A good run for your money

Charlie Hockey, HR manager at Bio-Rad Laboratories, takes us behind the
scenes of an Olympic-style team-building event

The Athenian Akabusi Challenge
The Akabusi Company, Unit 14, Doolittle Mill, Froghall Road, Ampthill, Beds
MK45 2ND
Phone: 0870 444 1975
E-mail: [email protected]

Bio-Rad Laboratories is a multinational manufacturer and distributor of life
science research and clinical diagnostic products. Each year, the Northern
Europe region, covering the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands, Scandinavia, Israel
and South Africa, stages a staff conference with the aim of building effective
multi-disciplinary teams, sharing information and motivating employees.

The annual conference provides employees with the opportunity to meet
face-to-face with colleagues from other territories with whom they usually
communicate with by phone, e-mail and video conferencing. It enables them to
share experiences and overcome any language or cultural barriers.

Previously, the conference had focused on having a motivational speaker from
outside the industry, followed by a series of break-out training sessions for
employees. For 2004, the company wanted to take a different approach that would
really capture the audience’s imagination and would consequently improve
effectiveness across the territories.

Different approach

When we began developing a new conference programme we wanted to present something
different for employees who are target-driven and competitive by nature. So we
approached The Akabusi Company [founded by Kriss Akabusi, famous for his
athletics and subsequent media career], which appeared to meet the required

The Akabusi Athenian Challenge is a computer-linked interactive
team-building ‘game’ designed to communicate information in a fun and engaging
way. It is based on a concept of ‘edutainment’, which enables teams to complete
various timed challenges both in- and outdoors. The challenge is based on an
athletic theme and has a live scoreboard running at all times, so teams are
always aware of their position. The activities were specially designed for
Bio-Rad to ensure that messages were both appropriate and inspiring. The aim
was to leave the participants motivated for challenges they would face in the
year ahead.


The conference involved 210 delegates from across the Northern European region.
Prior to the event, a panel was formed made up of representatives from every
area of the business along with The Akabusi Company and its technology partner
Corporate Adrenalin. Together they developed the different customised themes
that would make up The Challenge.

In total, 26 teams participated in the training. Each one comprised at least
five different nationalities, and representatives from four different
disciplines. A trained facilitator was also assigned to every team to help the
exercises run smoothly and to reinforce learning points.

As the teams were chosen from across the different territories, our
employees were encouraged to collaborate prior to the event. Before arriving,
each team member was given the name of an animal and the objective was to
arrive at the event as an interpretation of that animal.

Other activities included:

– Matching pairs – delegates had to match the two Bio-Rad products that
would normally be sold together from a selection of pictures.

– Finding your way around the company website – a set of questions were
devised to which the answers could only be found on the company website

– Employee photo-fit – finding out who’s who in the company.

– Guess what’s in the box – a Bio-Rad product was placed in a box and teams
had to guess what it was, using only their hands.

The vocational training was tailored to each specific job function.
Non-technical employees used one of our Bio-Education products to ‘solve a
crime’ by carrying out various experiments using the products in our DNA
fingerprinting kit, while members of the sales team took the opportunity to
carry out a review of the year and develop common goals for the future.


The event achieved its objective to build effective teams within the
business and to bring together the whole of the Northern European region. It
enabled UK employees to share their experiences and working practices with
their counterparts from different countries and feel that they were an
important part of the Bio-Rad team.

United we stand

The Akabusi Athenian Challenge helped
to produce a strong team identity within a large, multinational organisation,
allowing individual employees to feel part of a bigger whole.

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