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World’s Strangest Team-Building Adventures

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Crushing cars with a tank, learning to read your client’s nostrils…today’s team-building exercises go far beyond weekend golf games.

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After a day of walking barefoot on broken glass, making cold calls back at the office suddenly doesn’t seem so difficult anymore.

At least that’s the party line at the Firewalking Institute of Research and Education (FIRE), a Dallas-based organization offering team-building “adventures” that might seem more like tribal initiation ceremonies.

“Walking on fire or broken glass, or snapping an arrow with your neck—they all look scary, but once you know how to do it, they’re easy,” says Charles Horton, FIRE’s president. “One of our big messages is that fear stops you from going wherever you want to go in life. This is all about getting people out of their comfort zones.”

While plenty of people might argue that they could bypass that zone without hotfooting it over burning coals, employers these days are definitely getting more creative when inspiring their employees to think outside the box. Many such bosses plan team-building getaways to help their teams collectively expand their capabilities…and some of the offerings available make falling into the arms of the HR guy seem pretty mundane. In Minnesota, coworkers can achieve that get-it-done attitude by crushing a car with a military tank. In San Francisco, they can perfect their troubleshooting skills by re-creating—and escaping—a historic sailing disaster. And in Texas, employees needing a confidence boost can combine shooting lessons with wrinkle-smoothing Botox injections.

There’s a fine line, however, between breaking down barriers and traumatizing your employees. Mike Sprouse, CEO of Chicago-based marketing agency Sprouse Marketing Group, has organized a lot of team-building outings and urges employers to tread lightly. “Try to be unique, but don’t try too hard,” he says. “Unique and fun is good; strange and irrelevant isn’t.”

Strange, of course, may be in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes simple adventures—like a spa day—can be enough to broaden horizons. “Guys are often a little nervous about hanging out in a robe with the guys,” says Heidi Lamar, owner of Scottsdale, Ariz.–based Spa Lamar, which has hosted team-builders from IBM, GE and Go Daddy. “But within hours we hear them saying things like, ‘Dude, you have to try the paraffin dip.’”

Does your workplace need a jolt of adrenaline? Here, Executive Travel names 10 of the world’s wackiest team-building adventures.

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