Don’t trust the trust fall

Welcome to 2024. A new year, a fresh start, and time to finally get your team aligned and working together. Team building time. Except, well, team building doesn’t work. At least not the escape room, trust fall, one-off experience team building.

Lessons from Mars

Not the planet, the candy company. According to Carlos Valdes-Dapena, the CEO of Corporate Collaboration Resources and the author of Lessons from Mars: How One Global Company Cracked the Code on High Performance Collaboration and Teamwork, “Once, we spent thousands of dollars to hire an orchestra to spend an hour with a group of senior leaders at an offsite retreat and help them work together in harmony. It was a nice metaphor and an interesting experience. It did nothing, though, to change how that group of leaders worked together.” 


Carlos led a team to research the need for more collaboration at Mars. “Mars was full of people who loved to get busy on tasks and responsibilities that had their names next to them. It was work they could do exceedingly well, producing results without collaborating…their failure to collaborate was, ironically, a function of their excelling at the jobs they were hired to do and of management reinforcing that excellence. Collaboration, on the other hand, was an idealized but vague goal with no concrete terms or rules. What’s more, collaboration was perceived as messy. It diluted accountability and offered few tangible rewards.”

The solution

The solution was to make collaboration a measurable outcome. Carlos explains, “we developed a framework to make collaboration clear, specific, and compelling — to make collaboration something to be achieved. Strong relationships and trust do matter to collaboration, but they are not the starting point. They are the outcomes of dedicated people striving together. Connecting collaboration to the motives of success-minded team members is what unlocks productive teamwork.”

So don't trust the trust fall

This is why one off team building doesn’t work. True team building comes from team members understanding how they contribute to the success of the team and the company.


  • Create clear outcome-based responsibilities for every team member
  • Link those outcomes to the success of the team
  • Connect the team’s success to the organization’s success

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