Corrections or additions?

This column was prepared for the January 14, 2004 issue of U.S. 1

Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Between the Lines

Over the years U.S. 1 has written more than its share

about team building, usually in the context of situations where people

worked together to overcome difficult physical obstacles.

One of our earliest stories was about John O’Brien, who overcame his

own personal obstacles. He grew up in an orphanage, the Milton Hershey

School in Hershey, Pennsylvania, but graduated from Princeton

University

in 1965 and became a corporate trainer, dedicated to the "action

learning" method. At the time of the U.S. 1 article he was founder

and president of Renaissance Leadership and internationally known

as a keynote speaker, seminar leader, and high performance coach.

In the 1980s we wrote for the first time about Cradlerock Outdoor

Network, a pioneer in the business of physically challenging people

to build their confidence and boost workplace efficiency. Cradlerock’s

"trust fall" was legendary. You had to fall backward into

the arms of your co-workers, trusting that they would safely catch

you. Cradlerock built a "low ropes" course that is still in

use at the Doral Forrestal.

But many other less strenuous methods of team training have been

developed.

Business was so good in the 1990s that trainers began to differentiate

between "team building," "team bonding," and "team

adventures." Team building makes a serious effort to correlate

the fun with what goes on in the workplace. Team bonding is almost

all fun, with some workplace analysis thrown in, while team adventures

are 100 percent fun.

In this issue we profile three entrepreneurs who are in the business

of workplace fun. At Pennytown Shopping Village Michael Young has

two companies, Meeting Dimensions and Activities, Events Specialists.

See page 43.

Joe Parnett, founder of Wow! Entertainment on State Road, adds novel

kinds of fun to corporate parties. He can bring anything from pool

tables to a dancing machine –follow the prompts on the screen and

learn to disco dance (page 46).

Ken Haag, manager of American Alpha Inc. on Stout’s Lane, rents and

sells video and arcade games, and its signature product is a photo

morphing machine. For the launch of a Tropicana juice product last

summer Haag sent custom-built morphing machines to malls (page 47).

Even the business of fun has its grim moments. The delivery truck

breaks down, a machine breaks, or the projector fails. Young, Parnett,

and Haag have learned the hard way how to cope with prospective

disasters.

January may not be the cruelest month (T.S. Eliot gave April that

distinction) but it’s a cold month, and we like to warm it up with

our annual party. No, we have not hired an entertainment coordinator,

nor a dancing machine, but the staff is looking forward to relax and

chat with the members of our delivery team and our freelance writers.

Sometimes we try for novelty — one year we went bowling —

but most of the time, person-to-person interaction is our simple

craving.

A post script to the John O’Brien story: He is the new president

of the Milton Hershey School.


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