Most of what we know, we learn as children: our early years are crammed with experiences that make us what we are, teaching us the way to interact with others and with the world. Part of this knowledge stays with us throughout our whole life, the rest we un-learn as we grow up, which is a pity. Games that we enjoyed as children were often designed with a specific purpose: prompting us to be curious, to work with others, to test our limits and apply reasoning to the solution of problems. Our job when planning team building activities could be said to consist in finding a way of tapping into that spirit again, helping grownups recreate that particular brand of educational experience. Team building doesn’t have to be about embarrassing office moments and trust-falls. Smart Eventi was contracted by Barilla to organise a team building trip with specific goals. The event, which took place in May, was a perfectly balanced combination of emotional and intellectual stimuli. Our challenge was to connect the actual team building – with the usual implication of team-spirit and problem-solving enhancement – to the brand’s core values: quality, sustainability and tradition. Here’s how we turned this brief into an unforgettable experience.
The project: a treasure hunt in Val D’Orcia
There’s one trait that all of our team building project share: it is vital to us that the participants have fun. Of course, we have to keep the brief and its goals constantly in sight, but if the whole endeavour does not translate into a great time and fantastic memories for the team to treasure, we know it’s not going to be a success. Team building is successful when, before the day is over, both us and the client already know we will want to repeat the experience. On this occasion, we took Barilla’s team to a magnificent and yet not widely known corner of Italy: Val d’Orcia. Tuscany is, of course, an all-time favourite of travellers from all over the world, but the main cities such as Florence, Pisa and Siena tend to draw most of the visitors’ attention, while the charming small towns and villages in the nearby valleys are generally less crowded with tourists. We divided the participants into four teams and led them on a treasure hunt spanning across three towns: San Quirico D’Orcia, Pienza and Montepulciano. In order to get ahead in the game, our teams had to complete four missions, which entailed learning about local traditions, village fetes, typical food products, local history and art. We also took advantage of the privilege of working in an area whose culinary traditions are legendary and – thanks to a few selected commercial partners in the area – we arranged for our guests to sample several local delicacies, particularly the famous pecorino cheese, manufactured in Pienza. For this purpose we visited the PianPorcino farm, that specialises in the production of pecorino. The whole experience was set against the spectacular landscape of the valley, with its breath-taking natural beauty and quaint little villages.
Why is a treasure hunt an effective team building activity?
Picking a team building activity is not an easy process: we need to take several factors into account. The project has to be engaging and interesting, but it must also be of real use to the brand and reflect its values. A treasure hunt presents a series of advantages in that sense. First of all, it is a familiar game: we all played it at least once and know how it works. Another perk of this format is that it can easily adapt to different contexts and it can be filled with content that makes it appealing to adults. Once the clues and goals of the hunt have been set and made relevant to the actual participants, it is practically guaranteed that the project is going to be a success. A treasure hunt is the kind of activity that allows us to embrace our childlike curiosity and abandon ourselves to the thrill of the chase, at any age. Also, it requires that we explore, examine and understand our environment and the clues that we are given. Being such a deeply analytical game, it is exceptionally suited to conveying complex messages, such as the very concepts of tradition and sustainability.
Territory, tradition, sustainability: the Barilla case
Our brief was centred on the company’s values and its very own history as a leading food brand. We started by making Territory a central point of the exercise. We picked three locations that are both beautiful and historically and culturally relevant. The members of the four teams explored the three villages learning about their unique geographical and natural characteristics, their history and traditional cuisine. Part of the discovery consisted in researching local Traditions and their impact on each location. Our clues prompted the participants to learn about local customs, fetes, recipes and recent history, particularly in connection with the cinema industry, as several feature films have been shot in this area (among others, Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, Ridley Scott’s The Gladiator and the second episode of the Twilight Saga, New Moon, directed by Chris Weitz). Sustainability was the focus of the second part of the day, as we visited the establishment that produces a local treat: the Pienza pecorino cheese. The history of local food products is always connected with the need for sustainability. Local farmers need to work constantly in order to maintain the precious and delicate balance of innovation and tradition, profit and the preservation of natural resources. Being aware of the history behind this delicious cheese, made sampling it extra pleasurable, particularly as the tasting was accompanied by a selection of excellent wines.