Play is a powerful tool that can create a fertile emotional environment for grappling with our toughest problems

Play is a powerful tool that can create a fertile emotional environment for grappling with our toughest problems

On occasion, we get asked why we do the caPlay events.

Isn’t that basically just “team building?” And doesn’t everybody hate team building?

Our answer is straightforward:

  1. At caLabs, we’re obsessed with finding ways to help groups of people work better together.
  2. Trust is critical to collaborative capacity within any group.
  3. When we play with others, we let our guard down allowing us to safely explore areas that might otherwise have felt off limits.

In other words, “play” can be a critical tool for helping improve the functioning of a group.

Each caPlay event includes

  • an immersive experience where participants lose themselves in creativity, exploration, and a little competition;
  • a 30 – 60 minute facilitation session where we unpack that experience and transition into helping the group talk through and examine some of their most difficult challenges so they can create greater clarity around how to move forward.

These events grew out of our work designing strategic acceleration summits for senior enterprise leaders and a desire to give teams at all levels of an organization access to similar experiences. We’ve found that the facilitation portion can result in transformative dialogue that has long lasting benefits for a team — but without being paired with a dose of serious play beforehand those conversations are much more likely to be awkward and less impactful. By “priming the pump” with a ridiculously engaging experience people let their guard down and thus are able to be a bit more vulnerable and honest with one another.

Finally, there are a couple of pretty straightforward business realities:

  • Even though people want the results that come from a well-facilitated conversation, “let’s go have a facilitated conversation” isn’t a service offering that most people are familiar with and a conversation is harder to get people excited about than “a really fun time.”
  • Relatedly, most companies simply don’t have budgets set aside for facilitation, even at the senior management level. (When higher ups do pay for facilitation, it is usually a one-off affair, not something that is seen as a regular part of the business process — until a crisis arises and “collaborating well” becomes an emergency.) However, most companies do have budgets set aside for regular offsites or “team building events” for employees at all levels of the organization.

So by packaging up a facilitated conversation as a slice of a larger “fun event,” we are able to deliver both a better overall experience and make it easier for customers to say: “I want that.”

What is in it for us? Three things:

  1. Practice.  Getting good at anything takes practice and this gives us an opportunity to practice our craft — and thus learn and grow — at a pace that is not available in the “strategy summit” side of our business.
  2. Community.  Our caPlay events put us in touch with great people from some of the most successful companies in the world. We learn from this community constantly and we often end up collaborating on specific projects with former clients.
  3. Scale.  We believe that it will be much easier to scale these lower priced offerings than our five- and six-figure strategy consulting engagements.

We do customize each event so that it addresses the challenges facing each particular team.  To start a conversation about an event for your team, please shoot us an email at