This week I discovered that office team-building retreats have an unexpected connection to the Olympics.

Tuesday and Wednesday saw our departmental away day (despite technically being two days). These things always conjure up associations with The Office, where a  group of tired people who don’t like each other are forced to spend even more time in each other’s company than usual and end up depressed and/or psychotic.

Happily, our away wasn’t like this*. There are 50-odd people in the Centre, and we all decamped en mass to a hotel in the Cotswolds known for its puddings. There was strategy, there was team-building, there was a surprisingly large amount of free wine, and a surprisingly small amount of standing around in the rain whilst solving some collaborative problem.

My strategy on these things is generally to cheat as flagrantly as possible. This tends to inspired a trench mentality in the immediate team, and to make the rest of the room laugh. Plus it makes me feel subversive in some small way, which always fun. Best cheating if the trip was when supplied with spaghetti and a marshmallow to turn into some kind of tower, our design was to attach the top of an extremely thin line of pasta to the light fitting with a note attached saying “we acept your criticism, but point out that this is the tallest”. We did not win.

If the point of the trip was to make everyone feel part of a larger effort, and in turn feel pleased, then the trip was a success. Likewise, if the point was to make people feel consulted about the way the Centre is tun, then it was also a success.

At this point, the cynical point of me wants to add “but…” and deliver some pithy comment about the flawed nature of team-building or the inherent contradiction between hierarchical structure and meaningful strategic consultation. Unfortunately I can’t come up with anything, so I am, regretfully, going to tell the cynical part of me to go and sulk somewhere on its own and not bother the remainder. Very much the same reaction I had during the Olympics.

* (I realise I am obliged to say this, but in this case it is actually true)

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