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Friday, November 11, 2005

Lessons from Paintball War Games

It’s been a really long time since my last post. I’ve been quite busy working on some new courses… and yes that strike of inspiration... :-)

This round I’d like to share with you some of the learning I gathered from participants of paintball war games teambuilding workshop that I facilitated. The paintball war games itself run for about a day, I reinforce it the following day with other activities to make the learning more concrete and actionable . That makes the program run for two days.

If your team needs some energizing or needs to work more effectively together, consider these realizations I gathered from some of the sessions I facilitated.

Communication is vital to the success of the team. Prior to going to the battle field and while engaging with the enemy, the team need to device ways and means to communicate otherwise. They will lose opportunities to advance, be caught unaware of incoming danger or worse be killed by a “friendly fire.” This is as true in the battlefield as it is at work. A good team has an effective way of communicating strategies, opportunities to get ahead of competition and be warned of potential failures or breakthroughs by competition. Without proper communication, people will get in each other’s way and fail to meet the goal.

Execution – In the number of times that I facilitated this course, I’ve seen identical plans that do not lead to the same result. I’ve seen strategies work for a particular team and not for another. Why? The difference is in the execution. During debriefing session, the participants realize how sometimes failure to play the role or commit to a strategy can lead to defeat. They also realize that failure to change strategy in the middle of the battle can be fatally costly. In the workplace, the same is true. We’ve seen companies fold not because they don’t have good ideas but because they had poor execution.

Taking calculated risk – when playing paintball too much aggressiveness or the lack of it can be dangerous. If one is mindlessly aggressive and just goes and attacks, s/he is usually the first to fall. If one is too afraid to stick his/her neck out, he won’t contribute much, in fact she may cause the downfall of the team. The key therefore is to take calculated risk. Plan your attack, seek support, and execute well.

The importance of building one’s skills – When I facilitate teambuilding using paintball, we go on a number of rounds, working on a number of missions/scenario. During the first round, first time players go awkwardly. I’ve seen some who can’t even manage to go out of their hiding place for fear of getting shot. But as the game progress and people become more familiar with their tools and the terrain, their games improve. People get to observe this and they share their observation during debriefing sessions. They realize that in order for them to contribute to the team’s success, they need to be familiar with the tools they use, the terrain, the rules of the game and even the competition, hence the need to train.

Leadership and Empowerment – Please note that I am not discussing empowerment separately from leadership. This is because I have proven in a number of paintball war games that assuming too much control of the team can lead to failure. Paintball showed participants that an effective leader communicates the strategy; delegate tasks and empower the team to make decisions especially at crucial moments in the game.

Accepting and Managing Change – In paintball war games you can "try" to anticipate the enemies’ moves, make some educated guess and hopefully, your guess are all correct. However, it doesn’t always happen. This is because the enemy is also guessing what you are trying to guess and are likely to come up with strategies that are completely opposite of what you anticipate. When the team is in the battlefield, they have to know what is really going on and respond to the need for change in time. Otherwise, they will be run over by the enemy. In one debriefing session, a participant said that in the world of business, there is hardly a level playing field. Those who have the strategy for anticipating or commanding the change have the advantage over those who keep to their old strategy when the situation has already rendered their strategy useless.

Role Clarity and Individual Contributions – At the end of each game, the number of “kills” give some participants some bragging rights. Other participants of course, cheer them on for having scored many points. At the end of the day however, people recognize that other people pave the way for people to be able to contribute as much as they did. The leadership of the team, the support of their team mates, the opportunity given them, and the trust of the team helped them succeed. Isn’t these true for any other organization as well?

Trust – In the battle field, there is no more asking whether you can trust a team mate or if a team mate is worthy of your full support. It’s a given. You defend your team mates with your own “life”. There are no politicking, no jockeying for position and no questioning of motives. When team members see the need to deviate from the original plan, the team adjusts, when a comrade falls, the team accepts the situation and adjust as well. When they get a chance to play again, they don’t spend time blame placing. They review their past failures and adjust their strategies.

Fun – When I talk about paintball war games, some people say, it promotes violence, etc. I say come on, we play the game to have fun and learn. I tell you how a fun way it is to learn the things I mentioned above and more.

If you want to know more about my paintball program, you can e-mail me at or call me at (63920)504-4521.


  1. i like your site talks well about team structure and trust. good job. im looking for information on a supplier for paintballs, equipment, and accesories. so if you know of any one let me know. we play paintball in prince rupert british columbia we are a bush ball leauge well nice chating thanks for reading .

  2. Hi Hunter!

    I live in the Philippines. Here Gotcha Philippines is the biggest supplier of paintball materials. I don't know if it would interest you to contact them but for those who are interested to play paintball for fun, you can contact Alice Santillan at (632)726-6517. If you need a teambuilding facilitator to go with your paintball game, call me! :)

  3. Alter E. Yossarian2:07 PM

    hmmm, being lazy lately, eh? nice post.

  4. diverscafe12:12 PM

    Hi, I have jungle and beacht paintball field in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro only 3 h from Manila. We also have rooms, bar, restaurant and diveshop. All the markers are tipm. 98 model. Hope to see you soon .

  5. An extremely informative article, covers pretty much everything about corporate paintballing that there is!


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