Experiments in software teams: Camping for the geeks!

Adventure activity and software - not the best combinations those two you'd think. People in software tend to be less the "adventure sort", if I am allowed a sweeping generalization (once a month is ok!).

There is a lot of folklore about what happens between team members in the stresses of an adventure. There are countless stories of old friends fighting it out and separating because of a tough trekking trip. About people changing into very different personalities in the extremes of environment and physical strain. Gurus claim that a group only works in such stresses if the personalities match or complement each other and when there is strong pre-existing bonding between the members. Many have warned that in the dry and lifeless corporate work groups such a strong bonding is not possible and thus it is not advisable for such groups to undertake extreme activities.

We are not famous for listening to sound advice. So we wanted to test this out - as part of our philosophy of experimenting with culture to find that Nirvana of software.

 We wanted to see what really happens when a group of techies with the famous pre-existing bonding of Kaz go through physical stress of a relatively difficult adventure trip. Today's blog is about that experiment. 

The Goal

See how techies function as a group in a physically and mentally challenging adventure. And see how that experience effects their work relationship and team bonding.

The Monkeys

We wanted to test with a diverse group. So we chose a team of six who are:

  • Software Developers
  • SQA Engineers
  • Systems Engineers

The Setting

The trip was to be a 3 day camping trip in Nijhum Dwip - an island at the south of Bangladesh. 


The island is, very unusually for Bangladesh, nearly empty. Most of it is forested and there are a lot of deer. No dangerous animal except some dogs who moves around in packs and attacks the deer!

The camp was at the southern-most tip of the island.

There was no road transport to the campsite - the only access was with a boat from the nearest bazaar and then walk across a very muddy path. 

To reach the dwip from Dhaka the route involved a 18 hour trip via an overnight ferry (called লঞ্চ locally) and then an unknown route of reaching the southern tip (the unknowns where intentional parameters in the experiment).

The Parameters

  • The team will not be able to stay in a roofed building (they were given tents).
  • They need to stay far from any inhabited area.
  • They will have to cook all their meals while at the island.
  • They cannot research the area too much for before going to the trip - to bring in an X factor.

The Results

During the trip:

No noticeable fights erupted (sadly!), there were occasional friction between the team members which were at a magnitude higher than the usual workplace friction. We saw the effects of the professional diversity of the team in their roles during the trip. Systems, for example, took up the responsibility of arranging battery power (via solar cell panel they carried their).

After the trip:

The team came back to Dhaka with a great sense of achievement. This sense of well being has continued and has had a noticeable effect on the bonding between the team members. So none of the warning about possible long lasting effect of friction happened - quite the reverse actually.

Let me leave with some pictures of the trip!