Last week ej4 held our all-employee meeting in our Kansas City office. The mid-year meeting is all about recharging our batteries and giving the St. Louis and Kansas City offices a chance to reconnect and bond in person. Since creating training is our core business and we all regularly watch our own videos, it’s hard to sneak in a team building challenge that is fun and effective without eliciting the expected groans, eye rolls and a bad karaoke version of Kumbaya. In the past, we have tried a variation of speed-dating, scavenger hunt and the escape rooms.
My 11-year-old son had recently completed an egg-drop challenge with his friends in science class. The kids were so serious and engaged and they had a great time creating their contraption. I thought this might transfer to our employees. If you are unfamiliar with this popular STEM activity, Google it! The Google Image search is entertaining too!
First, we divided the employees into six teams. Our goal was to mix up the departments, levels and STL and KC teams.
The groups were given this exact set of supplies:
2 brown paper sacks
1 paper plate
4 small Dixie cups
5 latex balloons
5 rubber bands of various sizes
1 roll masking tape
- Everyone had 45 minutes for the entire challenge.
- Using only the supplies provided, create a contraption to hold a raw egg that could be dropped from an eight-foot ladder and keep the egg whole.
- Create an oral presentation of your concept that will be presented to the entire group.
- If more than one team is successful, the tie-breaker will be based on a group vote of the commercial presentations.
- Absolutely no phone or computer use was allowed. Even a quick glimpse meant immediate disqualification.
Once the clock was started everyone on every team was immediately engrossed in competitive problem-solving! All ages, all levels, men, and women: everyone was ‘all in!’ You can see a photo of each team on our Facebook page: pursed lips, scrunched foreheads, and laser-focused eyes. You can almost see the smoke coming out their heads! And they were having fun, collaborating and bonding. And so far, no Kumbaya.
At about 30 minutes into their allotted time, we introduced a hacky sack as a required item in their contraption. Out of the six teams, only one accepted the hacky sack with no complaining! They didn’t see this was a metaphor for our business: the hacky sack represented the unexpected client request in the middle of a timeline. 'Expect the unexpected' is a standard theme in reality TV like Top Chef or Big Brother or in the business of creating video eLearning content!
After the time was up we gathered everyone in the common area for the product presentations. Again, everyone went ‘all in!’ We saw a variety of TV commercials, infomercials, and skits. Some had a solo host, some included everyone. Some used the leftover supplies to make props and puppets! A favorite was a paper bag chicken with a red balloon wattle! One team named and branded their contraption! Everyone was laughing and engaged. It was ‘clucking awesome’ as one team pointed out!
You could feel the buzz of anticipation as we all trekked outside to the parking lot for the official drop. Another unexpected twist moved the elevation of the drop up from the eight-foot ladder to the roof of the building, although our CEO did use the ladder to get there. Several teams tried giving him specific positioning and drop directions but in the spirit of 'expect the unexpected,' all contraptions were equally tossed off the roof.
It was a drama-filled 15 minutes as each contraption was tested on the hot, black asphalt. One immediately started leaking so we knew it was a fail. The rest were carefully unwrapped and removed from the contraption as we all held our breath to see the eggs. We were very excited to achieve a 50% success rate!
With three successful teams, we returned inside to re-watch videos of the presentations and vote. A company-wide vote chose the winning team and they all received Amazon gift cards. All of us had a great time and learned a few lessons along the way. In brainstorming and collaboration ideas can come from everyone. The diversity of the teams offered different skill sets from the different backgrounds. The hacky sack challenged our patience and creative problem-solving skills. The presentations showcased our writing, performing and comedic skills. The entire exercise showed the value of healthy competition. All in all, it was a blast! Not the typical team building, trust-fall exercise but ej4 is not your typical company. We are egg-ceptional!