The Amazing Race is a popular team bonding event that has gained popularity in recent years. It involves teams competing in a race around a predetermined course, around a city, or around a resort while completing various challenges along the way. While it’s a fun and exciting activity, that groups love to do, it’s not an effective team building event. Technically it’s more of a bonding event and worst of all, it can be damaging to team dynamics and lead to negative outcomes.
But why is that?
Bonding vs. Team Building
It is important to distinguish between bonding and team building. Bonding is centred around fostering a positive social atmosphere in which team members can establish connections and get to know each other better. This is often accomplished through enjoyable activities like social outings, sports events, and informal gatherings. However, bonding activities do not necessarily contribute to the overall performance of the team. Bonding activities will often see teams off in smaller groups, not working towards a common goal and very little collective team work being done. Its much more of a micro goals event.
In contrast, team building is a more deliberate and structured approach aimed at enhancing team performance. It involves activities designed to facilitate more effective and efficient collaboration among team members. The objective of team building activities is to enhance the team’s communication, problem-solving, and decision-making skills, all of which are essential for reaching team objectives. Team Building events will typically have everyone at least working around each other if not towards a common, or related goal. Team Building events contain a high level of psychology and require facilitators to be well-trained on how to impact teams in a positive, impactful manner.
With team building, there is more of a collective win and love versus as individual win/loss.
The Problems with The Amazing Race
Firstly let’s get this straight. The Amazing Race is an epic, fun event. However, it doesn’t deliver on any development for the team, so if we are looking at a true team building event, it comes up short and won’t deliver any positive results. It’s fun, great time, but the return on investment is low to none. Some of the reasons for that is:
Individualism Over Teamwork
The Amazing Race is a highly competitive event that often puts individualism, or micro-team success over global teamwork. Typically the event starts with everyone all together as one, before you split off into your micro-teams, and rush off.
From that point you only see people at other checkpoints, while you hyperfocus on your own goals and you don’t have to rely on anyone outside of your micro-team for support.
If you have a workplace where the team doesn’t work well together, and doesn’t support or ask for support from others you can see how this could make things worst.
Limited Opportunities for Reflection
Team building events should provide opportunities for reflection and learning. Unfortunately, The Amazing Race does not offer many opportunities for reflection. Teams are too busy rushing around trying to complete challenges to reflect on how they’re working together as a team.
At the end, a debrief can be done, but it’s typically more of a social talk about what they liked or didn’t, where they had a hard time. It’s less conducive to talk about the actual skills used. This is because everyone is either super excited about winning, the fun of the day or sad they lost the race.
Lack of community
The Amazing Race is all about small groups racing off and doing their own thing under time pressure to come in first. Because of this your team as a whole doesn’t actually engage with each other. They may pass by other groups, be at the same checkpoint doing the same challenge, but they don’t work together as a team.
Because of this we lose the ability to build new connections (on a large scale), and don’t develop that global connection and community.
Potential for Negative Outcomes
The Amazing Race can lead to negative outcomes, such as hurt feelings and resentment. Teams that lose or fail to complete a challenge can feel demoralized and frustrated. This can lead to tension and conflict within the team, which is counterproductive to team building.
If you have a group of 5 in a team, and there is already some issues within that group, if they lose the overall race its easy, and common, that they can turn on one another and blame each other. Only making the divide worst.
Limited Development of Skills
The Amazing Race doesn’t offer many opportunities for teams to develop their communication, problem-solving, and decision-making skills on a global level. These skills are essential for effective teamwork, and team building events should provide ample opportunities to develop them.
While the challenges and tasks along the way will touch on those skills in small way, since we aren’t working as a collective we don’t see any global success.
Easy to blame
A big thing we want to see from a true team building event is that people understand global success and failure. We are a team and in the end, if the customer isn’t happy we all lose. With The Amazing Race we run the risk of developing a deeper blame/fault culture. If you are on the losing team, it can be easy to point the blame at one person and highlight their weaknesses as justification as to why you didn’t win.
A good team building event will have people owning they are a team rather than potentially pushing someone under the bus to make themselves look better.
So is the Amazing Race a good fit for you and your team?
With all this in mind, The Amazing Race is still a great fun event. We aren’t saying not to do an Amazing Race for your next team event. It’s just important to understand how the event performs and if it’s a good match for your goals and objectives.
Be aware of the shortcomings and make sure you manage your goals and objectives.
If you are unsure about how your team is feeling and worried that doing any sort of team building event could cause damage, then perhaps consider a 360 Review to understand how your team is thinking/feeling on a global scale, and then you can choose the programs which will deliver you the best results.
To find out which program would suit your team best, take our Free Team Assessment and see which events we recommend for the positive growth of your team.
Note from the team
How is it we can write an article all about the shortcomings of The Amazing Race, while we run that event? Isn’t that backwards or perhaps a little hypocritical?
Well, to be honest, it is a tough call. Every time we run an Amazing Race, we always check to make sure it’s suitable for that team. We do our due diligence to ensure that our clients get the best outcome possible.
If we don’t believe an Amazing Race is the best choice for them, we warn them of the potential shortfalls, giving them all the information possible to allow them to make the best decision possible.