A great Boston-area social worker told me about a survey that was taken to determine what predicts whether families are closely-knit, functional and felt connected.
Seems that over 50 different influencers were identified but only one had a better than 60% statistical coorelation to predicting a close-knit family. Of all the factors, only those families that went 'camping' could be expected to be close and connected.
Well I can tell you I felt a bit taken a back when I heard that (yes, aback). First, my wife sure wasn't going to go for that and second, most of my camping experiences (Boy Scout, etc) included a myriad of mishaps including leaking tents, partially cooked food, uncomfortable beds, insect bites, etc. How could this be an answer for familial happiness?
Well, as the researchers supposedly found, camping puts people in a situation where, in fact, things go wrong and people have to work together to make them right. Campers suffer together and they work out their own personal solutions to each challenge. Its personal and its authentic to those groups of people. No one else shares those moments.
And there is the wisdom. People don't necessarily bond by playing together; fun is not a predictor for bonding and feeling personal warmth towards one another. People bond because they find themselves in the same situation/challenge, commit to working together and find a way to win or endure.
I had the priviledge and honor to be a single father of three children (age 3, 8, 11). Although their mother saw them and supported them on a regular weekly basis, it was my task to run the day-to-day family operation. The way I describe it is that it was like my three children and I stepped into a covered wagon in St. Louis and headed west. I certainly didn't know what I was doing and my wonderful kids knew less. But over time, we worked out every logistical issue. Each had responsibilities. Each knew they were depended on for things to work. And it worked . . .at least from where I stood.
I'm not saying my children and I have unique intimacy nor that there aren't issues between themselves and between them and me, but I can tell you this: We know things others don't know. We've been places others haven't been. And we've been there together.
Exaggeration? No, you feel this way when you have the personal experiences that people build working through the challenges.
Bond a team by having them work together towards something that all agree is important. There will be challenges, obstacles and personal differences, but the process of having to move the project to completion should give each an appreciation for the other. If you have some that can't team, then either find a place they can work in a solitary manner, intervene with them to let them know how this needs to work or get them out of your organization. (Note: People who can't or won't work with people shouldn't and its up to managers to isolate or get rid of them. I've got the scars on my back to prove this.)
So the math is simple: want bonding? Have people work together around something that is important to all.