If you stopped by Thinker Ventures during the afternoon on July 31, all you found were no lights and a locked door.

We weren’t in a huge client meeting, there were no issues with the building, and it wasn’t a holiday. No. We were in Brodhead, Wisconsin, tearing around the Sugar River Raceway in a team-building exercise.

When a supervisor brings up team building, it usually elicits a few groans and eye-rolls. But research shows that it’s actually one of the best investments a company can make in its people. An effective team-building exercise increases employee engagement, builds collaboration, encourages conflict, mitigates conflict and builds trust.

If you want your day away to play as a team to not feel like a terrible episode of The Office, there are a couple rules to follow:

  • Get away from the building. The most memorable events are ones that don’t feel like a day at the office.
  • Do something different. Company picnics are cool, but the only times those are memorable is if someone does something embarrassing.

Go kart racing was the idea of Thinker’s project manager, Jaclyn Kolodziej, who grew up in Wisconsin and was familiar with Sugar River Raceway. I’d suggested kayaking in Galena, Illinois. The go karts were an inspired idea. We spent an afternoon trying to figure out together how to navigate the track more effectively while off the track and running each other into the grass while on the track.

Snack Nation has a list of “39 Insanely Fun Team Building Activities for Work,” and Go Kart Racing was No. 3. Others on the list worth trying – at least ones I’d like to try:

  • The Amazing Race: Group staffers in teams of two, tie them together with a thin rope and do a variety of activities.
  • Have a kickball game: Everyone played kickball as a kid. Return to your youth.
  • Bond over ice cream: This is especially good in the summer. Get out of the office and head to your city’s best ice cream stand.
  • Team hike: Thinker’s office is near several great parks, including Rock Cut State Park and Starved Rock.
  • Karaoke madness: Either head to a karaoke bar or rent a machine for a weekend night. Take a vote, with the winner being the worst singer.
  • Catch a ballgame: Most cities of size have some sort of professional sports team. In Rockford, we have a hockey team (the IceHogs) in the winter and a college wood-bat baseball team (the Rivets) in the summer.

These are some of Snack Nation’s suggestions. There also is paintball or a mini-putting tournament, skydiving indoors or outdoors, or competing as a team in Tough Mudder running races. In some cities, you can find companies that will allow you to repel from skyscrapers.

The key is to find something that’s a little, but not too, exciting – and roll with it.