Power Stilts And Wine-Tasting Mysteries: Corporate Team-Building Comes To France

Does this count as work?
Does this count as work?
Florian Dèbes

PARIS - This year’s results just came in and all your executives are gathered together in one of those soulless convention centers.

Everyone is listening to the top honchos giving a speech about how next year will be full of opportunities – but only if each employee rolls up their sleeves.

After two weeks of seminars, listening to every single person from top management, the company’s executives are torn between pessimism and weariness. The idea of coming back to their teams bearing what will be perceived as bad news is a source of anxiety for them.

So to lift up spirits before the end of the seminar, here are five novel team-building ideas that are guaranteed to motivate the troops:

-Wine Gaming

The concept: The activity is a mix between a murder party and a wine-tasting class, where people team up to investigate the mysterious death of a winemaker in his cellar. The only clues they will get are a tablet computer with videos of witness interviews -- and their knowledge of the wines that are kept in the winemaker’s cellar.

The participants’ sense of smell and taste will be put to the test. The investigation and the wine-tasting are conducive to constructive interactions that will help participants find the solution to the mystery – in this case, who commited the murder. This can enhance the quality of everyday tasks at the office.

Each participant has his or her own glass to taste wine, but the tablet is shared, so that everyone works as a team.

-Post-it note wars

The concept: Your bosses might not have thought Post-it note wars were such a good thing when they caught their employees spending their days creating colorful Post-it frescoes on the office windows last August. But maybe they will start to appreciate this art form when they learn that it is an excellent team-building activity.

With the help of creative coaches, your co-workers will just have to let their imagination run wild to create a fun project to redecorate – temporarily –the office.

Good job, guys - Photo: Elen Nivrae

Offices only have so much window space, so employees will have to share. They will also have to work together to find a mural that is pleasing to the eye. And to make sure that someone’s Mario doesn’t step on someone else’s Tinkerbell.

In regard to management, the idea is to learn to respect each other's working perimeter so that a common project can succeed.

-Reach new heights on spring stilts

The concept: Playing sports increases the productivity of a company. But it is difficult to motivate a team of executives for a soccer game or a fitness session after a long meeting. Spring stilts – also known as power stilts or powerbocks – are a great way to help your employees rediscover the sports they used to play in high school. When you’re two meters up from the ground, on springs, playing soccer, tennis, basketball or Frisbee is very different from what your gym teacher taught you. Now it’s all about balance.

Your co-workers' new relationship vis-à-vis gravity will teach them to reorganize themselves when faced with new conditions. Those who are most comfortable on spring stilts can help the others – just as those who have a greater capacity to adapt can help the others in a period of crisis.

-Stress management in the kitchen of a fast-food restaurant

The concept: What better way to help employees learn how to deal with stressful situations than to make them spend lunchtime in the kitchen of a crowded fast-food restaurant? Your company’s impatient clients cannot be more exacting than the hungry clients of a fast-food restaurant. Finishing a team project in time does not require more organization and automated tasks than to cook and serve a fast-food menu with burger, fries, drink and sauce in less than a minute.

Team spirit, stress management and organization skills are essential for this exercise, which tests your collaborators’ efficiency and reactivity when faced with unpredictable situations. In this simulation, sticking to your assigned task will prove an advantage. A tip that might come in handy in the open space.

-The healing power of music

The concept: No need to wait until Friday to go to the bar with the colleagues and listen to the songs of your youth. At the end of a seminar, your collaborators will be delighted to listen to oldies and goldies and play music quiz.

In a relaxed atmosphere, everyone is playing on an even field, and hierarchy is forgotten. If the playlist covers every musical period, team members will have to work together to win -- with juniors and seniors ending up sharing their passion for rock and roll or grunge or the theme songs from their favorite TV shows...

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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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