Zombies, Cooking Classes and Clay: This Ain't Your Dad's Corporate Team-Building Exercise

Tristan Eden

Marty Parker, president of Columbus-based Bucket List Productions, doesn't want to give away too much about "Trapped in a Room with a Zombie," which he started in Chicago last December. Now, 12 locations around the country, including the Columbus Idea Foundry, host the experience. It's a combination of theater and adrenaline-fueled escape, a genre of entertainment that's just catching on in the States but is apparently extremely popular in places like China and Budapest. What Parker would say is participants are confronted by a live "zombie" chained up inside a 17-by-17 room, and the chain is slackened every five minutes. If the trapped parties can't escape in an hour, they'll be eaten by the zombie. Communication, teamwork, leadership, active listening, persistence, problem solving and positive attitude are all essential skills for a successful escape, Parker says.

On its idyllic 10 acres, Woodhaven Farm has two ponds, gardens, outdoor kitchens, a greenhouse and a converted barn that can accommodate up to 60 people for team-building cooking classes and dinners. "It's a playground for grownups," owner Tami Cecil says. They also offer herb scavenger hunts and "mystery basket" cooking challenges (a la "Chopped"). Cooking is about getting back to the basics, Cecil says, which makes it an ideal team-building activity. And the setting only sweetens the deal. The farm "encourages people to step away from their technology, relax a little," Cecil says. "When they get back to the office, they'll have some great memories to share."

The earthy and inviting Clayspace studio has been offering team-building workshops for about two years and counts Nationwide and Abercrombie & Fitch among its clients. The length of workshops is flexible; they can last two hours or an entire afternoon. The hands-on nature of clay puts people in a good mood, says Todd Hickerson, resident artist and instructor. "It's very social and also productive; you're making something tangible," he says. Owner Tami Knight adds, "It's amazing how people just get to talking, and I think it opens the creative pathways in your mind."