Performance Management Blog

Some funny thoughts on outdoor training and team building

Outdoor Training is often a venue for what people call team building. But is it a good one?

David Worthington, a writer for SmartPlanet, posted this up and I thought it was worth repeating, since I often write about outdoor training activities as they relate to team building kinds of organizational development initiatives. I thought that this was just too good to pass on, kind of like me writing about the Dave Barry article on the Burger King employees who got their feet burned at a firewalking event. (Yes, click here for that blog post!)  (And click here for another article of mine about outdoor training events.)

I think that the basic research makes sense based on my experiences, and the fact that this was published in a peer-review scientific journal should make this legitimate. But the irony of the situation, sweaty men playing video games that require teamwork does sure lend itself to workplace applications. Wonder what results one would get if it were sweaty men and women playing games, but that is for others to research and contemplate, I think.

So here is the article, and the accompanying illustration that David used:

A man’s perspiration can influence the behavior of other men to become more cooperative and generous, a study says. Men with higher testosterone levels are more susceptible to suggestion from their clammy compatriots.

A relaxing team building participant?(image credit:

University of Turku in Finland published the study this week in PLOS ONE, an open access peer-reviewed scientific journal focusing on the effects of the pheromone androstadienone. The study’s participants played dictatorial and ultimatum themed decision-making video games together with and without androstadienone present. The sample was relatively small (n=40), but did use a double-blind control group. It combined pheromone research with behavioral game theory of experimental economics.

The results were fairly conclusive. Androstadienone was found to influence male decision-making behavior:

“…the androstadienone receiving group accepted significantly lower offers as Responders, and the difference between Proposer offers and the minimum acceptable offers was significantly higher than in the control group (meaning that participants offered more and asked for less). There was also a tendency in the androstadienone receiving group to make larger offers as Proposers and as sole decision makers in ultimatum. Thus, it seems that androstadienone increased cooperation in ultimatum and dictator.”

Future research will examine the relationship between androstadienone and attractiveness. That would help determine whether “an attractive and dominant male can be a valuable potential mating partner for a female,” or a “competitor for another male.” The root cause could be evolutionary, the study hypothesized.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that androstadienone directly affects behaviour in human males,” the researchers wrote. They acknowledged that it was difficult to simulate realistic quantities of the chemical in a lab environment, but the study clearly suggests that the pheromones influence more than just the mating behaviors of humans.

We now know that men may form “bromances” with other sweaty guys regardless of their sexual orientation. But if you want to succeed in business, gentlemen please don’t spare the deodorant.

(from )


Okay, then! The obvious conclusion of this is that if you are doing an outdoor team building event and you want to optimize collaboration and results, you should encourage all the participants to NOT use deodorant and for them to get really sweaty. Pick a hot summer day and find a place with no shade. I have heard that this can be a common framework for many of these kinds of events.


And, yeah, the above is another one of those reasons that I much prefer doing indoor, board games focused on measured results and desired behavioral outcomes in a non-sweaty, air-conditioned environment. We can offer people cushioned chairs, access to coffee and drinks, and even provide them with a ready supply of cookies. No spiders or bugs, no rain, no wind: just a nice hotel ballroom or training facility…

If you would be interested in seeing a variety of different serious ideas about indoor and outdoor training, optimizing large events, and similar, this blog is loaded up with articles. Search under “outdoor” or “event” to see some of my thinking.

We have a variety of effective team building exercises and organizational involvement tools at

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools.
Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who is trying to retire!! He now lives in Cuenca, Ecuador.

You can reach Scott at

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Here is a 2-minute overview of the virtual team building game:

logo for Lost Dutchman Virtual online edition

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant, earning CPT and CPF credentials. -- You can reach Scott at and a detailed profile is here: -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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