Team Building with Abstract Contemporary Art
Getting a team to bond is harder in a distributed environment than in an office. In person, I used to run team building exercises and then let relationships develop on their own thanks to lunches, coffee breaks and happy hours. But working remotely, we don’t have those casual gatherings.
One of the teams I manage at Splash has 5 members distributed between Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Philadelphia and New York City. Wow! How would you go about making such a team start getting along?
Here come Team Building Meetups, one of my tactics for creating a space to connect as a team. And specially, team bonding sessions with contemporary art! I schedule them once a quarter.
Types of team building meetups
Open discussion, letting the team talk about any topics that come up organically. I find it good when there are things causing stress, happening in the world or the company. Through this type of meeting, I’ve witnessed people identifying common hobbies, sharing worries, empathizing and supporting each other.
Guided conversation to encourage sharing and equal participation. One typical question I ask is “What did you want to be when you grew up?”. Depending on the amount of trust within the team, I sometimes pick simpler questions, like “What is the best trip you’ve even taken?”, or emotionally deeper ones, like “When you were growing up, who were you closer to?”
Play a game! There are plenty of quick games to be creative, funny and a bit competitive. It doesn’t matter that everybody has played Skribbl at this point, it’s still a safe bet for a good time. We also play board games if the team members are into them.
Abstract contemporary art interpretation for team building
Last time, I decided to spice it up with a surprise type of Team Meetup.
I find abstract art insightful because each person sees and feels something different. The shapes might be completely random, but our brains are wired to identify shapes and meaning. It’s just like with the clouds in the sky.
To play, I picked 3 pieces of artwork, and we played one game for each:
Simple interpretation. I showed the team a piece of art and gave them half a minute to observe it. At the count of 3, we all shared in the chat what we were seeing. When some of us wrote the same thing, we celebrated it.What do you see here?
Think like the Product Manager. For a team to succeed, they need to understand how the PM thinks. So for the second picture, the game was to try guessing what the PM was seeing.Some people got it right! What do you see here?
Collective story. For the third and final picture, after the team looked at it for a minute, I asked one person started telling a story using what they saw. Then, the next person continued it adding what they saw too. The last one closed the story.
The outcome of this experiment was a super fun 30-minute Team Meetup with laughter, weirdness, and a feeling of relax and bonding.
If you’d like to follow this format with your team, go for it!
I use Team Meetups to unite teams, spending quality time through conversations or playing games. This is part of the journey to achieving high performance as a team.
The abstract photos are by Joel Filipe. You can check out his artwork on Unsplash or Instagram. (1, 2, 3).
Finally, feel free to contact me via LinkedIn if you’d like to bounce ideas of more team building activities :)