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  • Writer's pictureMarco Gaudenzi

History of Team Building

Everyone knows what team building is but not everybody can tell you a definition of it. If you ask them, they think it is a phenomenon born only in the last few years, but the truth is another one.

The history of team building begins between the 1920s and 1930s in the United States of America. In that period psychologists such as Edward Bernays started to study the role of human emotions in the sale and purchase of products. At the same time, independently from Bernays’ studies the scientist Elton Mayo together with his colleagues decided to conduct an experiment at the Western Electric Company Works in the USA to improve the industries production.

It was called “the Hawthorne Studies”.

The first experiments took place in the workplace. The scientists selected two groups of workers, they increased the workplace lighting of the first group and they did not change it in the second one. The result observed was that the first group worked better. Afterwards, daily working hours were reduced and the breaks were increased. These factors also led to the growth of production. The scientists noticed an increase in work even when they reduced the light of the workplace in the first group, so they asked themselves what may have caused a boost in their productivity.

The rise of the output was registered for all the duration of the experiment in whatever atmosphere the workers were doing their job. Only at the end did the scientists observe a small decline.

Why did it happen?

When the test was over, the scientists affirmed that the laborers worked harder not for the changes of the work environment, but because they noticed the managers were showing interest in their work conditions and well-being.

This productivity change was called: "Hawthorne effect".

During the Second World War in the United States every citizen felt the desire to help their Country to win against the enemies. Men decided to join the army and women started to work in the factories. This patriotic feeling lingered after the end of the war and it became the spirit of teamwork in the industries.

In the 1960s and 1970s the T Groups began to be popular. The idea behind these groups was to focus on workers’ emotions and experiences. During these meetings they could discuss and solve the problems born in the workplace. In this way the positive interactions among colleagues were more than negative ones, the workplace became pleasant and the employees worked better. T Groups are still used today in many companies.

In the 1980s and 1990s the culture of teamwork became more prevalent than ever. In these two decades, managers decided that the workers could build a better working relationship outside of the enterprise. So outdoor activities not related to the job per se began, such as rafting, camping and other adventures where teamwork was the central element.

From 2000 to 2010 technology companies began to adopt team building as a fundamental part of personnel formation, and it has become an essential practice in most of the enterprises. One particular case was Google. It became common knowledge that it was one of the best places to work, because of the extraordinary HR culture. in fact the employees were receiving a lot of benefits, like free food, work from home, flexible working hours; so other companies tried to emulate this working atmosphere.

In 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic forced the entire world to work from home for most of the jobs, so team building needed a new development: from teamwork outdoor activities to online events. The workers are not together in a physical place, so having the chance to try online experiences can let them solve enigmas and search treasures from home and still have the chance to connect with each other.

Check the rest of our website to find out more about our team building Experiences!


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