their immediate boss created a direct relationship to the output.

The Hawthorne studies deducted a lot of results that are heavily debated today, but it spurred the beginnings of team building and the importance of small group morale and how the automaton worker philosophy of yesteryear can only be taken so far. This postulated that acceptance in a group was probably the single most important factor in the group dynamic; and since we spend a majority of our lives at work, it was important to create a relationship not unlike a family.

Practicing to Get Along: Team Building Games

So what a lot of company executives have a tough time boiling down to is the concept of getting their employees to work with the most efficiency, balancing morale, or willingness to work out of joy and group acceptance from their work peers. One technique that has caught on recently is the team building exercise of corporate scavenger hunting. This is an example of breaking the body of workers down to groups.

The corporate scavenger hunt is one of many team building games that specifically engages each team member and extrapolates every skill type from nearly all group members. Scavenger hunts today are set up by organizations with serious intent for their team building clients. High grossing corporate clients like Amazon.com and Microsoft have launched hunts for various departments in the past.
About the Author
Watson Adventures (http://www.watsonadventures.com/team_building.html) offers a unique series of corporate team building games by hosting scavenger hunts in many metropolitan areas across the U.S. The article was written by Art Gib, who is a freelance writer.
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