Team Building VS Incentive

Team Building and Incentive: two concepts often confused

In-company training and incentive activities are becoming increasingly popular. However, there is still some confusion, even about the most important concepts. That’s why in this article we cover the topic “Team Building VS Incentive“: what is team building and what is incentive, what is the relationship between the two concepts, when they meet and when they should be distinguished.

We have already devoted several articles to clarifying what team building is, telling how to organize a team building, and providing some ideas for corporate team building. Therefore, we will not expand on this topic here. We simply refer to Wikipedia’s Team Building page and give some brief preliminary information.

Team Building: what is it?

Team building is understood to be the set of activities carried out with groups of corporate employees to improve the dynamics of communication and teamwork. The most recent trend in team building is to use the typical tools of so-called experiential training. Unlike traditional classroom training, experiential training teaches not through mere words but through real situations experienced by participants.

What are these situations that experiential training creates? The most diverse: from cooking to survival techniques in the woods, from creating a painting to treasure hunting in the streets of a city. These experiences are united by the fact that they take the corporate team out of the usual office routine. In this way, communication, problem solving and teamwork dynamics can be tested, practiced and improved.

Outside office walls, in fact, people are more likely to relax and get involved, so that they discover new characteristics and capabilities in themselves and their colleagues.

Incentive: what is it?

The word incentive is usually juxtaposed with the word travel: incentive trip and incentive tour are the most frequent expressions. The Wikipedia page describing this phenomenon is titled Travel Incentive. It is a corporate reward trip that takes participants to a beautiful location to do recreational, meeting, and training activities. The purpose of an incentive program is to create a unique and exclusive experience that will remain in the memory and strengthen the relationship, including an emotional one, with the company.

Corporate award travel can be reserved for:

  • top managers whom the company wants to retain through luxury incentives;
  • salespeople to be rewarded for achieving economic goals set by the company;
  • employees from among whom the company wants to choose candidates for promotion and who it wants to motivate to produce more;
  • more important clients to whom they want to give a positive image of the company and the possibilities for future collaboration, present new products or services, show off production locations, and forge personal as well as business relationships.

Italian travel agencies and team building companies often have to deal with incentive trips from abroad. Italy, with its scenic beauty, cities of art and food and wine excellence, is indeed a frequently chosen destination for incentive trips.

That is why in this page we will talk about welcoming foreigners rather than accompanying Italians; however, there is nothing to stop an Italian group from organizing a trip abroad by following the same suggestions.

Incentive trip: what activities to propose?

What activities can be part of a corporate incentive trip? When choosing, one must consider the fact that many participants will also bring their partner or some other family member on the trip. Indeed, the goal of loyalty is also pursued by creating shared experiences that leave pleasant memories. The company hopes to find greater future willingness, even with respect to possible sacrifices in terms of free time, in an employee who has been incentivized with a shared experience with a partner.

The program should be organized so that it is interesting for everyone, keeping people busy but also leaving room for rest and especially for interpersonal communication.

Business-related activities

An incentive trip often has an “official” part. It can be:

  • Meeting or convention
  • Visits to company spaces or factories.
Team Building durante un Meeting

Why do team building during a business meeting?

It will be useful to include some ice-breaking and/or energizer activities between speeches. In both cases, these are short interventions drawn from theater practice, lasting between 10 and 30 minutes. They involve participants in dynamic exercises in which physical engagement is minimal and foster communication among participants. While an ice breaking team building “forces” participants to interact with each other on a physical and bodily level as well to promote the falling of walls of misunderstandings, an ice breaking for incentive participants is rather a time for relaxation. Getting up and moving all together between convention speeches helps to wake up the mind and body.

Visiting company space, a factory, or another type of work environment can also include educational and even playful team-building moments. It is possible to think of a scavenger hunt in corporate environments to have them discovered in an adventurous way.

But while in a scavenger hunt designed as part of team building the focus is on problem solving, effective interaction among team members and team challenge, in the incentive the playful and cultural factors are much more prominent.

Discover the city

An incentive program allows participants to discover the visited city by carrying out cultural activities, but also by experiencing rare and exclusive experiences. Indeed, it is about enhancing the location by having all the best of it discovered, which in turn will give value to the company. The activities that can be proposed?

Guided tours

They can be the “classic” ones to the city’s main monuments, but also more original occasions. A visit to Milan’s Castello Sforzesco on the hunt for ghosts, an adventure in Florence inspired by the film Inferno, an interactive iPad game in Venice, a pirate treasure hunt set in the Cinque Terre: these are just some of the proposals that can be made.

Exhibitions and Museums

The most well-known ones in the city, but also more special or thematic exhibitions. Truly exclusive experiences can be arranged. One example? Dinner at the museum: certain locations allow participants to be hosted for a gala dinner in a special and refined setting, amidst works of art. And think what a thrill to set a murder mystery dinner in a museum!


An incentive program obviously includes lunches and dinners in sought-after restaurants. That can be enriched with interventions by actors as in a dinner with a crime or with cooking classes or show cooking. Participants, especially if they are foreigners, will be thrilled to discover Italian culinary traditions in a real professional kitchen.

Are you planning an incentive team building?

Go for adventure

Italy is not only about cities of art, however, but also parks, mountains, lakes and the sea. All these natural riches can be harnessed to create memorable experiences for incentive guests. Depending on the season, destination and budget, many different options can be chosen. They will have in common, however, the naturalistic destination and not (only) city.


In winter a snow activity, in summer a scenic walk. For the more adventurous and physically active groups, it will be enhanced by a Survival-style adventure. But even here the difference from a typical team building Survival Training is significant. Whereas the Survival training involves challenging timed challenges in a high-adrenaline competition between teams, the typical incentive Survival is rather an experience of discovery and curiosity. Participants will be instructed in survival techniques and will be able to see and experience them live in some cases, all, however, in a playful and relaxed environment.

Lake or sea

The Italian lakes are an inexhaustible wealth of splendid views and exciting proposals. An unforgettable adventure will be a sailing trip, which can also

be practiced as a regatta, that is, as a real competition between rival teams.

Maritime locations also have great appeal, although one must take into account the great affluence in the summer season and therefore choose an exclusive destination or a less busy period.

Sailboat racing and thematic treasure hunts inspired by pirate stories are also feasible here.

Cultural experiences

Italy and Europe also offers many possibilities for those who prefer a more cultural than naturalistic trip. The choice of activity will obviously depend on the interests of the participants, the average age and the composition of the group. To all, however, they both offer a variety of exciting experiences. One can expect:


Taking an incentive group to listen to an opera or watch a ballet at La Scala in Milan will be a luxury experience that will leave a lasting impression. Indeed, this venue is not only suitable for refined culture lovers, but for anyone who wants to have an exclusive experience. An extra touch of class? Dinner at the theater.


An evening of opera or a rock concert, depending on the preferences of the participants (which the trip organizer will need to investigate in advance). The perfect location? The arena in Verona! Just be careful to buy tickets well in advance.


Italy is also famous for the world’s most beloved sport. Many participants will be excited to visit the stadium and watch a match between two Italian teams, perhaps even a derby. Indeed, the trip can be planned to include a particularly interesting match.

Are you planning a corporate event?

Free time: time to go shopping

The crucial difference between a purely educational event and an incentive event lies in the management of free time. When it comes to team building, organizers try not to leave too many moments of independence for participants, who may become scattered and lose interest in the activity. In an incentive trip, on the other hand, it is absolutely necessary to introduce long breaks to allow for rest and freedom.

  • Relaxation moments: in the trip program, it is important to schedule moments of rest in the hotel between visits. Participants will appreciate the opportunity to shower and change clothes before going out to dinner!
  • Spa: a visit to the spa or thermal baths, perhaps as an optional suggestion, will surely be appreciated by many participants and especially the female part of the group.
  • Shopping: surely someone will want to go shopping. Foreign groups visiting Italy like to return home with a suitcase full of designer clothes purchased in our country. Depending on your needs, you can plan an afternoon to spend freely in Milan’s fashion district or even a day at one of Italy’s Fashion Outlets.
  • Socialization: finally, let’s not forget that participants should have the opportunity to get to know each other and form informal relationships. At the gala dinner, communication will be formal and relatively small, so more informal occasions should also be planned. An aperitif in Milan (perhaps at one of the coolest rooftops in the city) or at the beach, or even a night at a disco: the choice will depend on the age of the participants and their interests.
Are you planning a corporate incentive event?