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Check out these lively summer events with your own company or organization

If you work for Denver advertising agency Amélie Company, you better be ready to spend some time performing random acts of kindness or perfecting your hoop-shooting skills.

It’s all part of an intentional strategy to elevate employees’ collaborative and creative mindsets.

Amelie Company experiential learning kickball team

Photo courtesy Amélie Company

“It’s fairly common in agencies because we’re a human capital business,” said Amélie Chief Strategy Officer Robin Ashmore. “What we sell is a team of great minds who are diving into thinking together, so it really does matter that our people have a strong rapport and are firing on all cylinders.”

Taking that mission to heart, the RiNo-based, 35-employee agency has its own rooftop patio with a fire pit and grill for frequent happy hours. But that’s just the start. There are small activities like cupcake-making parties and afternoon kickball in Cheesman Park (complete with custom-made T-shirts). Then, there are the more elaborate team-building days like when employees divided into four teams, each reflecting one of the agency’s core values: quality, responsiveness, creativity and humility. Each team—made up of members who don’t normally work together—was challenged to create and carry out an outing reflecting that core value. Activities ranged from shooting a certain number of basketball hoops at Blake Street Tavern to performing a random act of kindness for someone. In the latter case, that meant buying a sandwich for a woman at the Denver Central Market.

“The woman broke down in tears,” Ashmore recalls. “She was a single mom who volunteers all the time, and she felt like she was always doing stuff for other people. She was so moved that someone did that for her.”

At the end of the night, all the teams met up at a karaoke bar where they each had to perform a song.

“It was wacky, super fun, active stuff,” Ashmore said.

But experiential, team-building activities are about more than just fun. While Amélie considers it a crucial part of the company culture, action-based learning is also a core tenet of the Daniels College of Business philosophy. Daniels Professor of the Practice Kerry Plemmons said team building is a way to hammer home key lessons and strategies that stay with people long after the activity ends. Plemmons co-teaches Daniels Executive Education’s High Performance Leadership Program (HLP), in which participants spend a three-day, two-night retreat in the Colorado mountains honing their leadership skills and insights through a range of hands-on activities.

“You can’t learn leadership in a classroom,” Plemmons said. “You need experiential activity to see where your leadership worked and where it failed. That’s where the Daniels difference really comes into play. What the latest research says from Google is that teams need psychological safety, dependability, and a belief they have an impact on something bigger than themselves. Team building adds to all three of these.”

Experiential learning serves another key purpose—providing job satisfaction for millennial and Generation Z workers—Ashmore said, adding, “These generations really want to feel an extra sense of connection to the place they work and what they’re doing.”

Even though creative, out-of-the-office activities help to foster a sense of community, collaboration and fun, Ashmore calls them “the icing on the cake.”

“All those lifestyle-reinforcing, team-building things are fun and good, but at the end of the day, most people’s job satisfaction is derived from feeling like they’re making a contribution and that they’re being recognized and valued,” she said.

Still, team building is one of the most important investments your company can make, according to Forbes contributor and CEO of O2E brands Brian Scudamore. His biggest tip: “Ditch the corporate stuff.” The most successful events are ones that don’t feel like a day at the office, he said, but create employee bonding by enabling people to work together toward a common goal. His other advice? “Forget the company picnic and think more outside the box.”

 From Rockies games and outdoor sports to concerts and mountain hikes, summer is an ideal time to plan some terrific employee events. Here are just a few to consider adding to your company calendar:

  • Denver County Fair, starts at noon on Friday, July 19. Close shop early and bring the crew over to the National Western Complex. There’ll be everything from a cornhole tournament to live bug eating, cake decorating and hula hoop contests.
  • America Meditates, Wednesday, July 24, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Do your teams need to de-stress? Bring them to Denver’s City Park where they can be part of “the largest meditation in U.S. history,” featuring yoga, music, dance and food.
  • Union Station Buskerfest, starts at 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, through Monday, Aug. 4. Put a little twist into your post-work happy hour by celebrating Colorado’s 143rd birthday on Aug. 1 (Colorado Day). Head down to Wynkoop Plaza at Denver’s Union Station, where buskers from across the globe will perform zany acts of juggling, break dancing, comedy and acrobatics.
  • Donut Dash, Sunday, Aug. 11, 8:45 a.m. What better motivator than free donuts while doing something healthy and helping a good cause at the same time? Encourage employees to form a company team benefiting their favorite charity for this fun 5K and 10K walk/run at the Denver Zoo.
  • Botanic Gardens Sculpture Exhibit, through September 24. Art and nature help spark creative ideas. Get everyone out of the office and treat them to a relaxing afternoon at the Gardens’ York Street location to take in artist Mike Whiting’s steel, straight-edged and pixelated sculptures while enjoying nature in full bloom.

These are a mere sliver of what’s happening in the Denver area this summer. Click here for a wealth of ideas in Denver and neighboring cities. Don’t have time to plan your own event? Check out what Daniels Executive Education’s partner, The Nature Place, has to offer in team/leadership development and nature exploration.