What do blindfolded human sheepdog trials, giant monopoly boards and adults dressed in gorilla outfits have in common? They all form part of corporate team-building events. What's more, they are being used by companies that want innovative and inspiring experiences to help their employees develop better working relationships.
"For a long time, team-building events meant running around a muddy field, but today event organisers have to be a lot more savvy and come up with a constant stream of new ideas," says Paul Casement, sales and marketing director at team-building training company Bluehat UK.
Working with the likes of Microsoft, Sainsbury's and Xerox, Bluehat is one of many providers in this inventive, and sometimes wacky, sector. Among its portfolio of team-building events are: garden design and build challenges organised in conjunction with Age Concern; a competition to produce the best short film; and a giant-sized Dungeons and Dragons-style game.
Its latest offering is a treasure hunt challenge based on the best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code, where participants work in teams to decipher numerous cryptic clues that eventually lead to a final discovery. Costing 2,250 for the initial set-up and then 45-95 per delegate, the company had several large works of art commissioned for the event, which it has run in several locations, including a stately home and a theatre.
Casement makes no attempt to hide the fact that these events are designed to be fun. "People learn more when they are having fun. They get more involved, are more honest and more willing to accept feedback," he says.
But there is also a serious side to the proceedings, with many of Bluehat's events overseen by facilitators well-versed in personality modelling techniques such as Myers Briggs and the team-working theories of Meredith Belbin.
Companies working with Bluehat can request an event designed to test a certain aspect of team working, such as dealing with pressure or splitting up into smaller working parties, which facilitators bear in mind as they throw in advice (or a spanner) during the event.
Much the same approach is taken by team-building events company Inneventive. Director Lucy Stoddart says that while its range of off-beat events offer delegates the chance to let their hair down