Stronger, Better, Happier: 4 Team-Building Exercises for the Workplace

Team building doesn't have to come from the top down. Strengthen the ties among your creative team by borrowing a few ideas from Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group, Square, Target and more.

Working together to solve business problems helps build bonds among creative teams. But how do you make those ties stronger? As part of our Creative Team of the Future project, we tapped creative leaders at four different organizations for some fresh ideas you can adapt for your company.

1. Partake in Some Fun and Games

There are around 250 folks in the creative department at Target, and they've participated in all kinds of fun events over the years. Think badminton and ping pong tournaments, and summer happy hours.

Our personal favorite? The group hosted a pinewood derby last year. "Imagine a bunch of hyper-creative people designing nutty, over-the-top cars," says Allan Peters, associate creative director at Target. "It was so completely cool looking at all of them." Awards were given out for everything from best design to fastest car.

2. Make Inspiration Part of the Team To-Do List

There are just four people on the in-house creative team at the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) but that small size doesn't stop them from seeking out inspiration together. The team often heads to local CreativeMornings talks, which take place just a couple blocks from the office.

But perhaps more importantly, they put inspiration on the team agenda. "Rather than just going through our to-do list every week, we like to spend some of our meeting time talking about new ways of thinking and tackling bigger challenges," says Scott Kirkwood, NPCA's senior director of publications. In the past they've gathered to watch talks by Simon Sinek and Tina Roth Eisenberg (aka swissmiss), and discussed compelling magazine articles and books like Switch.

3. Bring in an Unexpected Speaker

Each quarter, the brand team at Square holds a half-day offsite meeting to get away from work and reflect on where they've been and where they're going. Recently, one of the group's writers brought in a stand-up comedian for the all-hands gathering.

"On the surface, that might be a little head scratching, but what was really of value is that she [the comedian] spoke a lot about taking risks," says Chris Heimbuch, director of creative operations of Square's brand group. "She talked about being brave and the integrity of her work. She talked with great detail about how she needs to work at her craft every day and what that process was like. It was fantastic."

4. Create a Dedicated Space for Your Team to Connect

A few years ago, the team at Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group turned their old-school resource library into a space called, "ID8." They still keep books and magazines up front, but they gutted and re-did the space to make it perfect for brainstorming, meeting or hosting speakers.

The walls are covered in dry erase material, so you can write on them. Plus, there's a big glass garage door in the space that rolls up to reveal a smaller area called, "The Grid." It's filled with everything from an Xbox to the latest iPad app. "We'll go in there and just play and see if any ideas come out," says creative director Will Gay.

Even if you have a small budget, you can make a creative space with everything from chalkboard paint to funky vintage furniture. And this design process becomes one more team building exercise for the workplace.

How does your team creatively bond? What team building programs do you wish your company offered?

To learn more about the Creative Team of the Future, download The Creative Group's new report, Innovation in the House: Creativity Lessons From Five Top In-House Creative Teams.