We have some very exciting plans for Businessballs. Very soon we will be launching a new visual identity, refreshing the design of the site and adding lots of new functionality to enhance your learning experience and the website's usefulness. Phase 2 will include badges, learning plans linked to accredited competency frameworks, wikis (for collaborative content development) and new content from international thought leaders and academics. The site will continue to follow our ethos of free work and life learning, and the redevelopment and ongoing management will be delivered by our partner Accipio. If you are interested in contributing content or your view on where we should take Businessballs next, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
free team building games (1) (2) (3) and activities listing
page 1 of free team building games ideas, exercises and activities for employee motivation, training and development, children's games and party games
These free team building activities, exercises and ideas are for building teams and teamwork, corporate employee motivation, personal development, ice-breakers, energisers, and more serious learning and personal development.
Many of these exercises can also be adapted for young people and children.
Employee motivation commonly benefits from suitable and well run team building games, exercises, and activities, including puzzles and quizzes. You can also use free team building games and exercises ideas as ice-breakers and energizers to warm up meetings, workshops, training, and conferences.
Many of these free group activities are also effective in specialised training sessions and seminars.
Team building games and activities are useful also in serious business project meetings, where games and activities help delegates to see things differently and use different thinking styles.
Games, exercises and quizzes help to stimulate the brain, improving retention of ideas, learning, and increasing fun and enjoyment.
Most of these games can be used or adapted for children's development and education, and many even for kids party games.
We cannot accept responsibility for any liability which arises from the use of any of these free team building exercises ideas or games - please see the disclaimer notice below, and see the guidelines for creating and running teambuilding sessions. Always ensure that you have proper insurance in place for all team building games activities, and take extra care when working with younger people, children and if organising kids party games.
More activities and exercises are shown in full on the team building ideas page 2 on this website, with brief descriptions and links below.
There are some bigger team activities further below on this page, suitable for large gatherings at conferences where time and situation allows more planning and preparation time, and longer duration of activities.
team building games - are games appropriate?
Before you decide to use any team building games with a group of people, think about whether the activities are appropriate for the team members and the situation. Kirkpatrick's learning model is a good reference point for this assessment: team members should ideally enjoy the activity, learn something from it, which they can apply, and which will improve results.
See the Team-Building Activities Evaluation Form and Outcomes Notes (xls file).
It's useful also when assessing any team development needs to refer to Bloom's Taxonomy of learning domains, which provides a useful template or checklist for designing and evaluating training and learning activities of all sorts.
Ensure that team-building activities comply with equality and discrimination policy and law in respect of gender, race, disability, age, etc.
Age discrimination is a potential risk given certain groups and activities. Team-building facilitators should be familiar with the Equality and Age Discrimination (UK and Europe - and increasingly elsewhere too).
Note that team building games are not necessarily the best way to improve team morale and attitude if there are problems in these areas. Workshops are often a better starting point for fragile or bruised teams, which need basic bonding, confidence and help to strengthen their sense of responsibility and purpose.
If using team building to develop mutual respect, care and compassion, etc., look at the love and spirituality at work section - it explains about bringing compassion and humanity to work and teams.
Effective relationships and behaviour at work involve the same principles as everyday life - respect for others, integrity, honesty, compassion, courage - all the good things that we all naturally possess deep down. Sometimes people have insecurities or stresses which create difficulties on the surface, to which others in the team then react. Emotional maturity, or Emotional Intelligence is a useful perspective. However, if you approach a behavioural problem head-on, or try to resolve it with a team building exercise, this can cause people to clam up and become defensive (just like we all tend to do when someone is critical or implies a weakness). Instead, ask the people what they'd enjoy and find helpful for their lives in general. Move the issue away from work and skills and 'team-building' per se. Help the person (and people) rather than treat the symptoms. If you help people with their life-balance and personal fulfilment they become more emotionally mature, tolerant, positive independent, self-sufficient, etc. When the person is okay, so is everything else, including their relationships and communications at work. Developing people involves more than behaviour, relationships, skills, knowledge and processes. It's often more about helping people feel better about themselves; helping the person to feel happy and fulfilled. A good leader can facilitate this. Team building doesn't have to involve games and exercises - team building might be better achieved by arranging other things which appear to be unconnected to work. Perhaps the sort of things that people would otherwise seek out at evening classes. Perhaps lunchtime yoga or reiki or relaxation sessions might be of interest? Maybe go bowling? Horse riding? Ask the people. In the Summer maybe play softball on the park? Or maybe ask if they would like to run a lunch-time barbecue for clients and suppliers. If you focus on the problem it will become a battlefield. Instead focus on fun, new positive experiences and self-fulfilment.
The subjects on this website increasingly feature ideas for developing the whole person. In the same way, you are not restricted to providing traditional work skills development. Explore everything, and show your people that you have a broader view about development - they'll have lots of ideas of their own if you let them see it's okay to think that way. Team building games are just a part of a very wide mix of learning and and development experiences that you can explore and facilitate for your people - try anything. If it helps your people to feel good and be good, then it will help your organisation be good too.
On which point, see:
role playing process and tips for role play games and exercises
team building games ideas and theory, which explains about preparation, organization and training for team building games and exercises
free puzzles (and free answers) for quizzes
free tips on running teambuilding workshops
love and spirituality in management and business - bringing compassion and humanity to work
free team building games - warm-ups, quick games and exercises, ice-breakers, exercises and activities
These free team building games and exercises generally last less than one hour, and can be adjusted to create longer team building activities, depending on team building, ice-breaker, training development required. The development forum gameshow activity is an example of a sophisticated activity that ideally takes two hours or more, but can be adapted to fit into an hour if session time requires this. Ensure exercises are clearly explained, and where appropriate - mostly - that a review takes place afterwards. Review and discussion are often useful and helpful after exercises which have raised relationship issues, or changed people's perceptions. Plan and practise all unknown aspects of the activities before using them. Logistics, facilitation and especially how you split the group into the numbers of team members per team are factors which have a big effect on how the exercises work and the experience for all. See the team building activities guidelines for tips and techniques.
Below this listing are the page 1 teambuilding activities.
the kitchen gadget icebreaker (icebreaker, introductions, self-perception, motivation, team roles, personality, etc)
organizational models exercise (understanding and improving work organizations, relationships, communications, etc)
A simple sophisticated activity for groups of any size - to enable understanding and improvement of work organizations, structures, communications, etc. See the Organizational Models Exercise - on teambuilding games page 3.
the 'tea and coffee memory game' (information retention, information communication, information organization and structure, for communicating, teaching, presentation, etc)
Simple easy activity for an icebreaker and deeper exercise for understanding the importnace of structure in organizing and conveying information. See the 'tea and coffee memory game' - on teambuilding games page 3.
'this is me' / 'box of bits and pieces' self-expression activity (icebreaker, mutual awareness, introductions, creativity, identifying passions and personal/hidden strengths)
'life dreams negotiating' game (motivation, personality differences, empathy, negotiating, debating, arguing a case, johari mutual awareness)
A clever meaningful group activity for understanding empathy, cooperation, motivation, life priorities, self-fulfilment and personal direction and more - see the 'life dreams negotiating' game on teambuilding games page 3.
the "this pebble is..." exercise (creativity, relaxation, re-energizing, fun, self-expression)
company quiz game (icebreaker, discussion-starter, inter-departmental relations, company/product-knowledge, induction training, policy review, staff awareness, etc)
A simple quick easy group activity with many uses - basically a quick-fire quiz using company-specific questions - adaptable and expandable for your situations. Especially good for exploring levels of product/company knowledge, and related training and information management issues. See the 'company quiz game' exercise on team building games 2.
one small change, one big effect (time management, personal commitment, personal empowerment, productivity improvement)
How to encourage a group to explore individual time-management possibilities, and what the obstacles actually are, and then individually commit to making one 'high yield' change (plus timescale, measurement and mutual follow-up).
'how to tie a shoelace' instructions exercise (warm-up, process design, how to write clear instructions, empathy, etc)
A quick simple flexible exercise for any group, to encourage thinking and development of skills for communicating instructions and information to others. See the 'how to tie a shoelace' instructions exercise on team building games 2.
toilet paper icebreaker/introductions exercise
seasonal ideas for groups (team activities and ideas for christmas and new year)
Various Christmas and New Year ideas and free resources including games, exercises, Christmas quizzes, Big 2013 Year Quiz, and staff events suggestions.
personality self-image exercise (self-awareness, personality theory, interviewing and selection, assessing others)
A fascinating exercise for illustrating how different people commonly see the same person in different ways.
See the personality self-image exercise on teambuilding games page 2.
day colours/colors exercise (personal differences, emotional triggers, empathy, mutual understanding)
A quick simple fun and fascinating exercise to demonstrate and explore how we see the 'same' thing differently, relating to mental triggers and associations - how we think - and empathy, conflict, work relationships, etc.
See the day colours activity on team building games page 2.
psychological contract 'iceberg' exercises (the psychological contract, work/life alignment, employment relationships, leadership)
The Psychological Contract is increasingly significant in organizational management and development. Exercises using the Psychological Contract 'iceberg' diagram assist explanation and exploration of the subject.
See the Psychological Contract 'iceberg' diagram exercises on team building games page 2.
lifestyle acronyms game (language and communications, generational issues, demographics, creativity, teamwork)
A fun exercise which relates to several juicy modern topics. Adaptable also as a quick icebreaker.
See the lifestyle acronyms game on teambuilding games page 2.
guessing game exercises (ice-breaker, assumptions, guesswork/judgment risks, multiple intelligences, natural strengths, 'wisdom of crowds')
An interesting and very adaptable exercise for exploring the concept of guessing and intuitive judgment.
See the Guessing Game on teambuilding games page 2.
early bird/second mouse exercise (ice-breaker, creative thinking, presentation skills, debating, analysis, teamworking, group decision dynamics)
A simple and flexible activity for small or large groups of all ages, involving several learning elements: strategy, teamwork, presentations, debate, analysis and group dynamics and decision-making.
See the Early Bird/Second Mouse Exercise on teambuilding games page 2.
touchy feely exercises (body language and non-verbal communications)
Physical contact and touching are challenging aspects of working with people, but are very significant in body language, relationships, teamwork, motivation, care and support, etc. Here are some ideas and exercises to help understand it better.
See the touchy feely exercises on team building games page 2.
the outdoors tea-break exercise (different perspectives, context, relativity, perception vs 'reality', and how most things change according to situation)
The nature of anything - especially feelings, relationships and communications - changes according to situation and context.
See the outdoors tea-break exercise on teambuilding games page 2.
news story interpretation exercise (applying motivational and management theory)
An adaptable activity using newspaper stories to apply and explain motivational and management theory, models, etc.
See the newspaper story exercise on team building games page 2.
three describers exercise (icebreaker, introductions, mutual awareness, johari awareness, teambuilding)
Teams compete to see how well they know other team members, by attempting to match quick self-penned descriptions to the owners of the characteristics.
See the three describers exercise on team building games page 2.
quick plan exercise (renewing commitments, new plans, aims, priorities)
A quick planner exercise for new aims or renewing commitments.
See the quick plan exercise on team building games page 2.
breakfast project planning exercise (planning tasks and projects, scheduling, budgeting)
A fun exercise to teach basic project management and task planning, using tasks such as cooking a breakfast.
See the breakfast project planning exercise on teambuilding games page 2.
sheet of paper step-through game (icebreaker, teambuilding, problem-solving, kids' scissor-skills)
Adaptable paper-cutting puzzle exercise, also encouraging togetherness..
See the paper step-through game on teambuilding games page 2.
truth and lies introductions game (as seen on tv..)
Simple introductions exercise to add some creativity, humour, and group decision-making to courses and other group situations.
See the truth and lies icebreaker on teambuilding games page 2.
eggs balancing game (concentration, manual dexterity, positive thinking, discovery, etc)
A simple unusual activity for icebreakers and other group activities, needing minimal equipment and preparation, and offering lots of opportunity for adaptation and discussion.
See the eggs balancing exercise on team building games page 2.
drawing game (ice-breaker, communications, creativity, teamwork)
Quick exercise based on kids game - for ice-breaker or adaptable for deeper learning and demonstration of communications and teamworking.
See the drawing game on teambuilding games page 2.
group connections activity (icebreaker, mutual awareness, introductions, networking, team-building)
A very quick simple icebreaker, or exercise which can be used for developing greater mutual awareness, and exploring the obstacles, benefits, and approaches surrounding the ideas of creating better mutual awareness in groups.
See the connections activity on team-building games page 2.
paper bowls team game (energiser, teamwork, tactics)
Quick icebreaker, or bigger team/tactics game - for groups of six to thirty.
Negligible materials cost. Adaptable for children.
See the paper bowls game on team-building games page 2.
life highlights game (introductions, self/mutual awareness, life aims, pub/drinking/parlour game)
No equipment required. Adaptable ice-breaker exercise or for exploring life aims and personal fulfilment in more depth.
See the life highlights game on teambuilding games page 2.
coin logo icebreaker (creativity, self-expression, johari awareness)
Quick and easy. Expandable and adaptable.
See the coin logo ice-breaker on teambuilding games page 2.
coded team communications game (non-verbal communications, communications systems, body language, team understanding, creativity)
An exercise for any size groups and ages. Very adaptable activity.
Involves non-verbal communications, creating and using a simple very different communications system, working as a team. Energising and fun.
See the coded communications game on teambuilding games page 2.
tubes strings balls game (icebreaker, teamworking, teambuilding, planning, creativity, fun..)
For groups of all ages, teams of six to ten ideally.
Physically engaging. Lots of team cooperation. Planning, preparation and leadership, and lots of balls, so it's got to be great..
See the tubes strings balls activity on teambuilding games page 2.
one question game (ice-breaker, questioning skills, empathy, cooperation, and more)
Simple 5-30 minutes activity for developing questioning skills - especially related to finding appropriate partners/providers, and saving time and wasted efforts due to poor mutual understanding.
See the one question exercise on team building games page 2.
classification game - (ice-breaker, introductions, discrimination, mutual perspectives)
Another simple 5-30 minutes exercise requiring no equipment or materials preparation, for groups of any size and age.
Activity for getting to know each other and for addressing prejudicial attitudes and stereotyping.
Awareness of each other in teams.
See the classification game on teambuilding games page 2.
face game (non-verbal communications, facial expressions, ice-breaker)
A simple quick game for any groups interested in communications and relationships.
See the face game on team building games page 2.
picture pieces game (teamwork, departmental working)
An exercise for groups of any size and ages. Half an hour, or longer if you increase complexity.
Demonstrates departmental working and its effectiveness in enabling many people to work towards a single overall aim.
See the picture pieces exercise on teambuilding games page 2.
the takeaway game (planning, analysis, number skills, ice-breaker, energiser for the brain)
Based on an old numbers game. Adaptable easily for time, level of difficulty, and group size.
At its simplest the game takes less than a couple of minutes to explain and play.
All you need is a few coins.
Expandable to be very challenging if required.
See the takeaway game on team building games page 2.
the obvious teambuilding game for snowy weather (teambuilding, fun, etc)
A seasonal activity which requires snow. And a managing director with a decent sense of humour.
See the Obvious Teambuilding Game on teambuilding games page 2.
project team exercise (graduate recruitment assessment and selection, internal promotion assessment centres, business development and project teams)
For any/all of the following:
- graduate recruitment assessment days
- internal promotion assessment centres
- development of business and commercial management skills
- identifying and developing new business initiatives
See the project team exercise on teambuilding games page 2.
stress exercise (demonstrating stress, ice-breaker, team-working, teamwork pressures and confusion)
Demonstrating stress and its causes safely and enjoyably is not easy.
Here's a way to do it which can help towards better understanding and dealing with the causes of workplace stress, especially stress arising from pressurised team-working.
See the stress exercise on team building games page 2.
learning and thinking styles exercise (learning styles, brain type preferences, self-awareness, johari awareness)
Quick exercise for exploring and understanding thinking/working/learning style preferences, without the need for a test instrument.
See the learning and thinking styles exercise on team building games page 2.
alternative christmas and new year exercise (new year ice-breaker, creative thinking, social values and true life priorities)
An exercise for any group size and creative thought-provoker for the New Year.
See the Alternative Christmas and New Year Exercise on team building games page 2.
mobile phone game (time management, use tools - don't let them use you, manage your environment, communications, addictions to technology and gadgets)
Demonstrates how mobile phones and emails disrupt effective working, time management and organisational efficiency.
See the mobile phone exercise on team building games page 2.
the CRITWATNF game (warm-ups, icebreakers, and for demonstrating that things are rarely as crucial as they seem)
Simple icebreaker or discussion session to look at the difference between objective critical decision-making, and decision-making driven by emotion.
See the CRITWATNF game on teambuilding games page 2.
passion to profit exercise (process and template for enjoyable rewarding work and independence, career change, business start-ups, self-employment, redundancy and outplacement support)
It took Google ten years to achieve world domination from a standing start.
Your own meaningful enjoyable career change, successful self-employment, or new business would take much less time than that.
What's stopping you?
See the passion to profit exercise on team building games page 2.
quick paper tower icebreaker (warm-up, creative thinking, and/or teamwork, skills and process analysis)
A quick simple variation on the old newspaper tower activity.
For individuals or teams, as an icebreaker or more complex exercise to review the nature of tasks, skills, process and team-working, etc.
See the quick paper tower icebreaker on teambuilding games page 2.
tree swing games (awareness and cooperation between teams, departments, divisions, corporations, nations, planets, etc)
A flexible creative exercise for looking at expectations and delivery - and the gap which usually exists between the two - in a very different way.
See the tree swing games ideas on teambuilding games page 2.
poetry activities (team games with poems, creativity, icebreakers, johari awareness, thinking outside of the box, fresh perspectives)
Thursday 9 October is National Poetry Day in the UK, although you can be anywhere in the world to enjoy poetry.
Helpfully in 2008 the theme of National Poetry Day is WORK.
See the poetry activities ideas on team building games page 2.
the 'what did you learn yesterday' game (icebreaker, self-development, life attitude, self-awareness, discussions about what learning and development means)
Simple and potent activity or quick icebreaker. Very adaptable.
See 'What did you learn yesterday?' on the teambuilding games page 2.
tactical team shove ha'penny (icebreaker, teamworking, tactics, strategy)
A simple very flexible competitive game for icebreakers or more complex tactical exercises, which also helps teamworking and team problem-solving.
See the team shove ha'penny activity on team building games page 2.
ageing society exercise (icebreaker, ageism, trends, predictions, creative thought, demographics)
An icebreaker or bigger group activity to demonstrate and develop proactive complex creative analytical forward-thinking, compared to reactive shallow thinking.
The basic idea can easily be adapted into different activities for your own situations, teams and trends.
See the ageing society exercise on teambuilding games page 2.
political qualification game (job skills, training, competence - and many other issues relating to competence and suitability)
An exercise to develop appreciation of job competence and profiling for determining suitability, training and qualifications.
See the political qualifications game on teambuilding games page 2.
positive behaviour exercise (understanding positive behaviour/behavior concepts, karma, law of attraction, etc)
A way of exploring positive behaviour without getting embroiled in issues of religious or spiritual or universal opinion.
See the positive behaviour exercise on teambuilding games page 2.
('Behaviour' is UK-English. 'Behavior' is US-English.)
'moneygram' activity (creativity, teamworking, expressing and sharing perceptions about organizational structures and markets, etc)
A flexible exercise for any ages and all groups. For creativity, developing team working and mutual understanding, especially about organizational or market structures.
See the moneygram activity on the teambuilding games page 2.
new world exercise (icebreaker, or bigger exercise for leadership roles, team roles, multiple intelligences, life skills, analysis and reaction - a context for using new models and tools of management and leadership)
A flexible and fascinating scenario-based activity for groups up to 12 people. For all ages.
Larger groups can be split into teams to add a competitive/diverse aspect to the exercise.
See the new world exercise on the teambuilding games page 2.
helium stick games (team building, assumptions, organising tasks, problem-solving)
Ideas and variations for one of the classic teambuilding games. Great for icebreakers.
See the helium stick basic exercise, plus lots of variations ideas on the teambuilding games page 2.
david davis resignation speech
The remarkable 12 June 2008 David Davis resignation speech provides a wonderful unfolding case study for all sorts of teaching and training areas.
See the discussion examples, tips and clip on the training clips page.
secrets of success exercises (ice-breaker, success factors, differences between skills, attitudes, knowledge, experience)
A quick easy activity for any groups interested in success, teaching, training, etc.
Especially useful for emphasising the importance of attitude, above skills, knowledge, and experience.
See the secrets of success exercises on team building games page 2.
change exercises (demonstrating and experiencing the effects of change on people)
Simple fun exercises for working with features and effects of change.
See the change exercises on teambuilding games page 2.
charades icebreaker/exercise (communications, creativity, icebreaker, conveying messages simply and clearly, non-verbal communications)
Simple activity to help people think about the importance of identifying central themes and key messages and how to convey them, especially the value of non-verbal methods.
See the charades activity on the teambuilding games page 2.
seasonal factors icebreaker (warm-ups and discussion-starters for various issues)
A quick simple and flexible activity for groups of four and over.
The exercise prompts thinking and discussion about the need to predict and adapt to changing circumstances.
The activity itself can be adapted for any function or area of interest and development.
See the seasonal icebreaker on teambuilding games page 2.
dice exercise (sales training, effective selling, time management, planning, maximizing efficiency and return on effort)
One of the best simple quick exercises for demonstrating the value of good planning, for sales and selling especially, but for everyone with responsibility for making best use of their time.
See the dice exercise on the team building games page 2.
shoe-wear (icebreaker ideas, personality types, discussion and activity)
This is a simple idea which can prompt a lot of discussion and ideas about personality, self-awareness and mutual awareness.
See the shoe-wear icebreaker activity on teambuilding games page 2.
'a senseable friend' cards activities (icebreakers, problem-solving, creative thinking, hidden issues, johari, etc)
Unusual and intuitive tool for icebreakers, problem-solving and more.
See 'A SenseAble Friend' on teambuilding games page 2.
'sell a region' diversity game (diversity awareness, teambuilding, presentations, research, understanding other cultures)
For teams, including conference situations, to promote understanding of diversity issues and good team-working.
See the 'sell a region' game on the team building games page 2.
animal perceptions exercise (self-image, influence of others, self-awareness, aspirations, johari-type development)
A fun exercise to stimulate reflection and discussion about self-perception and who we want to be.
See the animal perceptions exercise on team building games page 2.
listening games (listening skills, interpretation, team working, communications)
Very flexible activity for listening skills and more besides - see the listening game on teambuilding games page 2.
money exercises (taking a wider view, re-examining priorities, seeing and understanding other people's issues)
Simple quick ice-breaker and point-maker for opening our awareness and being less focused on our own narrow priorities.
See the money exercise/ice-breaker on team building games page 2.
conkers and acorns ideas (various themes - especially for young people)
Seasonal obviously, although other links between nature and learning can be found through the year.
See the conkers and acorns ideas on the teambuilding games page 2.
competitor-partner exercises (collaboration v competition, with all that this implies for organizations and teams)
For market and competitor strategies, and for team-building and team-working.
See the competitor-partner exercises and grids on the teambuilding page 2.
This is the age of collaboration - what are you doing about it?
questioning games ideas (demonstrating open and closed questions, developing questioning skills)
Use puzzles and fact-finding scenarios to show and practise the use of open and closed questions.
See the questioning exercise on teambuilding games page 2.
diversity quiz game (teaching and developing diversity awareness, addressing local diversity issues)
Flexible exercise for groups of all sorts to focus on diversity in an entertaining and enjoyable way.
See the diversity quiz game on team building games page 2.
causes and solutions exercises (discussion or illustration of problem-solving, dispute resolution, crisis management and avoidance, solutions-focused thinking)
Flexible activity - easy to set up - for discussion and teaching of problem-solving, crisis-management, solution-focused thinking.
See the causes and solutions activity on the team building games page 2.
quiz public survey game (all and any aspects of communications, plus lots of other applications)
Imagine a cross between a quiz and a treasure hunt... this is it.
See the public research quiz game on the team building games page 2.
bin toss game (ice-breakers, competition and motivation, fun)
You can probably guess...
See the bin toss game on teambuilding games page 2.
bricks in the wall
An exercise for goals and objectives planning.
The importance of components and process in realising aims and changes.
See the Bricks in the Wall exercise on the teambuilding games page 2.
the ampersand exercise
Quick easy idea for ice-breakers, with potential to adapt and develop for more complex learning.
Good for explaining difference between knowledge and skill, and why skills and knowledge need developing differently.
See the ampersand activity ideas on the teambuilding games page 2.
seasonal team games
See the Seasonal Team Activities Ideas on teambuilding games page 2.
See Quizballs 29 - twenty questions and answers for parties and team games.
cartoon and celebrity role-plays (quick character profiles and scenarios for role-playing)
Do you struggle sometimes to find or compile case-studies for role-playing activities?
Easy quick ideas for enjoyable role-plays - for appraisals, interviews, counselling, discipline, coaching and more.
See the cartoon role-play ideas on the teambuilding games page 2.
obituaries (personal destiny, life goals, getting control of direction and purpose)
For encouraging a deeper review of personal potential and life purpose.
See the obituaries exercise on teambuilding games page 2.
telephone chatting activities (team-building for home-based staff, telephone skills exercises, remote teams relationships)
Home-based staff and remote teams miss out on the valuable social contact normally available to office-based teams.
Personal interaction between staff (typically chatting and engaging in the canteen, elevator, lounge areas, etc) is crucial for developing relationships and mutual awareness among teams, so if teams do not meet frequently then the leader must devise ways to enable this personal interaction to happen.
More background and some ideas in the chatting exercises on the teambuilding games page 2.
Ideas you can develop and have fun using. See the quickies on the teambuilding exercises page 2.
visualisation exercises (lifting limits, identifying personal potential, direction)
A simple activity for groups or teams of any size - individuals too - for visualising and imagining doing something different and special with our life.
See the visualisation exercise on the other team exercises page 2.
stress reduction techniques (stress reduction ideas and understanding, for self or others, or teams)
The quick stress reduction techniques on the stress management page aren't teambuilding activities as such.
However they can provide interesting ideas for dealing with stress and helping and teaching others about stress reduction.
The ideas can also be used to reduce tension in certain types of teams and meetings, for ice-breakers or diversions, to demonstrate aspects of mind-body connection and its relevance to attitude, frame of mind, self-control, and also aspects of NLP, positive visualisation, lateral thinking, lifting limits, and no doubt lots more too.
The chief effect of these very simple exercises is to change the environment and atmosphere, and thereby the 'mindset', which is a basis for all sorts of development, quite aside from the benefits of reducing someone's stress levels.
The 'I am' page helps to illustrate and explain the power of positive visualisation and 'self-talking' which is a strong element within the second of the three stress reduction ideas.
team skipping (team-building and just about anything else)
Looking for something very different, lively and flexible?
With lots of fun and team-work and interaction?
See the team skipping activities ideas on the teambuilding games page 2.
isolation and intuition team exercises (relationships, bullying and harassment, diversity, intuitive demonstrations)
Two team exercises for groups of any size exploring intuition and isolation, which can be used to support learning about relationships and feelings.
The isolation and intuition activities are on the other teambuilding games page 2.
Both activities are highly flexible and can be adapted for local circumstances.
age diversity exercises for teams (age discrimination training, ageism awareness, diversity development)
With the introduction of Age Discrimination legislation, (UK 2006, superceded 2010 by the Equality Act, and consistent with European law), there is an increased need to raise awareness and to teach people about ageism and age discrimination.
Ideas for activities and exercises to highlight Age Discrimination and Diversity issues are on the other team-building games page (2).
We all, irrespective of age, race, religion, gender, disability, etc., have our own special capabilities and strengths, and it is these capabilities and strengths that good organisations must seek to identify, assess, encourage and utilise, regardless of age or other potentially discriminatory factors.
shot at dawn discussion (morality, leadership integrity, etc)
An emotional subject which enables a variety of discussions about morality, ethics and integrity in institutions, the pressures on people in authority which cloud decisions, and the need for us all to take an interest in the humanitarian and ethical conduct of leaders.
See the 'Shot At Dawn' lessons discussion and ideas on the other team-building activities page 2.
corporate globalization debate activity (exercise and warm-up ideas for exploring corporate globalisation issues)
An entertaining and stimulating way to start any meeting or session involving or relating to corporate globalisation and/or the influence of the modern digital age and the worldwide web.
Corporate Globalization Debate Exercise and Ideas are on the other teambuilding games page 2.
speeches exercises (warm-ups and ice-breakers, presentation skills and public speaking, motivation, inspiration and leadership)
A very flexible activity to develop understanding and confidence for speaking to groups, which can be adapted for many different situations. See the speech exercises on the other team-building games page (2).
corporate life-cycle exercises (organisational understanding for selling, management, own-organisation awareness)
Simple quick exercises ideas for explaining and developing understanding of how organisations develop and change.
world cup/major event exercises (debating, presentation, understanding strategy, management, etc)
If delegates want to discuss the state of football and England's performance, or the aftermath of any major sporting or entertainment event, here are a few quick easy ideas for directing team members' enthusiasms towards useful outcomes for learning, development and team-building, etc.
See the World Cup Antidote Exercises on the other team-building activities page.
See also the Football quiz questions and answers.
baking foil construction exercises
See the ideas for working with this simulating material in the baking foil games on the other team building page.
Look also below at the newspaper construction games which provide other ideas for using baking foil.
triple bottom line exercise (understanding and developing ethical organisations)
See this empowering profit-people-planet activity on the other team-building page. This activity can also be used in development workshops. It is a very flexible exercise and will help bring to life the increasing rhetoric (at last) about ethical organisations, 'Fairtrade', sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and well-being. It sounds great, but how do you make it happen? Start by understanding what it all means.
This idea is so good that it deserves a section all of its own. See the Fantasticat page.
teambuilding games and activities page 1
The following games and exercises are shown in full on this webpage.
development forum 'gameshow' activity (beyond team-building games - alignment and development of people and organisation - powerful change enabler)
This might be the most powerful activity for people in organisations on this page. Perhaps ever. Try it and see. It contains some radical and innovative organisational development principles. These ideas will be too much for many organisations to handle, not to mention certain CEO's who will pooh their pants at the very thought of it all. It goes way beyond team-building games and pure team-building activities. See what you think:
The activity is particularly ideal for conference or auditorium situations. Big company gatherings to 'motivate' everyone. You know the sort of thing... The CEO says to the HR department, "Guys, we've got this conference coming up. All the staff will be there. I'm going to open it up and give everyone a great big bollocking, I mean pep-talk. Yes, Pep-talk. Get everyone motivated and focused on the new challenges ahead. The need for everyone to learn new skills, to be more customer focused, more joined-up, to be more committed and to adapt to all the changes that we need to make, including the ever-increasing risk of redundancy (so that I can float this baby in a couple of years and make a bloody fortune/so that headquarters/central government can meet its efficiency gains and targets)..."
"Go on.." says the HR team, (thinking, "Is he in the real world?...")
And predictably the CEO continues: "So, after I've warmed them up - an hour or so should do it - it's over to you guys to put together some activities which will get everyone involved and focused on the changes they need to make, so they can all improve their skills, increase service levels, save time and money, take the burden off their managers, and generally come up with some ideas for becoming more effective. Empowerment they call it don't they? I want to empower them all to be more productive. And to stop all the whingeing and moaning. That would be good too. Oh, and by the way we've got no money to spend on it; the hotel is costing us a bleeding fortune as it is."
And then it's over to you.
And here's what you do:
First resist the temptation to leave the company. The people need you. And you like a challenge. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, remember.
Second, think about using this activity and then discuss it with your CEO. If he/she likes the idea you've half a chance that they'll allow you to go through with it:
the development forum 'gameshow' activity
It's for a large group - especially at a conference or corporate presentation - group size between about 50 up to 250 people as an ideal maximum, although double this is possible with some organisational and logistical tweaks. Eight teams of fifteen people, ie, 120 people is an example of a workable team structure. Other team sizes and combinations are perfectly possible. The activity can take between two and four hours, although less or more than this is possible with careful facilitation and structuring.
The object of this activity is to engage the participants in:
- thinking deeply about their own development and how to optimise it, and
- working together to suggest how the organisation can improve.
The activity, and the planning leading up to it, will hopefully help the CEO and senior managers to understand more about their responsibilities for their people and their organisation, and perhaps to reappraise their leadership philosophy and purpose.
Important outcomes of this activity will be that:
- people begin to align more closely with the organisation, and crucially: vice-versa
- people start to think differently about the organisation - "it can be more than a job if you want it to be.."
- the organisation gets to hear and see what its people are truly capable of
- the organisation hears how its people can and want to help improve themselves and the organisation
- the organisation (and particularly the CEO) commits to supporting its people in doing the above
Make no mistake - this is not for the faint-hearted - this is not for CEO's and organisations who say one thing and then do another. This is not for organisations and CEO's who want to line their own pockets and don't give a shite about their people. This activity is more than a game - it's a philosophy.
Split the group into teams of function or job type. Between four and a dozen teams, up to about twenty people per team. If you have more than twenty in a single team split the team into two, for example, 'customer service north' and 'customer service south'.
Organise the seating so that team members are sitting together - either around their own team table, or in blocks if the seating is fixed in a theatre or auditorium. Imagine the BBC 'Test the Nation' studio format if you've seen it. Each team contains people of a similar responsibility/role/function, playing together as a team.
Teams need to appoint a team leader, and this responsibility can rotate so a number of team members experience the responsibility. Team leaders are responsible for ensuring that everyone in the team has the opportunity to contribute. Setting up sub-teams within teams is perfectly okay if it ensures everyone has greater input. This can be at each team leader's discretion.
An optional exercise at this point is to ask each team to design and make their own team flag, representing the strengths/values/philosophy/challenges of their team. Materials and timings at the discretion of the facilitator depending on the event. This is an optional quick introductory exercise - no need to spend ages on it. Don't do it if the people want to get on with the business at hand, which will very commonly be the case.
The facilitator (a sort of quiz-master or compere role) must prepare suitable questions in advance, and it is essential to involve the CEO in doing this because there are big implications that need buy-in and support from the top. Failure to do this will expose the facilitator/organiser and disappoint the people when nothing happens afterwards. A central aim for this activity is that outputs must be followed up.
The questions must be carefully designed and powerful, to get people thinking about:
- their own personal strengths, passions, (including hobbies and pastimes), dreams, ambitions, and how these relate (because they do - believe me) to their effectiveness, happiness, maturity, tolerance, creativity, resilience, adaptability, and value etc., as people at work, and
- their ideas and suggestions for how the organisation - in any and every way - can be improved; from personal development relating to job skills and whole-person development, to customer service and quality of delivery, management, communications and IT, health and safety, ethics and corporate social responsibility - the whole shebang.
The basic format of the activity is:
The whole gathering is asked a question. Teams confer amongst themselves, and appointed spokes-people give the answers for their own team in turn. All the answers for a question are reviewed, and then voted on to identify which answer(s) are considered best by all teams, or a 1-2-3 ranking of the three best liked answers. Then the facilitator moves on to the next question. Allowing 30 minutes per question (this will vary according to type of question, number of teams, etc), you can see that a two hour event will allow four questions at most, so plan carefully. Careful design of questions is very important.
Here's an example of a question:
What does each team consider to be its three greatest personal passions, outside work? And how might each of these passions, if developed further, benefit the person at work, the organisation and the customers and suppliers of the organisation? (Obviously a team of fifteen or twenty people will represent more than three 'passions' - in which case guide the teams towards discussing and selecting the best three from within their own team.)
Before teams begin to consider the question, the facilitator will need at this point to help people understand and believe the extent to which each person's passion (each person's special capabilities, loves, and they dreams they pursue, typically outside work) relates to their development as individuals, their personal fulfilment, and how valuable and transferable these skills, knowledge, behaviour and experiences are to the organisation and their work. (You will probably need to explain this to the CEO before planning this event as well, and if he doesn't see it then proceed with caution unless you're lucky enough to have a CEO who is blessed in the 'blind faith' department.)
The teams are then given a few minutes to confer and consider their answers. To an extent you need to be flexible in how long you allow - there's no point in cutting useful discussion short if you can adjust the schedule accordingly.
After an agreed/suitable time period, each team's spokes-person gives their team's answers in turn, which are recorded by the facilitator on stage or at the front of the auditorium, on a suitable viewing system (flip-chart sheets and blu-tack are perfectly okay if you like to use them) so all teams can see every other team's answers.
Review and invite questions and comments from the participants.
Then ask the teams to cast votes for each of the other team's answers, by which the facilitator then allocates scores for each team. The scoring system for the activity is flexible at the discretion of the facilitator, but must obviously be consistent and fair. For example ask each team to confer and award three votes for the best answer, two points for 2nd best, and one point for 3rd best.
(You have the option to award prizes for teams and individuals during and certainly at the end of the activity. Be creative and think about these prizes - think about some awards which relate to people's personal passions and interests - not just bottles of booze.)
Example of next question:
Choosing one passion from your team's suggestions, or from another team's suggestions, which relates to significant and valuable personal development and organisational benefit, suggest a way which the organisation can help people to develop that passion, with all the skills, experiences and learning involved. (The organisation must, after the event, consider all of these ideas, and try to help make them happen where possible - so people should try to come up with ideas that are practicable and realistic - and which demonstrate a good result and benefit for people and the organisation, relative to the efforts and costs involved.)
You get the idea? It's serious stuff. It extends development way beyond job skills into life skills - develop the whole person - and the organisation must see that this is important too.
Follow this format using other carefully designed powerful questions.
Here are examples of questions relating to organisational development:
Consider and suggest three ways that the organisation can improve its communications and cooperation between departments.
Consider and suggest three ways that the organisation could involve its people earlier in responding to the need for organisational change.
If you were the CEO how would you treat people differently compared to current practices?
In what ways could the organisation reshape its aims so that people find it easier to support and align with them?
Provide three examples of obvious daft management practice that need sorting out desperately, preferably with some suggested remedial actions.
What's wrong with this organisation that even a ten-year-old child could see in a day of being here?
How can the organisation provide more personal meaning and relevance to you in your work?
At the completion of the activity you will have received a vast amount of well-considered suggestions, ideas, feedback and information about your people and their capabilities. You will see how different functional teams view each other and the organisation. You will receive and give people the opportunity to contribute significant ideas and suggestions for improving the organisation's weaknesses and failings, in any aspect that you wish to expose (you are asking the questions, remember).
If you focus on personal development, you will understand and appreciate, and help your people to understand and appreciate, that the most important characteristics, skills, and experiences are those which people can develop for life, not just to meet the needs of a job skills analysis, or a flaky appraisal process that just goes through the motions.
Certain roles offer more obvious opportunities to overlap development for life and development for work - ie, to develop job performance and capability through developing the whole person. Other jobs might initially seem to offer no overlap at all, but be assured, all jobs offer plenty of potential overlap between the person's life development and job/organisational benefit. Truck drivers have dreams too. So do shop-workers. So do labourers, cleaners and soldiers. We all have dreams and passions that we want to follow and related capabilities that we want to develop, many of which are extremely and directly transferable to work performance. In fact I'd challenge anyone to think of a job role that would not gain from developing the job-holder's whole-life passion or dream or true potential. Try me, send me any suggestions where you think no overlap exists and I'll show you where it does and publish the examples here.
Aside from transferable capabilities, there is also the effect on a person's general state of well-being and feeling of self-worth. When people develop as people they become more mature and tolerant. They become more peaceful and contented with themselves. They become more self-managing, self-reliant, self-determining, confident, helpful, considerate - you name it, they become better people. Isn't that what we want in organisations - grown-up self-sufficient people who largely manage, motivate and look after themselves?
Even the CEO who doesn't give a tuppenny-haypenny shite about the people - he still wants these qualities in his people, doesn't he?
X-Theory directors everywhere - wake up and smell the bleeding coffee - help your people develop as people, in the ways they want to, and your organisation will fly.
One day all organisations will achieve sustainable success when they align themselves with their people's whole-person whole-life needs, and when they do everything possible to help people develop as people for life, not just for work. This activity framework will provide a useful and stimulating introduction to that philosophy; for the leaders - even the X-Theory dinosaurs - and the people.
Be a pioneer. Make a difference.
simple train the trainer exercises (training people how to train and coach, writing a simple training plan)
This is a very simple exercise to help people learn how to write training plans, and to learn how to train and coach others. The activity is groups of any size, subject to splitting large groups into teams of 6-12 people. Rotate roles of trainer, trainee(s) and observers. Ask delegates to each write down on a slip of paper a simple task that takes 1-2 minutes to perform, and which can be performed using materials or items available at the session - for example making a paper aeroplane to a specific design, or sending text message - simple things. Delegates must then fold their slips of paper and place in the middle of the table. Then ask delegates to pick (blind) a task, for which they must then write a training, and then (picked at random) use the plan to train one or a number of delegates how to perform the task. Observers and trainees give feedback after the task, as to how well the training plan worked and was delivered. Points to cover in the review are: communication style, listening, clarity of instruction, checking understanding, encouragement, accentuating the positive, giving constructive criticism, transferability of training plan to another trainer who is less familiar with the task, etc. Refer to any or all of these theories and models, depending on the depth and complexity of activity required. Bloom's Taxonomy, and training and developing others theory. Extend the exercise by referring to Kolb's Learning Styles, Gardner's Multiple Intelligences and VAK Learning Model, and to training evaluation and Kirkpatrick's evaluation model.
'maps' game (team-building, ice-breakers, warm-ups, planning and organising, geography, international business, exporting)
This is a simple activity with lots of variations, to suit many games requirements. For groups of any size, split the group into teams of up to five people per team. This also works as an individual exercise and for pairs and teams of three, although obviously the team-building benefit increases with the size of the teams. Issue each team with a sheet of flip-chart paper, a pencil and a marker pen, and give them five minutes to draw a map of a part of the world, for example, Europe, Africa, South America, the states of the USA, Asia, the counties of England, Scotland, Wales, etc. Anywhere that might relate to the group and its responsibilities or territory. It's a challenging exercise which is a lot of fun when teams display and compare their maps. Increase the degree of difficulty by asking for capital cities or county/state capital towns to be added, or populations estimates, etc. Reduce the level of difficulty by providing a list of countries or states or counties, towns, statistics, etc., which people can then work from. Orientate the exercise to your own organisation or business by asking for information to be mapped relating to your key customers, branches, markets, etc., - anything that's relevant to your purposes. As the facilitator all you need is a copy of the correct version to issue to groups afterwards. The exercise is good for people of all ages, including youngsters.
exercises and ice-breakers for subject-specific training (for example, first aid training, health and safety, customer service, etc)
It is easy to devise exercises, activities, ice-breakers and games for specific subject training, such as first aid, trade-skills, driving, health and safety, etc., by adapting other generic exercises, and particularly the two examples below. Look at generic exercises and insert your particular subject or theme. Simply alter the instructions so that delegates are limited to the subject concerned, be it customer service, safety, or in these examples, first aid:
A simple ice-breaker idea for group or team introductions:
1. Ask people to think of two personal first aid (or customer service, health and safety, etc, etc) experiences from their past - one good and one bad. Then ask each person to describe their experiences briefly in turn to the group. Note the key points on a flip chart.
Another ice-breaker and participation activity:
2. Put as many different items of first aid (or other items relevant to specific training subject) as there are delegates, into the middle of the table. In turn each delegate must close their eyes and reach out to touch an item. The one they touch they must then briefly describe a personal incident or witnessed incident featuring the item. Note the key points on a flip chart.
In both of these exercises decide before-hand how to review the experiences and examples given, for example, start a brainstorm session with the group, have a group discussion, summarise the key learning points, summarise the key areas of interest among people, discuss the difference between feelings and apparent problem/success/outcome.
The simple exercises above will adapt to suit virtually any theme or subject that you wish to teach or train.
statements exercises (ice-breakers, recruitmentgroup selection activities, team-building, identifying coaching needs, attitude and motivational development)
A very flexible activity. For groups of any size. Split the group into teams of four to five members. For larger groups the split teams can self-facilitate provided you explain the exercise and keep an eye on things. If the group size is no more than four or five obviously you facilitate.
Prepare a number of 'statement cards' (or pieces of paper) each containing a different statement, (statements to suit your purposes - examples below).
Team members then pick (blind) a statement and complete it by adding their own words aloud to the team. Each team member does this for each statement in turn. Then a different team member picks a new statement and the process continues. Encourage the team to discuss briefly the important points arising of opportunity, threat, and consensus (agreement) for each statement, and to 'park' these points on a flip-chart or sheet of paper for review later when all teams reconvene as a whole group.
|Statements for a session on general work attitudes and opportunities:||Statements for a session about improving service levels:||Statements for a session about developing and using people's potential:||Statements for a session about ideas for improving morale:||Statements for a session on personal feelings and social views :|
|I most enjoy about
I least enjoy about work....
I hate it when my boss...
Working in my current team...
The biggest opportunity...
|Customers would be
Meetings with customers....
We could improve...
Staff can help...
I could instead...
If managers let/help us we could...
To be more effective I'd...
|Information about the
Staff would be more committed...
People would attend/want training...
A career here....
I like it when...
My favourite place...
Family and friends...
(ice-breaker only - no need for significant review)
You get the idea... Preparation for this activity takes just a couple of minutes: to think of a suitable subject area and purpose, to think of suitable statement beginnings (the less words the better because it enables people more interpretation freedom) and then to type or write them onto a sheet, and cut into separate cards or slips of paper - one statement per card/slip.
A variation on the exercise, and even easier to prepare, is to invite the team members to write their own statement beginnings onto a slip of paper each, fold the paper and put into the middle of the table with other people's statements, and have the team pick and speak about each one in turn.
When creating (or instructing the team to create) statements, try to accentuate the positive rather than inviting people to be negative, although if there are serious negatives you are best knowing about them than not.
(Developed from a suggestion by F Kelly)
'personality tree' exercise (self-awareness, mutual awareness, Johari development, team-building and bonding)
For any group size. This interesting activity will take 30-60 minutes. Split the group into teams of three to five people. Explain first that there is not necessarily any psychological correlation between what you are about to ask the group to do, and the personalities of the group (probably.... it's a bit of fun). The purpose of the activity is to develop personal self-awareness, to develop mutual awareness among the teams' members, to stimulate feedback from other team members, and generally to assist team-building and bonding through getting to know each other better. The activity helps Johari Window development, which is a useful reference model for the teams. The exercise is simple: Issue each team of 3-5 people with coloured pens, markers, or crayons, and a sheet of paper per team member (A4 is fine, bigger sheets are great if there's enough room and some big marker pens or paints and brushes).
Each team member's task is to draw or paint a tree on their sheet. The tree must include root system, trunk, branches, leaves, buds, fruit, flowers and thorns. After (or before - the choice is yours) the trees are drawn use this 'key' to ask the participants to think about their trees in terms of their:
- roots = their life influences and beliefs
- trunk = life structure and particularly aspects that are quite firm and fixed
- branches = relationships and connections, directions, interests, how they spend time
- leaves = information and knowledge - and sources thereof
- buds = their ideas and hopes for the future, and their potential
- fruit = their achievements
- flowers = what makes them special, their strengths
- thorns = challenges, threats and difficulties
Ask team members to share and discuss their trees and interpretations with each other within their teams. Emphasise the usefulness of empathic listening and non-judgemental feedback.
The duration of the exercise is flexible depending on the type of people, and the need, benefit and willingness for sharing personal feelings. Adapt the key above to suit the areas of discussion you seek to encourage, for example you could add birds and bees to the situation to represent temporary 'partnerships' or travel or holidays; or you could add windfall dead branches and leaves to represent discarded 'baggage'; or change 'leaves' to mean 'skills', 'buds' to mean opportunities, etc. You can remove items altogether if they are not relevant to the situation.
(Ack F Kelly)
the 'dalai lama' personality test (ice-breaker, bit of nonsense, light relief for boring meetings, etc)
The famous 'Dali Lama' personality test seems to have started as a chain letter and email around the year 2000. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Dalai Lama, and as a psychometrics instrument it has no standing at all, other than being top of the personality testing category loosely referred to as 'a load of nonsense'. The test appears in many varying presentational formats, which commonly promise lifelong happiness, wealth, avoidance of plague and pestilence, plenty of sex, yachts, etc., but the essential 'test' elements are consistent. It's a bit of fun and no more. If you know of any research that says otherwise please send it to me. Meanwhile use it with a pinch of salt and a firm disclaimer..
Question 1. Write down the following five animals in the order of your preference: Cow Tiger Sheep Horse Pig
Question 2. Write a word to describe each one of the following (preferably write five different describing words): Dog Cat Rat Coffee Sea
Question 3. Write down the name of a different person whom you associate with each of these five colours (each person must be known to you and important to you): Yellow Orange Red White Green
Question 4. (In the typical 'Dalai Lama chain letter email, question 4 asks for the person's favourite number and favourite day of the week, and subsequently links the answers to respectively: the number of friends to forward the email/letter to, and the day of the week on which the person's wish will come true, so it's as well to exclude question 4, unless you position it purely as a bit of nonsense.)
(At this point the chain letter normally suggests, for extra gravitas..."Be sure that your answers are what you really feel..." and then invites the respondent to make a wish.. world peace, meeting this month's target, a modest win on the lottery, Torquay United to avoid relegtion...)
After people have written down and thought about their answers, you can reveal the interpretations....
Question 1 interpretation (Write down the following five animals in the order of your preference: Cow Tiger Sheep Horse Pig):
- Cow = CAREER
- Tiger = PRIDE
- Sheep = LOVE
- Horse = FAMILY
- Pig = MONEY
Question 2 interpretation (Write a word that describes each
one of the following: Dog Cat Rat Coffee Sea).
The descriptive words are supposedly how you see or feel about:
- Dog = your own personality
- Cat = your partner
- Rat = your enemy or enemies
- Coffee = sex
- Sea = your life
Question 3 interpretation (Write down the name of a different person whom you associate with each of these five colours: Yellow Orange Red White Green). The people whom you identify with each colour are supposedly:
- Yellow = a person you will never forget
- Orange = a true friend
- Red = a person you really love
- White = your twin soul or soul-mate
- Green = a person you will remember for the rest of your life (this is the usual interpretation of the Green person, although observant readers will notice that it is effectively the same as the Yellow person, so for added interest, here is an alternative more interesting Green):
- Green = someone who can teach you a lot about yourself
Just for interest only, the chain email/letter version added additional incentive for continuing the chain with the promise that by forwarding the message (or 'mantra') to specifed numbers of people "...your life will improve..." according to the following scale:
- 0-4 persons = slightly (steady now..)
- 5-9 persons = to your liking
- 9-14 persons = you will have at least 5 surprises in the next three weeks (presumably nice surprises..)
- 15 or more persons = your life will improve drastically and "all that you have always dreamed will take shape.." (or words to that effect)
And the chain letter typically ends with a final sign-off: "If someone does not smile at you, be generous and offer your own smile. Nobody needs more a smile than the one that cannot smile to others..." (which in itself is no bad thing to advocate - see Smile).
For the more mischievous among you, and especially for an audience who might already have encountered the Dalai Lama test and think they know it all, here is an alternative Dalai Lama personality test and and answer interpretations, which is an even bigger load of nonsense than the one above.
autograph collecting exercise (introductions, team-building, ice-breakers, self-expression and creativity)
A simple activity for groups of any size. Eight to twelve is ideal. Groups of more then fifteen should be split, for instance a group of fifty could be split into five groups of ten. The bigger the teams the longer the exercise takes. Issue to each team member a sheet of paper and a different coloured pen or pencil (number of different colours is a factor affective teams sizes - different colours are helpful, but not absolutely essential). Ask each person to draw a matchstick person about two inches high (representing themselves) on their sheet (landscape way around), and to write their name or autograph (legibly) beneath it. Then ask the team members to move around the room among their team, asking other team members to add their matchstick images and autographs, so as to collect matchstick images and signatures. While collecting images and autographs encourage teams to discuss their interests and backgrounds, and to focus on people's names and characteristics, so as to reinforce retention of names. The exercise is complete when all teams have completed their collections of other teams members. See the variation to this exercise below:
'personal logos' exercise variation
To increase the creative and expressive aspects of the above activity, the exercise can be altered by asking first, (instead of using matchstick people images), that team members should devise a personal logo or symbol to represent themselves (something simple, quick, recognisable), which they should use instead of the matchstick person. In all other respects the exercise can be played out unchanged. This adapted version does not necessarily require coloured pens.
The activity is for people and teams of any job-roles and ages. Young people will especially enjoy it.
The adapted exercise can be extended by discussing the mix of strengths and capabilities in each of the teams or the group as a whole.. Again the Johari Window is a useful reference model.
(Adapted from a suggestion by F Kelly)
getting to know you exercise (introductions and ice-breakers, team-building)
An activity for any group size. This simple exercise takes 5-15 minutes and encourages people to get to know each other, and to feel relaxed and involved in group situations. The activity also helps team-building where teams have worked with each other for some while but perhaps do not know each other well. Split the group into teams of threes or fours. Ask them to get to know each other within each team, by giving their names, and to discover a common interest among the members of their team. At the end of the discussion period, say 5 minutes, the facilitator has the option to extend the exercise by asking the teams to each nominate a spokes-person who must then explain briefly the nature and benefit of their own team's common interest. The Johari Window is a useful reference model. Where group members know each other and the emphasis is on team-building, then more emphasis should be put on the requirement to present a common interest in which all team members agree a common benefit.
(Ack Fionnghuala Kelly)
toilet roll ice-breaker (for amusing warm-ups, group introductions, icebreakers)
This is a really quick and simple ice-breaker, especially for enabling people in a group to know each other in a fun way. For groups of four to around dozen people; split larger groups into smaller teams (the exercise works just as well), in which case apply these instructions for each of the teams. Pass or toss a toilet roll to one of the group members. Ask the person to tear off as many sheets as they want and then pass or toss the roll to another member of the group to do the same, and then on to another member to include the whole group. (Tossing the roll at random is more fun as it increases fun and expectation). Do not explain the purpose yet. Some will take two or three sheets, some will take more. This, and the interpretations made, will generate a lot of amusement and comment. Be sure to have a spare roll on hand, and obviously if splitting the group into teams ensure sufficient supplies for each team. You then reveal the purpose: each individual must give as many facts about themselves according to how many pieces of toilet roll they have. Those with the most modest requirements will therefore need to say least; those tearing off a couple of dozen sheets will be under a little more pressure...
This quick exercise can also be used for deciding sequence, for example the order in which people give presentations (in which case adjust the rule so that each person can tear off a number of sheets within a range equating to the number of people in the team, and not the same number as any other team member).
The activity can be used for any situation where people are required to perform a number of actions or focus on a number of subjects.
The activity can also be extended to create team building games, for example:
After each person has removed their chosen number of sheets, split the group into the "have's" and "have-less's", and give each side three minutes to prepare a 60 second statement justifying the merits of 'ambition' and 'modesty' respectively. Or for three teams (the "have's" the "have-somes and the "have-littles") to prepare and present respectively on 'adventure', 'pragmatism' and 'caution'.
(Ice-breaker idea courtesy Pam Cook, adapted from an original exercise featured in The Encyclopedia of Ice-Breakers by Sue Forbess Green)
personal possessions listening exercises (listening skills, interpreting feelings, telephone listening skills)
A simple quick exercise or warm-up activity for listening skills, particularly for telephone, call-centre and customer service staff. For groups of any size. Ask the group to each think of and select a personal possession which holds some meaning for them individually, which they currently have with them on them - a purse, wallet, piece of jewellery, watch, pen, mobile phone, set of keys, etc. Each person should write down their object and name on piece of paper, fold it up, and place it in the middle of the table. Then the facilitator should ask one of the delegates to pick at random one of the pieces of folded paper. This person named on the paper should then place their selected object in front of them on the table and describe it briefly to the group, and explain what and why it means to them (briefly). The group should be instructed to listen to the person's feelings about the object, so as to comment and discuss their interpretations after the person has spoken. The person and the facilitator can give feedback to the group about how well the group has interpreted what was said and the feelings behind it. Ask the group particularly to listen and interpret what the object means to the owner. Certain objects will be very meaningful; others less so. There are no 'best' objects - all objects will provide useful examples of different feelings and meanings - whether important, personal, functional, disposable, sentimental, priceless or whatever. After the first round of discussion pick another piece of paper and repeat the exercise, progressively exploring how feelings are conveyed, and how to interpret them, with each person's object. Vary the exercise, increase the challenge, and simulate telephone conversations by having people listen 'blind' with eyes closed, so that people cannot see the object or see the speaker's face. For larger groups, split the group into teams of smaller numbers and appoint team facilitators, so that everyone can have their turn at describing their own personal possession, in which case organise team sizes to suit the time available.
'joining instructions' ice-breaker (warm-ups, team-working, cooperation, virtual team-building, 'joined up' teams)
A really simple activity for ice-breakers and team introductions, and great for demonstrating the need for communications and team-working when developing virtual teams and a 'joined up' approach. For any group size and any ages and level of ability and seniority. Split the group into teams of equal numbers between three and ten people. Ask the teams to stand and form into clusters. The exercise is a test of cooperation, coordination and communication. No materials are required. The facilitator calls out (and displays on a flip-chart) an instruction by which each team's members should join with each other, for example: twelve fingers, three thumbs, two elbows, one shoulder and two knees. Each team must then work out as quickly as possible how to achieve the 'joining instructions'. When properly joined the team can shout out 'joined' for the facilitator to check they've won the round. Scores can be kept and the game played over several rounds. Obviously, different joining instructions will create different pressures on the teams to think and adapt. The facilitator should think about joining instructions to use, mindful of the likely group and team sizes. Ensure the joining instructions given are physically possible, and enable all team members to be involved (which is generally ensured by including lots of fingers in the instructions). It's preferable to state that joined solutions should involve all team members. Other examples of joining instructions, depending on team sizes:
- Six knees and twenty five fingers.
- Four elbows, three ears, ten fingers one thumb.
- Three hands, three wrists, ten fingers and two ankles.
- Twenty three fingers, three shoulders, three noses and a chair.
- Three toes, a thigh, a forehead, thirty fingers, a wall and a table.
- Ten fingers, ten thumbs, two elbows, two knees, and three credit cards.
- Six fingers, six thumbs, two ankles, a mobile phone and a calculator.
For the avoidance of (additional) confusion, a hand is just a hand, and cannot also be counted as four fingers and a thumb. Inclusion of inanimate objects is absolutely fine, in which case it's best to confirm that body parts connected to inanimate objects count towards the solution. Extra points for creative solutions can be awarded at the facilitator's discretion. Stipulation of bare skin contact is also at the facilitator's discretion but if in doubt do not insist on this or even offer the option (we live in a litigious world). And unless using the activity for very intimate gatherings it's advisable to exclude tongues...
confessors and critics (emotional intelligence, EQ, positive emotional responses, relationships, communications, team-working and team-building)
For groups of any size, all ages and all levels of experience. Explain to the group (briefly is okay) the basic principles of emotional intelligence (EQ). Particularly emphasise that negative emotional responses (to all sorts of stimuli, ie., 'emotional triggers') are the things that most commonly prevent and interrupt constructive adult communications, necessary for team-working, relationships (work and life, social and romantic), mutual cooperation, and healthy organizations.
Explain the exercise: the aim is to demonstrate that we are able to improve our awareness and control of our own emotional responses, and we can improve our awareness of and control over the extent to which we produce emotional responses in others. "Suffering is optional" (ack Anita Mountain). Causing other people to suffer is optional. We simply need to think about and make a commitment to develop our emotional maturity (which is the essence of adulthood and wisdom).
Split the group into pairs. Ask each person to think of a real personal weakness that they possess - for example being prone to behaviours such as: being short-tempered, domineering, too yielding, late, unreliable, disorganised, blaming others, obstructive, not eating properly, smoking, drinking, not taking exercise, sulking, etc, etc. The weakness should be real and significant enough to have some emotional feelings attached to it for the person, but not so serious as would open a can of worms and give rise to the need for several sessions of psychotherapy. One person of each pairing (for the purposes of this explanation let's call him/her the 'confessor') should then explain their weakness to their partner, like an admission and a bit of an explanation or guess as to the cause, for example: "I can be obstructive at times when I could be more helpful - perhaps it's when I'm feeling low and that people don't show me any respect," or "I come in late sometimes because I think 'why should I bother about doing a good job when I should be paid more' ". The other person in the pairing (let's call him/her the 'critic') must then demonstrate giving the 'confessor' a negative critical reaction to their admission (don't go mad - we don't want any tears please). Just a few sentences of blame, judgement, and uncaring reaction (imagine the worst teacher you had at school and how they used to treat kids who'd messed up or misbehaved, or imagine a a bullying boss you've known).
Each pair must then take a moment to think and write down how they feel, especially: the 'confessor' should think how they feel - write down a few key words. The 'critic' should try to think about the role you've just played - where did it come from in you? Can you hear yourself being like that, even to a small extent, in other situations, real situations? How does it affect the other person? If people wish they can briefly explain their feelings to their partner, but not too much because the exercise is not complete:
Then the 'critic' should demonstrate giving a positive, understanding, caring, sympathetic reaction to the 'confessor'. Not agreeing with the weakness, but understanding it and listening with your eyes to how the other person feels, and the fact that they've made this admission, which for many people requires a lot of courage. Offer to listen some more, without judgement, try to imagine how they feel, if the 'confessor' wishes to then discuss the behaviour (do not discuss the person unless the person wants to, in which case listen without judgement - it's how the other person feels that matters, not the 'critic's opinions).
Then each pause for a moment and think how you feel. What was helpful and what was not? (It's not always easy to be understanding and say the right things). Can we think of real instances where this kind of emotionally sympathetic response would have been more appropriate than the one actually displayed. How can we increase our awareness of other people's feelings and emotional sensitivities? How can we control better what we say to others? How can we control better how we feel when others fail to give us a positive emotional response? Does receiving a negative emotional response change who we are, just because another person is not able to give a positive emotional response? Do we blame others for not giving a positive emotional response? Is blame a helpful emotional response? Imagine how much more effective a team or orgnization is when people's emotional responses are positive, tolerant, understanding ('giving' in other words), rather than negative, blaming, self-indulgent, disinterested ('taking' in other words).
If you can make more time for this activity, reverse the roles and re-run the exercise to begin developing greater understanding and abilities in giving positive emotional responses.
It is helpful also to look at the Johari Window model, the Transactional Analysis early ideas, and recent TA models especially aspects of 'blame' - the mindset should be: "It's no-one's fault, blame isn't the issue - what matters is how we go forward, improve and develop."
Finally it's worth reinforcing the fact that all experiences are opportunities for learning.
Failures, weaknesses, problems and mistakes: they enable us to learn and grow wise.
birds, bees, lions and trees activity (the best of all ice-breakers and warm-ups for very large groups?..)
An exercise that is great fun, physical, and full of activity. The exercise for large groups - over 100 people - adults or children.
Ask everyone to think for a minute carefully and decide what animal (or extend to living creatures, plants, sea creatures, etc) that they each most associate themselves with (other than a human), but not to tell anyone. ("If you were an animal/living thing other than a human what would you be?...")
Then ask people to write their choice on a small piece of paper, and keep it in their pocket. (This is a way of ensuring people do not change their minds later when they see what creatures other people have chosen.)
Then ask everyone to think of a behaviour/action/sound they can perform that will represent their chosen creature/living thing (in other words, "Now, act like your chosen creature..."). Encourage people to move around the room, assuming their chosen creature is mobile of course. People choosing to be sea creatures will face extra challenge, as will anyone choosing to be a tree, or a mushroom, and this is all part of the fun. Encourage everyone to practise their action/noise (chaos and fun of course). Again encourage movement around the room (or swaying in the wind for all the beautiful trees and flowers...).
Then ask everyone (while still acting out their creature/living thing actions/noises) to look for other group members in the room who are the same as they are, and go and join them to form a group/flock/pride, etc.
Suggest to people that eventual group sizes should be no more than 10-12, although if as the facilitator you consider that other purposes will be served by allowing bigger groups sizes than this then feel free to do so.
If using the activity for very large groups, for example over 200 people, it is likely that some species groups will be quite large, for example, elephants, lions, bulls, dolphins, dogs, cats - in which case ensure you should ask people when choosing and writing down their species to think about not only their species, but also one or two other characteristics, eg, male/female, young/adult/old, sub-species (eg, Persian cat, farm cat, alley cat, or etc). The facilitator then has the option later if required (ie., if large groups appear to be forming) to ask people to use these detailed characteristics to subdivide large groups of say more than a dozen people, in which case these more detailed characteristics can only be discussed once the main species groups have been formed, and when the facilitator has given the instruction for a formed group to confer and to subdivide.
Then when everyone is formed into groups of the same/very similar species ask each group then to elect a spokesperson (who must not be the most senior person in the group, unless it is the CEO in a pride of male lions, in which case feel free to put him on the spot..). Each spokesperson must then explain (the consensus view of the species group) as to why their particular species members all chose to be that particular creature, what makes them special, and then relate/translate this to the special qualities that they as people bring to the organisation and to their work and colleagues.
For a bit of added interest you could refer to or ask the species groups if they know the collective noun for a group of their own particular species (if so it's as well that the facilitator has the answers to the more difficult ones). And if you wish and have time, and if it suits your purposes, you can extend the activity by running a team quiz competition between the species groups (you might need to join/split certain species groups to create teams with similar team numbers) - and obviously questions about species collective noun names are an appropriate source of material for a list of quiz questions (here are some unusual ones).
A final couple of points of note about this activity: Before any reorganising team numbers for possible subsequent team quiz contest, the facilitator should use the option to join together any single or very small groups of species if the people concerned might be feeling uncomfortable or isolated and worried about having to explain to the whole group why they chose to be a termite, or a lemming, or a Hoffman's two-toed sloth. But use your judgement, because on the other hand, people finding themselves the single species member of a group of one, will likely have a very interesting perspective, and might quite enjoy telling all the lions and dogs and cats etc., why it's good and special to be different to the crowd, or herd, so to speak. The facilitator of course retains the right to keep isolated in a team of one, the company practical joker who announces that he/she (it will be a he not a she..) is a common cold virus, for the duration of the quiz and for the remainder of the conference.
skills and attitudes exercise (management and leadership training, encouraging self-development, developing confidence and lifting limits)
People commonly believe that skills are the most important attributes and the biggest training priorities. Often they are not. Usually lifting beliefs and changing attitudes have a far greater impact on individual performance and organisational effectiveness. This simple exercise helps to explain the differences between skills and attitude, and why attitude is so much more important than skill. The activity is for groups of any size, although you can split large groups into smaller teams with appointed team leaders to run the exercise in syndicates, and then review the different teams' findings afterwards as a whole group.
First, using a flip chart, brainstorm with the team their ideas of great managers and leaders - can be real and fictional - famous, celebrity, local business personalities - whatever. Allow a few minutes to collect a selection of names. Tack this sheet to the wall. Then ask the team to call out what they think are the attributes most associated with the various names on the list, that make them good at what they do. In any order, doesn't matter. Write these attributes on the flip chart. Then ask one of the more dominant delegates to come to the front and circle all the 'skills' on the sheet, with the help of the team, and the facilitator if necessary. There will be hardly any. Next ask a quiet team member to come to the front and circle all the 'attitudes' on the sheet. It will be most of them.
The point for discussion is that while a certain skill level is necessary to do a job, the fact is that attitude determines whether the job is done well, and whether the job holder makes a real difference to their organisation, colleagues and environment.
leading or managing exercise (management and leadership development, team development, virtual teams, supervisory development)
Many people confuse or merge the different attributes of management and leadership. This exercise enables people to understand the differences. Anyone can lead, inspire, motivate others. Leadership is not the exclusive responsibility of the CEO, directors and senior managers. Encourage staff at all levels to aspire to and apply the principles of good leadership, and the whole organization will benefit. Everyone, in their own way, can be a leader. In fact organizations which have poor leadership at the top actually provide a great opportunity for ordinary staff and junior managers take responsibility for leading, inspiring and helping to develop others. Don't wait to be led - be a leader yourself!
Here is a list of many things that managers and leaders do. Either issue the list, or preferably make (or ask the team to make) separate cards or post-it notes for each word/phrase, which can be given to a group or team. Then ask the participants to identify the items that are associated with managing, and those that are associated with leading. Groups of over five people can be spilt into teams of three, to enable fuller participation and a variety of answers for review and discussion. Each team must have their own space to organise their answers. Different teams can be given different items to work with or a whole set for each team. Manage the quantities and scale according to the situation and time. NB To shorten and simplify the exercise remove items for which similar terms exist, and combine other similar items, for example reporting and monitoring. If shortening the list ensure you keep a balance between management and leadership items. See the Leadership Theories page for more detail about leadership models and concepts, etc., and a more detailed presentation of the differences outlined below.
applying rules and policies
being honest with people
consulting with team
giving responsibility to others
defining aims and objectives
doing the right thing
taking people with you
working alongside team members
sharing a vision with team members
making painful decisions
selling and persuading
doing things right
getting people to do things
giving constructive feedback
accepting criticism and suggestions
allowing the team to make mistakes
taking responsibility for others' mistakes
formal team briefing
responding to emails
reacting to requests
nurturing and growing people
identifying the need for action
acting with integrity
If using post-it notes or another method enabling items to be stuck to a wall (for example cards and 'blu-tack' putty), you can suggest that items be placed on either side of a vertical line or string (attach headings 'leadership' or 'management' to each side), in which case the strength of association that each item has with either heading can be indicated by how close each item is positioned in relation to the dividing line (items that are felt to be both managing and leading can be stuck on the dividing line). The significance and importance of each item can be indicated by how high up the wall it is positioned. This creates a highly visual of 'map' of management and leadership competencies. The review discussion should investigate reasons and examples for why items are positioned, which can entail items being moved around to each team's or whole group's satisfaction and agreement.
Here's the list sorted into suggested categories for the facilitator to use when reviewing the activity. The answers are not absolute as context and style can affect category. There is certainly a justification for some of the 'managing' activities to appear in the 'leading' category if the style of performing them is explained as such, for instance 'reporting the performance of the team in a way that attributes praise and credit to the team' would be an activity associated with leadership, whereas 'reporting' is a basic management duty. You can add tasks, duties, responsibilities and behaviours to the list, and/or invite team members to add to the list with ideas or specific examples, before the exercise. To shorten and simplify the exercise remove items for which similar terms exist, and combine other similar items, for example reporting and monitoring.
applying rules and policies
selling and persuading
doing things right
getting people to do things
formal team briefing
responding to emails
reacting to requests
identifying the need for action
consulting with team
giving responsibility to others
making painful decisions
defining aims and objectives
being honest with people
working alongside team members
sharing a vision with team members
doing the right thing
taking people with you
allowing the team to make mistakes
taking responsibility for mistakes
nurturing and growing people
giving constructive feedback
accepting criticism and suggestions
acting with integrity
(Developed from a suggestion by Sheila Caldwell)
See the Leadership Theories page for more detail about leadership models and concepts, etc., and a more detailed presentation of the differences outlined above.
telephone roleplay exercises (communications, customer service, call-centre training, telephone call-handling skills, sharing best practice ideas)
These exercises will provide experiential telephone-skills learning as well as encourage people to work in a team and sharing ideas about real communications improvement and skills development. The activities also enable the facilitator or trainer to assess delegates' abilities in handling telephone calls. The activities are primarily for incoming telephone calls, although the exercises can easily be adapted for outgoing calls scenarios, and can be adapted for face-to-face customer service desk staff. The activities are for any group size, and are ideal exercises for training course syndicates. First brainstorm with the group all the different types of calls can be received (and/or calls made outgoing if appropriate). When you've collected the main call type examples (on a flip chart or wipe-board), number them. Next, ask the delegates to each write down a different type of call example from the list. You can either allocate a number to each delegates or let them choose. Each person should then write clearly on the piece of paper a brief scenario for their chosen or allocated call type. Each person should then fold their piece of paper and put it into the centre of the table, at which each delegate must then pick one of the scenarios, which they will then role-play as a call-handler. Split large groups into teams of three, which means you can run several role-plays at the same time (when and if you think people are ready, since this will create extra noise and distraction, similar to a call centre environment, which puts extra pressure on the teams). Each team of three comprises a call-maker (who must act out the scenario), the call handler, and an observer. Call-makers and call-handlers should sit back-to-back, which is important to replicate voice-only communications. The observer in each three should begin the exercise by saying the word 'ring' (or by demonstrating their own mobile phone's ring-tone - for extra distraction and pressure, and a bit of fun), at which the call-handler makes their response, and the call-maker acts out the scenario, to which the call-handler must respond. After a short time (do not let role-plays go on for more than a couple of minutes - there is no need, and it helps keep people focused if you can keep things moving at good pace), review the experiences with the whole group, inviting the views of the observers and the call-makers and call-handlers. Review after each role-play so that people can remember and share ideas and are able to put them into practice. Then get on with the next role-plays. Rotate the roles so that each delegate gets the chance to deal with their own scenario. If delegates prefer, let them choose a scenario if they feel they'd get particular benefit from role-playing it. Definitely allow and encourage delegates try a particular role-play again if they want to. Be assured that people will adjust to role-plays if you give them time to get over the giggles or initial nerves. Laughter is a perfectly natural defence against nerves which you should allow to run its course. Stick with it, keep things moving, up-beat, and playful, and people will settle down and enjoy and get a lot out of the experience.
This activity is a flexible format - adapt it to suit your own situation and the needs of the group. Adapt the role-plays for outgoing calls or for face-to-face discussions if appropriate. You should additionally explain and reinforce the correct procedures and techniques according to your own practices. Obviously use your own communications training and procedural reference points in the reviews, but try to let people experience and learn through experience and feedback rather than spoon-feeding them all the answers. Discovery through experience greatly improves learning, understanding and retention - people feel the experience, which they cannot do if they are simply told things. If helpful also brainstorm ideas about the points to be reviewed with the group (for example, style, intonation, clarity, process, policy, initiative, taking responsibility, building rapport, diffusing conflict, tolerating abuse, calming upset, using empathy, active listening, facilitative techniques, etc). Refer also to the theory and instructions for role-playing exercises. If appropriate (and if the group is comfortable with the idea) you can record the role-plays and replay the discussions to the group, in which case only one role-play can be performed at a time, which implies having a relatively small group size. For larger group sizes recording is not likely to be feasible, and you should use teams of three as described.
ring tones ice-breaker activity (ice-breaker or johari window awareness exercise)
This is a simple warm-up ice-breaker activity, or can be used as an exercise to provoke discussion about self-image and mutual perceptions within teams. As an ice-breaker the activity adds variety and interest to the normal personal introductions at the start of a training course or session. When introducing themselves in turn to the group, participants must demonstrate their mobile phone ring tones, and (here's the important bit) must explain the reason for their choice of ring tone (or lack of interest in a 'personal' ring tone), and offer some comment as to what this might suggest about their personality and style. The extent to which discussion and feedback among the group is encouraged is at the discretion of the facilitator, depending on the group composition and whether the activity is used simply as an ice-breaker, or for more involved discussion, which could easily be linked with the Johari Window and developing mutual awareness. Ring tones are for many people an expression and extension of personality, as is handwriting, which is also interesting to compare when discussing personality.
observation and awareness exercise (ice-breaker, warm-up, observation, awareness, personal change)
An activity or ice-breaker for teams and groups of any size, even large conferences and seminars. This simple short exercise is adaptable for a wide variety of situations, and illustrates how we tend to go through our lives in a routine manner, not noticing things around us, when we should all be more alive to our surroundings (and our own selves). Awareness is a pre-requisite for response and action - especially effective communications. Self-awareness is essential for personal effectiveness and change. This activity demonstrates that we can all improve in these areas.
The facilitator should prepare a list of 5-20 questions (depending on the duration of activity required) about details of the particular work or meeting environment, (and optionally about the participants' own selves) for example:
- what colour are the floor tiles in reception?
- what was the name of the lady who served you coffee on arrival (it was on her name-badge)?
- according to the the plaque by the entrance door, who opened the building and in what year?
- what is featured in the big landscape picture that hangs in the reception?
- where is the fire extinguisher in the hallway outside this room?
- what products are featured in the pictures in the elevator?
- what was the colour of the receptionist's jacket/hair/blouse?
- what is printed on your room key fob aside from the number?
- how many plastic cards are in your purse/wallet?
- and so on..
To give the activity an extra edge you can make it competitive, in which case ask team members to exchange their answer sheets for scoring while the facilitator calls out the answers. You can also award a prize for the most amusing wrong answer. The observation/awareness emphasis of the exercise is slightly different if the situation is a one-off conference venue, compared with the group's normal working environment. Try to make the questions fair for all, especially if participants have quite different familiarity with the location. Select questions, and adjust the positioning of the purpose and review accordingly. Whatever - the exercise is an enjoyable and different way to illustrate the opportunities that we all have for improving our awareness, and therefore responsiveness. As a point of interest you can refer participants to the 'First Law Of Cybernetics', also known as the 'The Law of Requisite Variety', which is: "The unit within the system with the most behavioural responses available to it controls the system." The point being that you need maximum awareness in order to enable maximum responses. Also point out that awareness features in at least three of Gardner's inventory of multiple intelligences, notably spatial/visual, interpersonal, and self-awareness. (Adapted from a suggestion by Laura Feerer.)
the 'hellespont swim' motivation case study and team exercise (motivational theory, performance, achievement and self-development)
Use the Hellespont Swim story as a motivational case study and exercise. Print and issue copies to team members in pairs, syndicates of three, or small teams, and ask the team members to consider the case study in the context of motivational theory, plus other aspects of self-motivation and performance management. There are very many interesting points of reference within the story that relate to motivation and performance - how many points of interest can teams identify? Refer team members to the various motivational and personal development theories, for example, Maslow, Bloom, McGregor, McClelland, Handy, Adams, Johari, etc., and encourage teams also to identify examples of performance and project management within the story. Teams should present their findings to the group after being given a suitable time period for discussion. The presentations and ensuing discussions provide an innovative basis for assessing knowledge levels and developing understanding of motivational theory. Facilitators tip: keep a record of all the suggestions and ideas arising from using the exercise, which you can build into a list of points to help review future activities involving this case study.
'animal kingdoms' metaphors exercises (team-building, understanding and development of team dynamics, organisational structures and cultures)
This exercise is very flexible, and will help teams and leaders to develop understanding of team and organisational structures, dynamics, politics, communications, responsibilities, perceptions, relationships, etc. The exercise is for groups of any size, subject to creating syndicate teams of upwards of three people to no more than seven or eight people at most. (Large syndicate teams make it more difficult to ensure full participation by all team members.) Issue each team with a large sheet of paper (for teams of four and over join two sheets of flip-chart paper together to create a big workspace) and some coloured marker pens. The aim of the exercise is for each team create a representation or metaphor of a particular work team, or department, or organisation as if it were an 'animal kingdom' or animal society of some sort. The team(s) can use any living creatures to create their metaphor, for example insects, birds, fish, dinosaurs. The facilitator should stipulate the part of the organisation that is to be represented, ie., translated into a metaphor society of animals and living creatures. The team(s) can choose any form of representation and layout to create their animal kingdom metaphors - for example, names of animals in a hierarchical structure, or drawings of animals, such as a plan view of a jungle, or a section view of a beehive or ants nest. Really, anything goes. The teams then present their metaphors to the group, and discuss the meanings and feelings about the animal kingdom they've created, which will obviously reflect feelings and attitudes about the real work situation that the metaphor represents. The situation to be represented can also be extended to include customers and suppliers. This exercise will be helpful for inter-connected teams to develop mutual understanding, and will also reveal to facilitators and managers the attitudes and opportunities for improving and clarifying relationships, expectations, responsibilities, politics and organisational culture. Using metaphors, especially those which enable the expression of strong characteristics (such as animals and wildlife), are an excellent way for people to consider, express and discuss views about structure, relationships, behaviours, etc., which otherwise tend not to surface. The Johari Window is a useful reference model for the post-activity review.
negotiation teams scenario exercises (negotiation skills training, team building, teamwork and communications, negotiation planning)
In planning and designing negotiation skills training facilitators and trainers commonly seek ready-made case-studies or off-the-shelf scenarios, to provide a basis for a negotiation exercise or role-plays. Finding suitable and relevant case-studies is difficult however. They are rarely free, and even the case-study exercises which come at a price tend to require some adjustment for the actual training situation. So here's a different approach to finding negotiation case-studies, that will fit every situation: have the group themselves design the scenario as part of the negotiation training session, which they will then use for the negotiation role-play in teams.
First facilitate a brainstorm session with the group to create the scenario, with as many variables (tradables) as possible for each side. This is a very helpful exercise in itself since staff and managers needing to learn and practise negotiating rarely appreciate all the issues and opportunities for negotiation that exists in any particular situation. Having the group construct the scenario also gives the trainer or facilitator the chance to guide the development of the scenario, so that it is workable, and to identify the development needs of the team that warrant most attention later as the session unfolds. Use a template as a guide for the group for the scenario design brainstorm session. Here's an example of a template for a negotiation scenario:
- situation description
- people involved on each side, their level of influence, their personal and corporate aims, and comment about personality and negotiating styles
- variables (tradables) for each side with values or notional priority ranking for each side (because each side will place a different value on each variable)
- alternative options for each side (competitor offers with pros and cons, and comment on opportunity for either side to simply walk-away)
- external pressures and time-sensitive factors (for example seasonal or contractual aspects)
- plus anything else of bearing to either side
Having constructed the scenario you can then run the negotiation role-play in any way you choose. The negotiation activity can be organised for individuals or teams, with stages and responsibilities built in to increase the complexity and challenge. Or simply run the activity with two teams facing each other across a table, with a suitable time limit to achieve a creative win-win (collaborative) outcome.
A flip chart is an essential tool for this exercise, because it allows ideas and criteria for the negotiation to be clearly agreed and shown at all times. As the negotiation role-play unfolds it is likely that questions will arise which require the facilitator's arbitration, so expect to have to manage and control the activities closely and pragmatically. In this respect there is some similarity with real negotiations, which rarely proceed as anticipated.
The aim of the exercise and the role-play negotiation is not to create a confrontation, or a winner-takes-all result. The aim - which should be reinforced frequently with the team members - is for the delegates to seek and develop new ways of arriving at better collaborative outcomes, by thinking creatively and in collaboration with the other side, ideally based on a realistic (perhaps historical) work negotiation situation. As such you can facilitate an enormous amount of learning and ideas with this format, in the way that the scenarios are developed and discussed, and especially in the way that the negotiating teams can be encouraged to take a creative and cooperative approach to finding better solutions than might first appear possible or have historically been achieved.
Every negotiation, when viewed creatively, entrepreneurially and collaboratively, provides an excellent opportunity to develop and improve synergies between and benefiting both sides, within the negotiated outcome.
You and the trainees might find it useful to refer to Sharon Drew Morgen's concepts regarding collaborative facilitation, which although developed primarily for front-end of the selling process, are also extremely useful for cooperative negotiating. Each side is uniquely positioned to see how the other side can more effectively contribute to the combined solution - it can be a strange concept to appreciate initially, but is extremely powerful in any situation where two people or sides seek to reach agreement to work together, which is essentially what negotiation is all about. See also the negotiation techniques material.
language, grammar communications styles training activities (english language, grammar, communications styles, for customer service and rapport-building)
This is a simple idea for training and developing language and conversational speech skills (English language - although the format can very easily be applied to other countries and languages) for staff of all types, including overseas customer services and call centres, and for sales and communications training. Effective communications require language and style that is appropriate for the listener - normally a similar language style to the listener. Good communicators can adjust their language style to help the listener understand the communication quickly and easily. Using appropriate 'matching' language and style also helps to build rapport with other people. These language skills are helpful to all staff, not just people in overseas call centres.
The activity is simply to issue different daily newspapers and/or lifestyle magazines to the group - some tabloids, 'red-tops', broadsheets, for example (in the UK) The Sun, The Mirror, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, the Times, The Telegraph, The Financial Times. Or use magazines, representing a broad social mix.
Split the group into three or four individuals or pairs or teams of three (depending on group size and time available), and give each a different newspaper or magazine, so that each is quite different from the others used in the exercise. The team members then have 20-30 minutes to create an informal presentation and perhaps a simple communications role-play, which demonstrates important aspects of the language and communications styles for their given newspaper or magazine.
Involve the group after each presentation, and again after all presentations, in discussion about the key aspects of the styles they have observed, and the differences in style, language and words between the different readership/social class styles. Other discussion points can be extended to include:
- the motives and aspirations of the different types of people, their lifestyles and concerns, and purchasing drivers
- language and style they'd respond to, and be less likely to respond to - typical words, grammar and vocabulary
- the sort of products and services they buy (the adverts in the publications can be helpful in developing this understanding)
- refer to demographics and social classifications details, and also to the readership profiles of the publications (which are often easy to obtain from the publications themselves)
- you can even extend the activity to showing and discussing examples of TV shows for a given type of audience, and exploring demographics information which is available to potential advertisers
- refer also to non-verbal communications and the tone of voice, since meaning and feeling extends beyond words alone refer also to the communications and language aspects within the theories of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), and Transactional Analysis
object sculpture team exercise (understanding team dynamics, team-building, team communications, mutual awareness)
This innovative group activity can be used for exploring the dynamics of a team, and developing mutual awareness. The exercise can be used with teams of four, up to a maximum of twenty, although such a large group size increases the time required. Larger groups can be split into teams (ideally work teams) of 4-10 team members. Each person must be tasked before the activity session to bring along three objects or items that have some personal meaning and which also relate to the team. (This is an interesting exercise in itself if the items are shown and their personal and team significance discussed by the team). Next, use a suitably-sized table or a piece of cloth on the floor to act as the base for the sculpture. Team members must then, in their own time, place their objects either all at once or one at a time onto the base. Team members should be instructed to place and adjust the position of their objects in meaningful relation to other team members' objects, and at any time any person can move any objects on the base provided none is removed altogether. Participants should be encouraged to move around the sculpture as it is evolving. This is all done in silence for a period stated before-hand or decided during the activity according to the situation by the facilitator, which will typically be 20-40 minutes. The sculpture is complete at the end of the fixed time period when team members have finished moving the objects and are satisfied with the sculpture. (Alternatively participants can be permitted to discuss the positioning of the objects, which on one hand encourages active team-working during the exercise, but on the other hand will reduce the effect of interference and 'violation', which is obviously a potentially interesting discussion area for afterwards, so choose what you think will be most helpful for the team concerned, or even ask the team whether they'd prefer the sculpture build to be silent or openly discussed.) The facilitator then encourages the team to view the sculpture from different angles and discuss the meaning of the finished work, and how it symbolises the team (dynamics, personality, strengths, weaknesses, style, relationships, mix, opportunities, threats, etc). Then the facilitator encourages the participants to talk about the process - the significance of their personal objects and how they felt about them being moved around. A significant aspect of this fascinating exercise is to reveal hidden personal values and needs, plus the risks of unintentional violation, and the opportunities for nurturing through each person's own needs and desires. This exercise can be used for fun and creative activity, and certainly to promote increased mutual awareness and support. Teams which are able to use their imagination, and able to extract meaning from what is quite an abstract process, should be able to gain substantial insight into the team's dynamics from this activity. (Ack John Leary-Joyce) See and use the Johari Window model to help team members understand and get the best out of this activity.
team islands exercise (team-building, team-working, planning, negotiation inter-personal skills, creativity, problem-solving and more)
This is a version of the clay islands exercise below (refer to that game for ideas, facilitating, team sizes, etc). Clay is great but is messy and more difficult to manage than this version which uses drawing instead. Gather the team around a large sheet of paper - the bigger the group the bigger the paper - four sheets of flip-chart paper joined together makes a good work area for a team of four to ten people. Participants can play as individuals or in pairs. Using felt tip marker pens team members begin by drawing their own section of coastline for one whole team island, with whatever features are desired, so that sections are connected with those of adjacent colleagues to create one big island. Next, team members can mark out the territory working inland from their own sections of coastline with whatever features are desired - residential, industrial, transport, geographical and countryside features - try to agree a suitable scale before this commences, although the facilitator can deliberately leave this vague so as to demonstrate the challenges of scaling, interpretation and compatibility as the activity unfolds. As team members begin to meet the intentions and drawn features of neighbours they will encounter a variety of issues and situations that need discussing, negotiating, agreeing, etc., just like those of any growing community or organisation. These will commonly involve issues about boundaries, roads, communications, resources, culture, environment, cooperation , dispute, factions and decision-making. Many parallels will be observed - between the game and the actual team's work issues and dynamics - and life. This exercise can be used as a stand-alone activity, or at the beginning of a long programme and then repeated at the end to identify the change in communication and understanding that has occurred as a result of the programme or session concerned. For larger groups the activity can be extended to involve the development of a number of islands - one per team - which when completed can then begin to engage - visit, trade, explore, learn from, attack, build alliances, etc - with the other teams' islands. Again refer to the clay islands instructions below for more ideas. This is an excellent exercise for adults in work or training, and also for young people and children. (Adapted from a suggestion by John Leary-Joyce.)
positive statements exercises (personal change, attitude development, confidence and assertiveness, emotional maturity, emotional intelligence, personal development)
This activity can be varied to suit the situation. It is a simple and yet potent exercise to encourage and help team members (or children, young adults, anyone really) to think about and hopefully commit to personal change and development, especially if linked to a commitment to take action after the exercise. The exercise will also encourage self-analysis and goal-setting. The sharing of ideas among team members (if the activity is run so that people discuss their ideas - it can be run 'secretly', so that people keep their thoughts to themselves) also helps to open 'Johari Window' aspects of mutual awareness, which is good for team building and effectiveness. First the facilitator or team leader should refer to the page about relaxation and positive statements or 'scripts' as a method of identifying and achieving personal change. This will give you and the delegates useful background for the session, and also for the ongoing implementation of whatever actions people wish to take forward following the activities.
The exercise is then to ask the team members to think about one, two or three aspects of their own personal character (how many is up to the facilitator) that they would like to develop, change, or improve. For example, this might be to develop greater confidence; to manage their time better; to deal with stress better; to be more creative; to be more accurate; to finish tasks on time; to take more exercise; to spend more time with their children; to achieve a qualification; or anything about themselves and their lives, at home or work, that it is reasonable to want to change. Depending on the group, you can give extra guidance as to particular areas to focus on or avoid. Be mindful of the group's comfort zone and keep within it in terms of the personal nature of weaknesses and sensitivities that you expect people to think about, and if appropriate, to divulge to others. If you wish to ask the team members to think of more than one aspect for change, you can guide them to select different types of change, for example, one for work and one for home; or one for now, one for the next month and one for the next three months. Use your imagination and refine your instructions to fit the situation. Bear in mind that certain changes that people seek to make will contain more than one element, which is relevant to the next stage of the exercise.
When people have thought and decided on their aspect(s) for change, you can ask them to discuss their ideas and feelings in pairs, so as to validate, confirm, reassess their thoughts. Alternatively you can ask people to keep their thoughts to themselves. It depends on the group as to whether you make the exercise 'open' or 'secret'.
Next, ask the team members to translate each desired change into a specific positive statement, which (in keeping with the technique), should be in the present tense. If a desired personal change contains more than one behaviour then it can help to break it down into two more more statements. Broadly, the more ambitious and complex the desired change then the more likely it will need breaking down into separate statements, which could be different behaviours or steps.
The facilitator should decide and agree with the delegates whether they wish to share their aims and statements with others. It is helpful to share, because people can then work in pairs to to give and receive feedback as to the changes and positive statements which represent the changes desired. People can also then read out their statements to the group, as a first step towards using the statements in the way described on the relaxation and positive statements page.
There are various ways to review the exercise, the process, feelings and the outputs, and various ways to agree follow-up actions and commitments if appropriate, all of which depend on the group and the situation, and especially the wishes of the individuals involved.
the big word game (understanding and defining aims, purpose, culture, etc)
A very simple game for groups of all sizes, and people of all ages and levels of seniority. People can work as individuals, pairs, or teams of three or more, depending on the situation and outcomes and development required. Playing the game with individuals will limit team discussion and cooperation but will produce individual expression; working in teams will prompt team discussion and generate collective expression.
The object of the exercise is for the team members to embellish or decorate a big word on a sheet of flip-chart paper. The word can be the same for each person/team or can be different, and can be chosen by the delegates or the facilitator, depending on the outcomes and particular focus required. Short words work better than long words.
The word can be pre-prepared - ie., enlarged and printed in a plain font such as arial, 3-6 inches high, preferably in outline, so as to optimise the opportunity for decoration - and then the printed sheet stuck to the flip-chart sheet, landscape (sideways). Alternatively agree the word with the delegates/team and instruct them to draw it as a simple black outline on the flip-chart sheet. The word should be plain and simple - it's the decoration that matters, and which can be very revealing.
Participants must use materials provided, for example, pens, paints, crayons, glitter, glue, textiles - anything, use your imagination - to decorate and embellish the word so as to emphasise what the word means to them, in whatever context the facilitator suggests. The context can be anything that pertains to the session, for example; the organisation's values and positioning, the delegate's personal philosophy (if working as individuals), management culture, customer service effectiveness - any theme will work. This exercise is also ideal for very young people, as well as people at work.
The exercise gives delegates the opportunity to express their feelings about the given context, in the way that they choose to decorate the word.
Examples of themes/contexts: the organisation, customers, customer service, inter-departmental communications, career opportunities, the school, training and development.
Examples of words for decoration: team, boss, staff, teacher, student, school, service, talk, hear, ideas, change, me, us, work.
The results of the exercise can easily be displayed, reviewed and discussed, leading to opportunities for actions, which the facilitator can follow through. See also the flags and maxims exercises below.
different perspectives exercise (developing mutual understanding between job roles, departments, locations, offices; improving cohesion; defining roles; building virtual teams)
This activity is designed to improve team members' understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities, and can produce some exciting output actions. It can also be used in team building workshops and trouble-shooting meetings, also to define roles and responsibilities, develop virtual teams, and to develop inexperienced people's presentations skills and confidence. The exercise can be used at inter-departmental meetings, international conferences where delegates break out into syndicate groups, or in any situation involving people representing different roles or responsibilities who will benefit from learning more about other roles or departments in the organisation, and from the process of building relationships and empathy with other roles (which are represented in the group). This very flexible activity is therefore particularly suited to situations where people need to increase their understanding, appreciation and awareness of other supporting functions. The format is also good for building virtual teams (ie., people who are brought together for a particular project from a variety of functions.)
Here are the instructions for the delegates:
Each person (or can be a pair) representing a job role (or department or location) should prepare a short presentation of their role (or department, office, region, sector, etc), which they will give to the group, in turn. The presentations can be informal (flip-chart or discussion style) or more formal (powerpoint), depending on the judgement of the facilitator, which is based on the capability and confidence of the delegates, and time available for preparation and delivery. Presenting in pairs is a useful less-threatening way to introduce novice presenters to the experience. A presentation template guide can be issued as follows, which you can adjust to suit your situation:
- Here's what we do/can do (including personal introductions)
- Here's why the function is important to our organisation and our customers/the project
- Our challenges (for example, inter-departmental, strategic, project aims issues)
- How you can help us (especially looking at connecting and dependent functions)
- Any questions
Allow two minutes after each presentation for initial questions and feedback and to quickly identify any actions or opportunities for follow-up. The facilitator should 'park' major issues or questions for later review rather than interrupt the flow of the presentations.
For more senior people you can increase the time allowed for preparation (which implies that this be given as a pre-session instruction and prepared by the delegates prior to the session or meeting), and also a longer period can be allowed for the presentations themselves.
In any event, calculate and control carefully the time permitted for presentations, questions and discussion, so that the whole activity fits into the available time-slot.
For light-hearted situations, to add extra perspective/colour/fun to the role explanation, you can suggest that the presenters should reference a fictional or real character, for example, from sport, entertainment, cartoons, politics, history; anyone who they feel symbolises the role. The character reference can be incorporated into the presentation style and format to whatever extent the presenter wishes.
Depending on the situation and complexity, the facilitator can ask that the preparation be done prior to the session, in which case use these guidelines to create a pre-session preparation instruction sheet. If preparation is to be prior the session, presenters should be encouraged to consult with their departmental/function colleagues if appropriate.
Involving people in this way and 'giving them a voice' encourages presenters to think about the issues, and improve connections and understanding. The session is particularly useful in communicating a wide range of perspectives, to a group, up to date, from the horses' mouths so to speak. The exercise also gives inexperienced presenters a useful introduction to presenting and speaking to a group since they are talking about a subject they know well, to a group of peers who will each have to give their own presentations, which ensures good audience support.
Finally it is essential that the facilitator enables and ensures that all important issues, questions and actions rising from the session are properly followed up.
If the session is required for project-related reasons (especially involving the formation of a new team) then it is important to conclude the presentations activities with a group review discussion and some agreement on an overall action plan.
pass-the-ball exercise (warm-ups, brainstorming ideas, collecting examples)
This very simple activity format can be used for a wide variety of purposes, for adults in teams or groups in business and organisations, and also for children. The activity is useful where a team of people needs encouraging to suggest examples, brainstorm ideas, or think of words, methods, experiences, etc., and to help people memorise prior learning. As the exercise is physical as well as mental it is also a great warm-up, and a method of enabling people to work together and cooperate very quickly, in an enjoyable way.
Simply organise the group or team into a circle, which can be around a table. Ask them to stand up. Throw a ball - any type of ball - to one of the group members, and explain that the ball should be thrown to another team member - in no particular order - upon which the receiving person must call out his or her suggestion, according to whatever theme has been nominated by the facilitator at the start of the exercise. The facilitator should write the suggestions on a flip-chart to review them at the end of the activity. Participants should throw the ball to the next team member, a random, after calling out their idea or suggestion. The exercise can also be used to reinforce prior learning, when participants can be asked to repeat examples or details of what they have learned in a previous session. This includes calling out stages in a particular process or repeating a set of rules or instructions.
Possible exercise themes and categories for ideas, examples, suggestions:
- reasons why customers contact suppliers
- causes of stress at work
- ideas for this year's Christmas party
- things that motivate us/me/staff
- ideas for a publicity photo-opportunity
- benefits of a given product or service
- management challenges that we face (for managers)
- ways to ask someone to do something for you
- factors that influence profit
- ideas to save cost
- ways to improve quality
- ways to delight customers outside of their normal expectations
- positive inspirational words we can use to help others
- time management tips and ideas
- examples of using positive words rather than the negative (for example, opportunity versus problem)
Ideal group size is six to ten people. For larger groups split the people into two or more groups and nominate facilitators for each group to record the team's suggestions and ideas.
letting go exercise (illustrating the need to look ahead, to de-clutter, to let go of useless baggage)
Ask the team members each to put their own brief-case or personal organiser on the table in front of them. Then ask each to think about the obsolete material in it that they've been too lazy to throw away (or delete, in the case of a PDA). Then ask them to actually remove the useless items, to screw them up and to put them into a pile in the middle of the table along with everyone else's. Where individual team members are reluctant to admit to keeping hold of any obsolete useless material, ask them to identify the three oldest pieces of material they are still keeping, and to justify their retention to the group. If they succeed then they should be running the session...
The act of throwing everyone's collective junk into a bin can be used to symbolise the 'look-ahead' theme, and to reinforce a commitment to de-clutter, to welcome and make the most of change, and not to dwell on the past, to complain about past issues, or regret past mistakes.
You can extend or change the exercise to by asking people to produce and scrutinise their own bunch of keys, or contents of handbags (be mindful of sensitivities), or wallets, or even the address books of mobile phones, to illustrate how we all keep unnecessary baggage, which holds us back, weighs us down, and hinders our ability to stay fresh and welcome change. Almost everyone keeps old material - baggage - which weighs us down and clutters our lives. Getting rid of clutter is a vital aspect of staying fresh, looking forward and positively embracing change.
Control the baggage from your past, and you control your future.
You can if appropriate refer people to the Transactional Analysis model, which provides a useful perspective on how, if we let it, the past can condition our future thinking and behaviour. More importantly, the model shows us that we have a choice either to let our past control us, or to take control of our past, and thereby find freedom in the future. Look also at the personal change page, which provides theory, method and sample script for extending the 'letting go' exercise.
mnemonics exercises (developing the brain; learning, reinforcing and memorising key facts and data)
The word mnemonic (pronounced 'nemonic' )is from Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory. This is a simple and very flexible activity to help a team of people (or children) to learn and remember key facts and information - about anything, and certainly relating to the particular theme or subject of the team meeting or training session. The exercise is based on the method of memorising through association. Examples of mnemonics using association are:
- Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain (the initial letters match those of the colours of the rainbow, Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet)
- The word 'stalagmites' contains an 'M' for mountain (which points up, as opposed to stalactites, which point down)
- The word 'stationery' (relating to paper) contains an 'er', as does 'paper' (as opposed to the word stationary = 'not moving')
- Numbers can be remembered by association with similarly shaped images, for example: 1 = wand, 2 = swan, 3 = flying bird, 4 = yacht, 5 = hook, 6 = elephant (trunk), 7 = cliff, 8 = spectacles, 9 = balloon on a stick, 0 = beachball, 10 = stick and a hoop. There are many other alternatives. This memory method enables long numbers to be remembered by creating a story linking the respective images.
The exercise itself is simply to ask team members, individually or in pairs, to create their own mnemonic for a given piece of important information, facts or figures. The information could be related to the theme of the meeting or not, depending on the situation. Examples of types of information that are useful to support with mnemonics are: a process, a theory or model, a formula, technical data, product range, codes and numbers, procedures and policies, document references, etc. Mnemonics should then be presented back to the group and discussed as to their effectiveness. Sharing ideas for memorising key data helps teams on a number of levels: it improves retention of the particular subject matter used in the exercise; it teaches people how to improve their memory, and it gets people working together in creative way. There is also always the likelihood that some particularly good ideas will come out of the exercise, which can then be conveyed and used to reinforce key information across the wider organisation. (Thanks M Caroselli for the prompt)
strengths and goals exercise (personal direction, personal strengths, goal steps, goals, measures)
This exercise helps team members (and individuals) to identify their personal strengths, direction, aims and goal steps, either in their personal life or for their work-related development, or for both combined. First ask participants to draw a line on a sheet of paper, (a large sheet is easier than small one, and a vertical line on a sheet portrait-ways up is probably easier if you are asked, although it's not critical). Ask them then to map onto it, (either or both, depending on the purpose and focus of the activity), up to five major life events and/or the work achievements they have experienced. Then ask them to list the qualities, skills and attributes that they used, and what experience, skills, and values they gained as a result, alongside each event or achievement. When the participants have completed this, ask the individuals to form into pairs or threes, and to discuss in turn - using the other team members as a sounding board - possible future direction and aims (career, self-development, or both) that their strengths and experiences would enable and help them to achieve. (Ack Fionnghuala Kelly)
career review and planning exercise (personal direction, career path, career counselling)
The purpose of this exercise is to provide participants with an opportunity to reflect on previous employment, focusing on aspects that satisfied and motivated, or dissatisfied and demotivated them, so as to assist deciding about future direction and career choice. The exercise can be given to individuals on a one-to-one basis, or the activity can be run for a group, in which case you should agree with the delegates before-hand (having explained the exercise) whether or not they wish to carry out the exercise privately individually, or to work in pairs, giving and receiving feedback when wanted. Giving and receiving feedback is very useful, provided people are comfortable. First ask the group (or individual) to list their past jobs - each on a separate sheet of paper. If any participant has had more than six jobs ask them to pick their favourite six jobs involving long-stay employment. Next, for each job, ask the participants to identify and list on the respective sheets the aspects of each job that satisfied and motivated them, and in a second column for each job, to list the aspects of the job that dissatisfied and demotivated them. Explain to the participants that their judgement as to what 'satisfied' or 'motivated' them can relate to as many different aspects of their lives that they feel are relevant and important. Encourage people to use their own measures, not ones that have been imposed or received. Criteria can include things such as culture of the organisation, the location of the company, duties and responsibilities, tasks, relationships, rewards, etc. (It can be helpful before the exercise to discuss Maslow, McGregor, Herzberg, Kolb, etc., with the group, to aid their understanding of motivation, fulfilment, and personal style. Next ask participants to refer to their individual job sheet lists, and using these reference points to compile an overall summary two-column list of 'good aspects of previous employment' and 'negative aspects of previous employment'. The final stage of the exercise is to ask the participants to use these good and bad criteria to identify (first in broad terms, and then more specifically) the type of future job, work, career, etc, which is likely to meet the needs that the 'good and bad' summary list represents. Logically people should be identifying future direction and choices which include as many good points as possible, and exclude as many bad points as possible. (Ack FK)
Related materials include:
Johari Window (especially where people have a lot to learn about themselves).
memory games - remembering names and faces
Remembering people's names and faces is a very useful ability to develop, and a central part of the technique can form the basis for a simple team exercise. While the full methodology for remembering names and faces include mental approach, repetition, visualisation techniques, it is the technique of association that mnemonics (memory devices) are chiefly based on, and which underpins most memory methods, such as linking (for remembering lots of objects or items). For example: Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain is a mnemonic for remembering the colours of the rainbow (initial letters are associated with those of the colours, red orange yellow etc.)
Association works best when the mental image is exaggerated or unusual (it makes the association more memorable), and the same technique can be applied to names an faces, for example: To remember a person called Graham Smith, you could imagine the person as a blacksmith, holding a grey joint of ham.
Many names can immediately associated with readily recognisable things, for example, jobs (turner, wheeler, gardener), places (names of towns, counties, etc), geographical features (hill, cliff, dyke, brook, etc), colours (brown, green, etc).
Foreign names often produce an image based on their phonetic impression (how they sound), and in any event it always helps you to remember a name if you ask the person how to spell it, and particularly for foreign names, to ask for their origins and meanings, which all help repetition, reinforcement, and the ease by which an association can be created visually and mentally.
Virtually all names readily translate into an image of one sort or another if you think about them creatively. Practising the technique increases the speed at which these associations can be created. Weird impossible images and constructions are often more memorable than logical ones, which makes it even easier to create a memorable association for anyone.
When using this as a team activity, explain the principles to the group and then have them take a few minutes to come up with their own visual associations for all the other group members' names. The presentation of these ideas is fun and can be revealing (sometimes needing sensitive facilitation), since, if you wish, it leads to discussion between team members about perceptions, as in the Johari Window model, which helps develop mutual understanding and awareness.
An excellent reference book on the subject of developing memory techniques is Tony Buzan's 'Use Your Memory' (now BBC Books), which contains 20 pages of techniques for remembering people's names and faces.
playing cards sorting exercise - leadership, team-building, problem-solving, communications
This simple team exercise requires two decks of cards with different distinctive coloured backs for each team. Remove the three of spades from one of the decks of each team and store them in an envelope ahead of the exercise. Shuffle the two decks for each team in advance of the activity and place them face up on a different table for each team. (Ensure the teams do not see that the backs are different styles.) Split group into teams of between four and seven people in each team. Do not allow teams to go near the tables at this point. Ask one member from each team to step out of the room. The facilitator then explains to these individuals that their responsibility is to pass on the instructions for the exercise to their teams. Do not mention leadership or that they are leaders in any way.
Instructions: The purpose of the task is as follows. Your team has two separate decks of cards which I want you to sort into suits and display 'ace-high', ie., aces facing up on the top of the piles followed by king, queen, etc., down to the two, which should be at the bottom of each pile. You should have eight piles at the end of the activity. You need to tell me that the task is correct and complete when you are finished. Are there any questions? Return to the room and inform groups not to talk until told.
Allow the individuals to re-join their teams. Look at your watch, pause and say 'start now'. Wander between the groups and keep looking at the watch which should be in your hand rather than on the wrist.
Observations guide for facilitator - points to review after the activity:
- Use of physical resources - Were the teams able to gather around the table and if not did they reposition it?
- Human resources - How well were team members involved in the task? Did each have a role to play, and if not why not?
- Time - There was no time limit given. Did they feel there was one? Was this due to body language? Did anyone ask about time?
- Competition - Did the the teams feel it was a competition between teams and if so why? What about collaboration? If the teams did not know that the exercise was a competition then why did the first team to finish not help the remaining teams to complete the activity? Was the missing card identified? Was the information shared with all members of the team? Did teams inform you at the end of the exercise?
- Cards - Were the decks separated first by turning them over so the backs were visible or were the decks mixed up? If so why?
- Passing on of information and seeking clarification - Did the initially selected representatives assume the role of leaders? Did an expert leader emerge because for example they play cards or did leadership rotate.
- Type of leadership - What type of leadership was exhibited? Facilitative, autocratic, democratic, etc., encourage the teams to discuss this.
You will see other aspects to review, depending on your situation and what happens during the activity. While this team exercise is quick to play, the discussion and review can take longer. There are very many aspects of team-working, collaboration, assumptions, communications, leadership, etc., to explore. You can also encourage the teams to discuss their experiences in their teams and relate what happened to what happens in the workplace when working in teams.
(With thanks to Fionnghuala Kelly, psychologist and author of the excellent 'Talking The Talk' book on workplace communications.)
Simple and easy and great for team building, a quiz gets people thinking, is ideal for warm-ups, and encourages people from different teams and work-groups to appreciate each other's strengths, and to co-operate. Here's an example of a quick team trivia quiz, with questions and answers (from the puzzles and games page) in MSWord, ready to play.
the logo game - activity for developing and illustrating team understanding, team values and purpose
A simple quick exercise for teams of all sorts and abilities - even very young children, up to main board directors. Split the group into pairs or teams of three. Teams of more than three will require some guidance about appointing a leader, so as to ensure full participation and reach agreement. Teams of three are ideal. Issue each team with a flip chart sheet of paper and some coloured marker pens or paints. For added texture and fun you can issue additional decorating materials, for example, glitter, sand, glue, bits and pieces of any sort, again anything that fits the context and allows people to express themselves in ways that might normally not come to the surface. Alternatively issue clear acetate sheets and acetate coloured pens (which will require an overhead projector to view the work). The exercise is in three stages:
Each team has to discuss and agree a single word that represents the team's (or teams') values, purpose and style. This instruction could alternatively be to decide on a single word to represent the mission, positioning, and/or aims of the team or teams (or of the department, company or school, etc) involved in the activity. The 'theming' of the activity is very flexible and can relate to departments, school classes, whole organizations, new services, anything for which establishing an agreed platform, purpose and philosophy is important. The facilitator can decide whether to allow hyphenated words. Allowing phrases or short maxims is not recommended because this changes the emphasis and focus of the activity - see the 'maxims' exercise below. Devising maxims is a different activity.)
The word must then be drawn by each team or pair very large on the sheet of paper, in such a style, and decorated using whatever design and embellishment the team decides appropriate, so as to represent visually the values, purpose and style of the team or organisation in question.
The final stage is for each pair or team to present their decorated logo, and to explain the reasoning behind their designs, which will inevitably provide a basis for much discussion, comment, questioning and mutual clarification.
Flip chart sheets are normally better materials for this sort of exercise because they can be subsequently stuck on the walls for all to see, which of course an OHP format doesn't allow. This activity is a great way to start a workshop or small conference, because it immediately opens people's minds, encourages free expression, and enables a rapid increase in mutual appreciation and understanding.
maxims exercise - another activity for developing and illustrating team understanding, team values and purpose
Like the 'logo game' above this is an easily organised exercise for teams of all types and abilities: from young children to grumpy old directors. Split the group into pairs or teams of three, depending on the team-building effect you seek to achieve. Teams of more than three need guidance to appoint a leader, unless you are assessing, illustrating or developing behaviour in the absence of leadership. Issue each team with a flip chart sheet of paper and marker pen. Filp chart sheets can be stuck on the walls to reinforce themes and remind team members of purpose and aims, etc. Alternatively issue clear acetate sheets and acetate pens (which will require an overhead projector to view the work). The exercise is in two stages:
Each team has to discuss and agree a maxim or motto (a short catch-phrase) that represents the values, purpose, style mission, positioning, aims, (whatever is appropriate to the session) of the team, department, company, school, etc.
The maxim should be written by each team on their sheet of paper or acetate and then presented and explained to the group by each team in turn, with suitable discussion by the whole group.
As with the logo game above, the team's ideas about the team's (or department's, etc) purpose is opened up and made transparent to the group and facilitator, which promotes discussion and increases mutual appreciation and understanding.
See also the 'flags' exercise for other variations on these exercise ideas.
'the teams-sorter' - activity ideas for warm up games and energizers
A flexible and physical conference warm-up and energizer for big groups - group sizes of 30 up to 300 or more. Also a great activity for quick introductions and mixing different teams. If you have a large group want a lot of running about and people mixing and meeting, these ideas might help you. You will need plenty of space. If necessary ask the delegates to move all the chairs to the side of the room (they can easily move them back again, which also helps the warm-up process).
Ask the group to sort itself into teams according to a set of categories that you call out. A simple example is for people to sort themselves into teams according to the month of the year they were born. This would obviously create twelve teams, assume the group is large enough to produce representatives from each month. If the group size is smaller, choose a category set with fewer divisions, for example, the number of creases on the middle knuckle of their dominant hand (which causes people to think in an unusual and fun way, and is therefore enjoyable and interesting - it's a great 'leveller' too).
When formed, give the teams a competitive task or tasks, eg: decide a motto which reflects them as people, which they then shout as a war cry at the other groups (creative and energizing). Or ask the teams must find a 'champion' or 'expert' - someone in their team who excels at something or is remarkable in a particular field, outside of their working life. Each team then announces their 'champion' in turn, at which everyone can applaud and cheer the champion's (hitherto unknown) achievements (great for recognition, etc). You can devise all sorts of other team challenges, perhaps even quick contests or quizzes between teams. (Here's an example of a quick team quiz, ready to play.)
It creates more purpose if you can award winners 'tokens' or chitties - these could be anything suitable - paper slips, counters, play money, wrapped sweets, whatever is easy to obtain or produce for the facilitator.
You can give people tight timescales for each team-sorting activity and team challenges and tasks, to focus them on quick team-working, decision-making, communications, etc. The exercises can be used also illustrate many aspects of team-building, chaos, forming and working in virtual teams, working under pressure, team-working, risk-taking (especially on the part of non-elected team leaders, champions putting themselves forward, etc), anticipation, decisiveness, taking responsibility, communications, especially if you are less than precise about some of the category descriptions, eg., eye colour (ie., if you don't tell the group whether green = hazel or is a different colour, then they have to decide for themselves....)
It's important to have a strong facilitator who can see (ideally from a good vantage point, on top of a table for example, what's going on, and who can make quick arbitrary decisions (in the style of 'the judge's decision is final and absolute...')
You could offer tokens to the winning teams each round according to speed, motto, champion etc (decide by quick cheer-based votes from all teams), and then see which individuals accumulate the most tokens at the end of all the exercises to identify overall winners.
You can take tokens away from people or teams who are indecisive, or who fail to help stragglers and waverers, or who generally could do with being taken down a peg or two, especially the CEO and Finance Director...
Ideas for team categories into which the group should sort itself (each one is a separate activity, with our without a time limit - you decide):
- month of birth (obviously would create up to 12 teams depending on total group size)
- creases on a given knuckle of a finger, or number of rings on all fingers
- favourite colour (depends on category description, if given - you could leave it up to the group to interpret and decide)
- sweet, sour, bitter, salt (four teams - the way they interpret this is interesting, ie., description of the person or their taste in food)
- signs of the zodiac
- eye colour
- hair colour
- think what is and do what is, think what could be do what is, think what is and do what could be, think what could be and do what could be (an interpretation of the four temperaments - very interesting exercise in its own right)
- favourite food
- days a week that exercise is taken
- car colours
For a short energiser exercise you can use just one category. Extend and make the activity more challenging and sophisticated by using several team-sorting sessions, plus team challenges.
As a facilitator you'll have a lot of fun just thinking of other categories, and you could certainly include some work-related categories too, although non-work related are often more interesting and create better mixing of teams. The extent to which you stipulate and describe the categories is up to you - you can be very specific, or leave it to the whole group to interpret and decide.
If you are leaving it to the group to decide you can tell them this, or not - it depends how much freedom, chaos and responsibility you seek to create and assess.
The type of category you nominate by which teams should sort themselves should obviously relate to the total group size, number of teams, and team member numbers, that you might wish to create for any particular team activity. Think about how many teams a particular category is likely to produce, and ensure it fits your purpose.
It's not essential to ask teams to undertake a task each time they sort themselves; the sorting is an activity in its own right - it all depends on your time available and aims of the exercise.
Many of the team building activity ideas below can be used as challenges or team competitions to be given to the formed teams. Select exercises that relate to your theme or purpose of the conference or training event.
This type of activity would also integrate well with the 'pick a potato' game, where at the start of the session everyone is given a potato (or apple, orange etc) to memorise as their own, and then puts them all into a big box. At the end of the session tip all the potatoes onto the floor, after which the delegates teams must go and find their own potatoes (against a time limit ideally) and then (optionally) form into teams of some appropriate category, (for example, favourite potato dish: fries, roasted, baked, boiled, mashed, etc.) Any delegates unable to agree/find their potatoes must join the potato-heads group and lose a token (I bet there'll be none).
This is a very flexible game format - use your imagination.
monopoly® variations games (financial understanding, business and commercial skills, negotiating, team building, etc)
Using the classic Monopoly® board game, especially if you adapt the rules for your own training and development purposes, is an exciting and stimulating way to identify, teach and develop various commercial, financial and business skills.
The game features many business and financial aspects and so provides a fun way to observe, illustrate and develop lots of skills and techniques that traditional training finds quite challenging. Financial training can be a dry subject - bring it to life with a game of monopoly - for individual contestants or people playing in pairs or teams.
Here are examples of Monopoly board game adaptations:
- Owning 1/2/3 properties gives a right to buy the remainder of the available set at normal value/stipulated discounted value.
- Negotiation to buy property from opponents is allowed at any time/stipulated 'open-market' times/when it's your turn to roll the dice.
- Time limit per 'turn'.
- Increase money allocated at game start, and/or when passing 'Go'.
- Allow individuals to 'partner' and pool resources.
- Place a time limit on the game - winner(s) decided according to money/total assets accumulated. Allow games to run from one meeting or training session to another (obviously record the players' or teams' position when play is suspended).
- Allow loans to be taken out from the bank at stipulated rates.
- Allow contestants to act as banker for a stipulated number of 'turns' during which time the can loan money to other players at their own terms, and keep profits (or losses, for example any bad debts) arising during their tenure.
- Encourage/stipulate players to employ zero-risk/high-risk/low-risk/suicidal-risk/ strategies according to personality type or preference, or against personality type or preference.
- Structure teams using service or project teams from the organisation, for whom cooperation and team-work helps performance.
- Structure teams to represent different departments, for example Sales versus Accounts, versus HR, etc., - observe and highlight the different styles and strategies (pairs versus pairs is fine; three is maximum/optimum per team - four and over per team can create 'passengers' who get left out).
- Require teams to write a strategy before they start play, and to be able to change strategy only by re-writing it and submitting to the facilitator for approval.
You'll be able to devise your own variations. Make sure you clarify the rules and ensure any reviews cover relevant and appropriate learning points. You can buy Monopoly online - a decent second-hand game is perfectly adequate for business training and team building purposes. If the businessballs Amazon link is out of stock, try Ebay or another online games seller.
(Thanks for the prompt, J Ludbrook)
coaching role-play game (teach and practise coaching techniques, promote individual strengths and values in teams)
This activity is an easy fun role-playing exercise for developing coaching skills and demonstrating coaching techniques. The key coaching skills are:
- active (empathic, interpretive) listening to understand the person's abilities, purpose, measures of success and/or attainment of a new capability, and the person's best learning style and method
- helping the other person to see and understand the nature of their learning need themselves
- helping the other person to identify and commit to sensible achievable learning actions and objectives
- being non-judgemental, and not imposing the coach's own methods unless absolutely welcome and appropriate
So a coaching role-play should logically enable participants to practise and demonstrate these capabilities. This requires role-playing the coaching of something that the coach understands, and can perform, and which the 'coachee' does not. For example:
- using a computer programme or programme function
- performing a physical or mental task, not necessarily work-related
- any other special ability that the coach has which the coachee does not, such as performing a card trick, or telling a joke well, juggling some fruit (fruit is much more fun than tennis balls), or playing a musical instrument (subject to availability of the instruments - in any group of ten the chances are that at least one will ba able to play a guitar or recorder), etc.
Participants can be given a couple of minutes to decide their capability to use to coach someone (everyone is particularly good at something), write it down, then instruct the 'coachees' to pick their coach and task - blind or open choice, whatever will work best. Group observation and review is a very valuable part of the activity, and should discuss how well the coaching has performed in the four key coaching areas.
The exercise is also useful for developing a team's knowledge and respect for team members' otherwise hidden capabilities and talents, which helps the process of team building, mutual understanding, and thereby communcations and relationships.
For more guidance about organising role-playing activities look at the role-playing games section.
Dr KRS Murthy's advanced method of intensive brainstorming develops deep team understanding and team-building, as well as generates extensive creative outputs, and helps reveal Johari Window hidden areas of knowledge of self, others and what others think of oneself. If you want a team-building activity to really get your team thinking in depth, and developing enormous mutual understanding see the Kaleidoscope Brainstorming techniques article.
lessons in chaos game (team building, warm-ups, illustrating chaos and chaotic systems and their effects, communications and team member roles, and lots more)
This activity uses or is based on the PIT! trading card game or home-made game materials for a card-collecting and energetic trading game using a similar principle to the PIT game. You can find the actual PIT card game on the web either new or second-hand. It's a great game of chaos and confusion with lots of different training, learning and team building uses.
The usual object of the game is, after shuffling and dealing out the cards, for teams or individual players to collect a full set of the same suit/type by 'blind' trading/swapping cards with opponents, by shouting and holding aloft the number of cards for trade, without revealing what the cards actually are. See the note about shuffling and dealing at the end of this game item.
The winning team is the first to collect a set of all the same cards, which they should claim by shouting (whatever - their team name for example).
You can introduce two or three 'rogue' cards (in the PIT game there is a bull and a bear) which attract penalty points for teams left holding these when another team wins. Rogue cards can be exchanged singly or amongst any number of other cards of the same suit.
A winning team either ignores possession of a rogue card, or you could give a bonus for this, as in the actual PIT game, which tests the nerve somewhat of retaining one. Using rogue cards means that when cards are initially shuffled and dealt, some teams will have a card more than others, and will possess an extra odd card or rogue card when and if they win by collecting a full set of one suit, which is allowable.
Strictly speaking a player may only swap cards of the same suit, not a mixed batch, but people often cheat without encouragement at all, which makes the gam ideal for chaotic demonstrations and learning examples.
The PIT game or especially home-made versions using a similar theme works well with very big groups, and the atmosphere is enhanced if you offer a suitably appealing prize to the winners, to bring out the most competitive behaviours in people. Alternatively/additionally you can threaten the losers with a 'forfeit' or other light-hearted booby prize.
For more chaos use two sets of PIT, make more cards of each collectible 'suit' - (the standard PIT game has nine cards in each suit). For bigger teams and groups 12-15 or even 20 cards enable a bigger game to be played. For still more chaos encourage/permit cheating, shouting, standing on tables, etc.
You can also introduce special rules to heighten chaos, eg.,
- ring a bell half-way through requiring players to swap a specified number of team members between teams (and the cards they hold) causing confusion to team goals and team communications.
- instruction for teams to exchange assembled collections with other teams (undoing good work to date and threatening sense of purpose and achievement)
- announce a period by which cards can only be traded using foreign language.
- announce trading is only allowed in 3 or 4 or 6 card-lots (whatever number takes your fancy - this wrecks team trading strategy and later in a round hampers any team which gets down to its last three or fewer cards required, because they'd then have to reverse and trade back already collected cards in order to meet the 3/45 or 6 card rule).
- announce at the start of the game a 100 point (or other suitable value) bonus for loudest trader award each round (judge's decision is final), and/or a 100 point bonus for most animated trader per round. Etc...
Use your imagination. The game provides a great fun basis for illustrating all sorts of organizational and team-working dynamics, problems and experiences.
You can use the activity with quite big groups, for example, 40-50 people can be split into teams of say five, six, or seven people - generally the more people per team the more chaos.
Normally to develop organization and management experience you would suggest teams elect traders/collectors who go out into the melee to swap cards, and one or two collector/coordinator/compiler/organizers who give the instructions to the traders as to what cards to collect. Therefore to maximise chaos and chaotic systems examples don't give them this advice and start the game giving the teams very little preparation time to organize team tactics (another lesson: poor preparation = more chaos).
Strictly speaking you should play the game with the same number of collectible 'suits' (card types) as the number of teams, but for added chaos, and a potentially unwinnable game have one set less card 'suits' than the number of teams, which dramatically reduces the chances of any team managing to collect an entire set.
The actual PIT game has seven suits of nine cards each, which is adequate for up to seven teams of threes, but for larger teams and added interest you could use two PIT game cards, or make your own larger sets of cards - or simply pieces of paper - with 'suit' symbols or words on them to reflect the players' business or environment.
Teams of three naturally self-organise and self-manage very well, so to demonstrate chaos use teams of four or more.
As a guide try to allow at least 3 cards per team member, therefore, for example, if working with six teams of teams five team members make six sets of at least 15 cards. This way there's plenty to do for each team member.
After the game, or each round, or even during a round, involve all the teams in the review of the points of note and the experiences and lessons that you want to highlight. An example of a useful review technique is to ask individuals and teams to talk about or present their reactions and feelings while subject to chaos and disorganization. You can also involve the teams in suggesting ways to change the rules to increase or reduce chaos, or indeed to demonstrate any other aspect of organizational systems.
If you are a team leader, facilitator or trainer seeking to use this sort of exercise for a big group, the best way to plan the activity - whether for chaos or management experience - is to get hold of a PIT game or to make your own set of cards, and play a game with a few friends or colleagues - this will help you to decide how best to use it, and to decide how to flex the structure and game design to produce the desired effects.
Some other PIT game adaptation pointers:
The more on a team, the more chaos is experienced. However, the bigger the team the more 'passengers' (team members with nothing to do) there'll be towards the end of the game/round when the final few cards are being sought. If you can't avoid having very large teams then issue an extra instruction as to how 'passengers' should assist card-holding traders towards the end of the game/each round.
If you don't know how many people will be in the total group until the day, you can decide on the day how to structure teams and suits etc. If in doubt make more cards per suit than you think you'll need, say 20 or 30 cards per suit, just in case you end up with very big teams (up to 15 or so) - so that you'll have plenty of team-structure options and ensure even big teams have plenty to do - It's important to avoid having passengers, which would result from having too few cards.
Remember: More teams = more chaos, so try to have as many teams as possible (the lesson is that more teams and relationships need more organizing and communications). Also: Minimal guidance and organizational advice to the teams = more chaos (another lesson).
There will be more chaos (resulting from from difficult communications) if the cardcollector(s)/holder(s)/coordinator(s) are in a different place/room to the trading area - this will require people to run back and forth and will be very physical as well as chaotic.
Alternatively the trading area can be in the middle of a large area, surrounded by the collectors/coordinators for each of the teams.
You can also run the exercise in two different ways during the same activity (firstly traders and collectors all in the same room, and then the second round put the traders in a different room to the collector/coordinators). This will emphasise the effect of communications logistics upon chaos.
You could also have a have a contingency to change it half way through a round of the game (ie remove the collector/coordinators to a different room to the traders, which suddenly introduce a big difficulty to the exercise - the lesson is that a change in the structure requires reorganisation of communications and process).
By separating traders from their team's collectors, the exercise then takes on some of the communications aspects of the 'communications corridor' exercise, which is more physical because of the running around, especially if the rooms are on different floors.
The complexities you add depend on how much variety and logistical challenge you want to include (which of course increase the facilitation burden and risk of course, so 'if in doubt, leave it out').
If during play things threaten to become too 'well managed' you can intervene and disallow any practices that are enabling smooth activity, for example ban 'runners' communicating and taking cards between teams's collectors and traders, and insist that traders need to 'run', or vice versa. On which point you could/should inform teams of your right to do this (ie., the facilitator's right to move the goalposts) during the activity. This highlights another lesson: failure to agree sound ground-rules, goalposts moving = chaos.
If you have time available the activity is best played with a number of rounds - this enables you to increase the team competition element - you can keep a score on a blackboard or flip chart. You can award points for 2nd and 3rd if you want - the scoring is very flexible - however you think it will work best. You can stop the round when a winner wins and then identify 2nd 3rd 4th etc based on which teams have collected most cards.
Even when you've run the exact exercise before it is difficult to anticipate length of a round because the game is so chaotic. Sometimes a team will win quickly, other times it goes on for ages or gets blocked because a team decides to collect mischievously some of each suit (another lesson in chaos factors which you can introduce or suggest). 5 minutes is a reasonable maximum to impose per round. If there is no winner in the time allotted, the winning team is the one with most cards (or points of same, if you are ascribing points values to the different suits) collected of their chosen suit or set.
As a final pointer, give yourself the right to intervene as the facilitator - this will enable you to flex the activity while it's happening - you can of course justify this because intervention and disruption is a perfectly valid factor in chaos, and so it can be in it's demonstration.
A note about shuffling and dealing before and during the game: Shuffling and dealing large numbers of home-made cards or pieces of paper can be time-consuming, especially given last minute decisions about how many sets and cards to use. If so then think about using a alternative method of distributing the cards - you don't necessarily have to shuffle and deal per se, provided each team starts with a randon combination of card types. For example you could place the cards in piles face down on tables and have each team member or leader go and take blind a certain number equating to the team's allocation. This could be done between rounds also, when time and facilitation pressures make shuffling and dealing difficult. Alternatively find a way to involve all teams returning their collected card sets in a suitable grouping or piles on a table, the act of which effectively shuffles the cards, ready for the next round.
(Thanks for the prompt, KW)
turn the tables exercise (warm ups, ice-breakers, team rotation games)
This is an enjoyable way to introduce a large group of delegates to each other, and also a way of planning and organising team groupings or syndicate break-out sessions on a rotating basis to ensure that every person meets, and plays games or completes exercises, with everyone else. This way of organising teams is a great alternative to simply asking every person to stand up and introduce themselves individually. Give each person in the group a letter of the alphabet as per the matrix below, which provides a basis for organising and rotating the membership for teams of five, for a whole group of up to twenty-five people. The model is contributed by Christopher Barrat, based on maths by the Bernie Batmann, and this contribution is gratefully acknowledged. Issue the matrix to all team members and explain that it provides the plan for changing teams and meeting new people, or playing whatever games or exercises have been arranged. The matrix below has a,b,c,d,e only moving tables once. If you want them to move tables more than this then alter the table/team numbers in the second column for each round.
|round 1||table/team 1||a||b||c||d||e|
|round 2||table/team 1||a||f||k||p||u|
|round 3||table/team 1||a||g||m||s||y|
|round 4||table/team 1||a||h||o||q||x|
|round 5||table/team 1||a||i||l||t||w|
|round 6||table/team 1||a||j||n||r||v|
exercise creation pointers (prompts for creating brainstorming, team building or learning exercises)
When you next want to create a session for brainstorming or teambuilding, try creating your own, or work with a team to do it. Creating your own exercises and activities just requires a little imagination. Here are some reference pointers to help the thought process:
These elements can be selected and combined to act as a kind of formula to help with the creative process:
- Choose sense(s)/media - sight, emotional feeling, touch, smell, taste, sound/hear, draw, write, act, imagine, discussion, etc.
- Choose a theme - communications, relationships, creativity, process, planning, experience, influences, barriers, leverages, opportunities, counselling, problem-solving, etc.
- Outputs: ideas, discovery, plans, actions, learning, questions, relationships, understanding, solutions.
- People and logistics (how the exercise works, is briefed and followed up): teams, pairs, threes, leaders, scenarios, context, materials, rooms, groups, timings, review, feedback, action commitments, etc.
paper planes and aims game (goal-setting, visualising success, creativity, team building, motivation, building belief and commitment)
This exercise is appropriate for any open-minded group and would be especially beneficial for young people, even children. The activity encourages the team members to think about and set personal aims, and commit to them in a memorable and meaningful way. The exercise also enables positive encouragement and mutual support among the team towards meeting each person's aims. First, ask everyone in the group to set themselves a personal achievable short term goal. The aims can be to do with higher performance, quality standards, problem solving or any other challenges in their work or life. Supply the team some colored paper, marker-pens, glitter, scissors, stickers and (optionally) directions/instructions for paper airplane models. When all team members have decided on their goals short term goal(s), ask them to choose a paper airplane design and make the plane. Ask them to write their goal, with a few points or steps as to how they will achieve it, on the inside of the paper plane (which enables people to keep their goals private). Then you, as the facilitator, tutor or team leader, write a positive encouraging comment on the outside of every person's plane - the emphasis should be on encouraging comments, for example 'I believe you can do this', or 'I know this is something you can achieve', etc. Optionally you can involve the group as well in writing positive inspiring comments on the outside of each other's planes. Allow the group to continue finishing the decoration of the outside of their planes. The exercise enables each team member to take pleasure in visualising their own aims, and to give and receive lots of positive encouragement. Finally, the activity provides the opportunity to go outside as a team and fly the planes, and maybe to award a few prizes; longest flight, best design, best trick, etc.
Thanks Laura Feerer for contributing this activity idea for building belief, commitment and teams. She suggests you can add some additional inspiration by referring to the song, 'I Believe I Can Fly', which would be appropriate I'm sure for certain groups, and a relevant quote from which is as follows:
I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar
I see me running through that open door
I believe I can fly.
life-raft (group selection recruitment game, negotiation and presentation, relationships, appreciating other people's strengths, team-working and decision-making)
A simple but sophisticated game for a team of six to ten people. The scenario is that the team is stranded in a life-raft which is too small to hold everyone without sinking. Someone (or you could say two or three people - it's flexible) must to be thrown overboard (or eaten, if you prefer the really macabre version) - the group must decide who is/are to be the unfortunate victim(s). First delegates have the opportunity to present their reasons why they should stay (the facilitator can decide what media is to be used, but watch out for the time - this part needs to be reasonably brief). Delegates can be directed either to base their presentations on their own real selves, or if a less emotive approach is required, to adopt the personality of a character from history, or a TV soap, etc. The facilitator must decide how best to instruct the team on this aspect. After presenting their own cases, the group then debates people's relative values and strengths. Within this debate individuals can continue to argue their own cases if they wish, after which the group makes its decision. Set a time limit for each presentation, the debate and the decision, for example 2 mins per presentation; 20-30 mins for the debate; 5 mins for the decision or vote. The facilitator can guide the group as to the decision method, for example secret ballot, show of hands, or preferably to leave the group to decide the decision process, as this highlights other interesting behaviours and capabilities within the team. This is also an interesting exercise to use in group selection recruitment as an interaction game. Points to review if used in other than a group selection context:
- Quality and effect of individual presentations
- How individuals behave and respond to threat and possible rejection.
- How different personality types within the group react in different ways to the debating and decision process.
- How the group organised itself to manage the difficult discussion process.
- The different perceptions among the team of relative strengths, weaknesses, values, etc.
- The way the group decided on how to make the decision (unless told how by the facilitator).
- The reaction of the team members and colleagues of the victim(s) after the vote - balance between relief and sympathy.
Other points to observe, especially if using this as an interactive group selection recruitment game:
- Individual behaviour and style.
- Participation levels.
- Constructive, supportive input ("How can we best approach this...?") versus negative contributions ("This is a stupid game...")
- Natural leaders.
- Natural process checkers.
- Results driven players.
- Compassion and empathy.
- Presentation skills.
- Negotiation skills.
- Awareness of process and consensus principles.
- Logical and objective assessment of relative values and capabilities.
- Awareness of need to preserve mix of team abilities.
- Bullying, ganging-up, and defence and reaction to these.
- Sexism, racism, prejudice, and defence and reaction to these.
johari window exercise (self-awareness, self-development, relationships, team understanding, team building)
For any size group, any age, any role, provided people know or work with each other. Put the group into pairs or threes. Each person takes turns to find out from their partner(s) something in the hidden area, known to others but not known to self. Explain the Johari Window concept first - show and issue the diagram - and explain why it's positive to open the hidden areas, so that as much as possible can be known to self and to others. Explain no-go areas such as intimate personal things, things that could be hurtful or destructive, and subjective judgements. Encourage people to be objective and non-judgemental, forgiving, and tolerant in the way they approach the exercise, and in their own self development and in helping others. Review by having people tell the whole group what they've learned about themselves, and how this might give opportunity for positive change in the future. You will need to be on hand move among the teams, keep a watchful eye, to facilitate, interpret and reassure hurt feelings where necessary. You can extend the exercise by having people tell their partner(s) something that is known to self (about oneself) and hidden to others (which is also an alternative and less emotive exercise than opening the unknown to self part of the window). Take care - Johari is a powerful instrument.
j'accuse (conflict management, johari window development, developing relationships, mutual understanding)
use this activity with care!
Use this activity only if you are confident you can control it. Refer to the Johari Window - it provides a the basis for interpreting and gaining positive development from this exercise. Ask people to tell each other in pairs, (or two-on-one, three-on-one, if you wish to create more pressure) about their (the other person's) weaknesses, failings, dislikable traits, wrong past actions or decisions, etc., (again adjust the brief according to sensitivities). Arranging the groups beforehand is essential. Having participants and observers makes the activity more controllable and less likely to result in a free-for-all. You must plan to make this exercise ultimately positive, in which people get to learn more about what's in the 'known to others, and unknown to self' Johari quadrant (which isn't all necessarily bad, but you can ask for only negatives to be pointed out for the sake of demonstrating conflict). Delegates should also be encouraged to think about what causes conflict and emotional upset, and how to avoid, avert and diffuse it. During the exercise the 'victims' can be encouraged to be defensive (rather than tolerant and absorbent), and the 'accusers' to be aggressive and confrontational, if you want to create more 'conflict' for people to deal with. Beware of ending up upsetting people - use a bell or whistle to bring people back to sensible rational adults (and to inject some timely humour) if things threaten to get too heated. If you wish to de-personalise the activity ask people to role-play the accusations and defensive reactions. Showing and explaining the Johari model after rather than before the activity increases the likelihood of emotional and natural reactions during the exercise (ie., the more you explain and prepare, the more objective people will be). Afterwards (or before) you could also refer people to the Emotional Intelligence and Transactional Analysis concepts to demonstrate how objectivity helps avert conflict. Please don't hold me responsible for the cost of cleaning the blood off the walls.......
je t'adore (johari window development, team-building, relationships, emotional intelligence development)
A positive alternative or supporting exercise for the 'conflict' activity above. Again refer to the Johari Window model. Ask people in pairs to tell each other something good about the other person that the other person will not know themselves. It's basically an activity in which genuine compliments or feedback is given about a person's traits, past actions, behaviours, etc., - the positive feedback can be about anything. This widens the Johari quadrant: 'known to others and unknown to self'. The act of giving and receiving genuine positive feedback is also hugely enriching and motivational. You can review afterwards how people felt when giving and receiving praise, and contrast this with the negative effect of giving insensitive criticism. This exercise can be used in conjunction with the negative feedback activity above to further emphasise the contrast between praise and blame. Useful reference models are also Transactional Analysis and Emotional Intelligence.
there ought to be a law.. (creative thinking, recruitment selection activity, ethics and morality discussions)
A simple exercise for individuals, pairs, threes or a whole group exercise: the aim of the activity is to suggest a new law, with reasons for it. The game can be extended into a clear-communications and writing exercise, by asking the delegates to write the new law in clear terms that explain it absolutely clearly, with minimum leeway for misunderstanding or misinterpretation. The clarity of the writing can be tested by group questions and review. This exercise is particularly relevant for people who will benefit from improved awareness of communicating, delegating and briefing skills. Also helpful for people with responsibility for writing instructions and manuals. Also a good personality and attitudinal indicator exercise when used as an activity for individual candidates in recruitment group selections.
mottos (warm-ups, ice-breakers, creativity, self-expression, johari window development)
For teams, whole groups or individuals. Ask the team(s), individuals or work-group to decide on a motto or maxim that reflects their values and purpose, etc. Individuals or teams then present their motto to the group, and discussion can take place as necessary. You can be specific about precisely what the motto must represent, or leave the brief more open, depending on the session aims. Timings are flexible, to suit the situation. This is a very flexible activity. As an extension of the exercise, from one session to the next in a week or a month's time you can ask the individuals or teams to find the Latin translation.... For inspiration you could show some examples:
- "E Pluribus Unum" - the original motto of the United States meaning "One from many" or "One from many parts"
- "Search, Solve and Succeed" - Pioneer Primary School, Singapore.
- "Per Ardua Ad Astra" meaning "Through Adversity to the Stars" - the British Royal Air Force
- "Per Veritatem Vis" meaning "Strength Through Truth" - Washington University
- "Securior Quo Paratior" meaning "The Better Prepared, The More Secure" - Somerset Rossiter family
flags exercise (creativity, self expression, warm-ups, inter-team or inter-departmental relationships)
Lots of flexibility in this activity. It can be used for individuals or teams of any sorts. The object of the exercise is simply to design a flag that symbolises the person or the team (or group or department, etc). Materials required are just some flip chart sheets and colouring pens or paints. The exercise can be used as a quick warm up or ice-breaker, say five minutes to create the flags, and a couple of minutes each to present and review; or a longer team or group activity, requiring 10-15 minutes discussion, development of ideas, creating the flag design, and then as much time as is necessary to present and discuss the reasons and reactions. When invited to express themselves in a completely new and different medium, people find it easier to really think about their qualities. The exercise is particularly useful to begin inter-departmental workshops. Teams have to think about what they stand for, how they wish to be seen, and other teams have a chance to see and understand colleagues or other departments in a different way. As an exercise for work groups this is a good prompt for debate within the team, and then afterwards between teams when flag designs are presented and reviewed. This exercise is also excellent as an individual activity for children and young people of all ages. It can also be used for pairs or threes of friends, boys groups, and girls groups; the possibilities really are endless. As an alternative to flags, a coat of arms could be given as the design task. Obviously encourage participants to include symbols and image icons, as well as colours and shapes.
partnership flags (partnership, cooperation, merging, integrating teams)
If you want to focus still further on cooperation and partnership development, you can extend the above 'Flags' exercise to require teams or individuals to work together (in pairs or threes or more - however many parties you want to integrate) to combine their designs, ie., to produce a 'partnership flag' based on and preserving the essential themes of the original individual designs of the partnership members.
commitment to change (making things happen, personal change, etc)
A simple exercise for any size group, and a great warm-up or ice-breaker too. Split group into pairs. Task each individual to agree with their partner something about themselves that they would like to change - probably something that they have known to be in need of improvement or change for some time. Each individual clarifies understanding of the change action with their partner, with suitable measure and timescale (use the SMARTER rules as a reference - it's on the acronyms and delegation sections), and then each person makes a personal commitment to the partner to make the change. Each partner is responsible for following up this commitment and checking that the change action has been completed (which happens after the training course, meeting, gathering, etc). The point of the exercise is to demonstrate the importance of specifics, accountability and commitment, being the ingredients of any successful change. Refer to SMARTER again in the review of change actions committed, so as to confirm the viability of each action committed.
best practice development forum
This exercise builds teams and produces good organizational outputs. The activity can also be run as a virtual team building game for staff in different locations using a team conference call or video conferencing. Ideally participants will perform similar roles or at least perform roles with common aspects (if not participants should have good facilitative skills). The aims of the exercise is to share and develop best practice, ideas, and/or solutions to common problems. This provides a useful and collectively enjoyable experience, with some good outputs for the organization when best practice is identified or developed, and can then be implemented. Split large groups into teams of three or four. Over four per team makes full involvement unlikely. For example, if the total group size is twelve, run four exercises concurrently in four teams of three. At the end of the exercise each team leader presents results of their discussions and ideas or solutions development to the whole group. You could then look at implementing most viable suggestions, create project groups and then pilot groups. Establish an emphasis on working together to identify and implement constructive change, through the sharing of ideas and experience. The activity can become a regular development forum; a place where challenges, opportunities, local problems, etc., can be brought along and collective ability used to find and apply solutions. Teams can be changed for each team building session. It's important to clarify the precise aims of each exercise before it begins. Teams can take a few minutes to do this prior to commencing the activity. Take special care with explaining and clarifying if people of different nationalities are involved. Ensure also that team members explain and understand each other's situations and processes (which in itself is another helpful output from the exercise). Ensure adequate support for all initiatives taken forward to implementation stage, so that participants see that their work is resulting in some positive effect. Securing support from up-line management prior to the process will help this, as will obtaining commitment from up-line management where possible for initiatives considered worthy of implementation. See also the notes on workshops, brainstorming, and project management, which can be relevant to various stages of this activity.
Here's a very simple and effective game for team-building, team-working, building cooperation, problem solving, leadership, and decision-making skills. Also great for an ice-breaker and warm-up activity. The game can be used with with a group of 10 or more, and requires only a deck of cards. Explain these simple rules of the exercise: One card will be handed out face down to each delegate. Players must not look at their cards until the game starts. The aim of the exercise is for each person to put together the best three-card hand by joining with two other delegates.
Where total group size is not exactly divisible by three, players need not be exclusive to one group of three, ie., any player is permitted to be part of more than one three-card hand. When the total group is exactly divisible by three this rule is optional, to be decided by the facilitator. A requirement for exclusive sets of three will tend to increase the competitive aspect of the exercise.
Card hands are best ranked according to poker rules, which are open to different interpretation so it's essential to agree the ranked order of possible hands before the game starts, to avoid any doubt as to the winners. For three cards, a suggested example ranking according to statistical odds (thanks DB), which you should circulated or write on a flip-chart, is, lowest to highest: highest card, a pair, flush (three cards same suit), straight or run (eg., 8,9,10), three of a kind (eg., three kings), top hand being a straight or running flush (eg., 5,6,7 of hearts). Also clarify highest suits, (eg., lowest to highest: diamonds, clubs, hearts, spades). The best hand possible would therefore be king, queen, ace of spades.
Set a time limit, by which all delegates must be grouped in threes, each group representing a three-card hand. A minute creates a pressurised activity; three minutes less so - generally the larger the total group size the longer the exercise needs, subject to a five minute maximum for very large groups.
Variations can be used, which makes it more interesting if you want to repeat the exercise later with the same group, eg:
- Each delegate receives two cards, requiring three players to create a six card hand (clarify rules accordingly).
- Instruct the group to find three or four other players, making four- or five-card hands.
- Allow each player to change their card once with a card from the top of the remainder of the deck, face down of course (exchanged cards go to the bottom of the deck).
- Upturn the card at the top of the remainder of the deck and stipulate that each hand must include that card (in which case three players will create four-card hands).
- For very large groups use two decks, and stipulate teams of five, (this is a great conference warm-up - you could stick a card underneath each delegate's seat, before delegates arrive.)
- Plus any other variations of your own you wish to try.
Facilitator and delegates can review various behaviours after the activity - eg., leadership, teamwork, negotiating, and decision making under pressure. This simple game will break the ice, and get people out of their seats with minimal input from the facilitator. Follow up with a group discussion about aspects of the exercise relevant to the main session or purpose. (Adapted from an idea submitted by S Enter)
For additional interest you can also refer to the fascinating origins of playing cards and court cards, for example, did you know that the name and symbol of the English spades card (contrary to most people's assumption that the word simply relates to a spade or shovel tool) instead developed from the French pike weapon (ie., the shape is based on the business-end of the spear-like pike), and the name for the Spanish version of the card, which was 'espados' meaning 'swords'.
newspaper bridge the gap team exercise (planning, team-working, team building, etc)
Newspaper construction exercises are always reliable, flexible and inexpensive activities for team building (and planning, leadership, team-working, etc) - see the main newspaper construction exercises and tips below, and they are very transferable when you want games activities ideas to cascade or spread usage through organizations or departments. If your aim is to build teams and relationships, especially inter-departmental, mix up the groups, so team members don't already know each other. For an extra twist to the usual towers or bridges exercises below, and ideal for large groups, work with teams of 6. Split each team in half. The team task is for each half-team of three (or can be pairs) to build their half of a newspaper bridge so that it connects and can be joined to the other half of their team's construction, to meet in the middle between two tables. Preferably (this is at the facilitators discretion) sticky tape must not be used to fix each end of the bridge to the table - ie., bridges must be self-supporting. The winning team can be quickest or strongest supporting structure - it's up to the facilitator - you can add the requirement for the bridge to support an object - a lemon or a chocolate bar for example. (The secret is to build up and out so that each side of the bridge supports the other - two horizontal halves generally collapse unless each is extremely strong. Tightly rolled struts make stronger constructions. Establish game rules that prevent both halves of the teams simply making a single bridge fixed to each table with sticky tape, which would defeat the challenge of the exercise. Control the level of difficulty of the game by the distance between the tables and the number of sheets issued.) And in similar vein the next activity:
newspaper domes big group exercise (team building and team working, leadership, creativity and design)
For one great big group team building exercise, split the whole group into pairs or threes, the task being to build a dome or roof structure/frame and cover it with newspaper and sticky tape, between as many tables as there are pairs/threes. This is not a contest between the teams, it's a task for the whole group to cooperate and work together. For example, for a whole group size of 12 people, there could be six tables and six pairs - or five tables and five teams of three - each pair/three building one strut of a six- or five-strut dome frame; for a group of 9 people, there could be three teams of three, and three tables, each team of three building a strut for a three-strut roof frame. Each pair/three should build their strut up and out from the table, connecting in the centre space with the struts from each of the other pairs/threes. Struts can be fixed to the tables and joined in the centre-space with sticky tape. For large frames (which will be required of the tables are placed further away from each other), cross-struts can be used. The whole group can then cover the dome or roof frame with sheets of newspaper. Requires a lot of thought, team-working, communication, sharing best-practice, assessment and feedback along the way, and leadership at key decision stages. Control the level of difficulty by the distance between the tables and the number of newspaper sheets issued. (As with many of the newspaper team building activities, the secret is to agree first on a strut design - typically tightly-rolled sheets - which can then be used to construct whatever overall design is planned, but let the delegates work this out for themselves.)
The most effective way to build a dome or covered 'roof' is to create a frame first, using tightly rolled sheets as struts. The simplest construction would use three tables and three struts, one from each table-top edge, joining together in the middle at the top to form a pyramid frame, which can then be covered using newspaper sheets. A round dome structure is more difficult, takes more time, needs more newspapers, and needs to have several struts from each table to create a curved shape, and then a number of lightly formed horizontal strut 'rings' around the the outside of the entire main frame to create a curved contour. This type of structure must be designed beforehand to have a good chance of succeeding, and it helps if the group contains someone with a bit of engineering talent or instinct. There are other ways of making a structure, for instance flat square frames on 'legs' (short newspaper struts), and if you do not stipulate a height then people will often be creative (cheat) and simply make a big sheet and attach it to each table edge, which rather defeats the point. Hence you can clarify the aim of the exercise by stipulating that the roof must be capable of covering all or a given percentage of the group members, standing or sitting (at your discretion) depending on the frame height that you think is reasonable. If in doubt agree the frame height aim with the group, which means they effectively set their own target. This is a challenging and enjoyable team activity - encourage team members to enjoy it. For a simple pyramid allow at least 15 minutes for the 'build'. For bigger constructions and rounded domes allow at least 10 mins for the design stage and 30 mins for the build. And remember to provide plenty of plastic rubbish bags for the clear-up afterwards. It can be helpful for the post-activity review to brainstorm before the activity with the whole group the expected key performance elements, and for these to be used as the assessment criteria (see the Training elements/exercise review template assessment proforma sheet available on the free resources page).
paper-doily exercise (communications, instructions, interpretation, developing mutual understanding, active listening, clarifying questioning techniques)
This exercise can be carried out in pairs with several pairs playing the game at the same time, or one pair playing and the remainder of the group observing. Two people sit back to back. Each has a piece of paper (can be any sheet of paper provided it is rectangular - not square - a large sheet of newspaper works well particular if the activity is being observed). One player (the instructor) folds and tears his/her sheet of paper at the same time reading pre-prepared instructions to the other person (the student) as to how the student is to fold and tear/cut their sheet of paper. For added interest issue each pair with a hole-punch and a pair of scissors (smaller sheets of paper are more likely to require scissors). Other than giving the instructions the delegates cannot discuss or explain anything else. Instructions must be read out exactly as they appear on the instructions sheet, which is created and supplied by the facilitator. Neither player must be able to see what the other is doing while the exercise is under way. After the instructions have been completed, the team members turn and face each other, unfold their sheets and compare their paper doilies, which will look quite different, even though each has been made from the same instructions. Here are examples of instructions for the instruction sheet (you can create your own variations or use these, or reduce them for a quicker simpler exercise - do not include the bracketed points, which are facilitators notes and to help with the review):
- Fold the paper in half horizontally (this depends on what way the sheet is held and could be interpreted to be folded along the landscape or portrait axis)
- Fold in half again diagonally (again, this is open to interpretation - normally an asymmetrical fold corner-to-corner).
- Fold in half again vertically (again, this is open to interpretation).
- Fold the top right corner so that the point is at the centre of the folded sheet (the folded corner could be one of four).
- Fold the longest point to the corner farthest away from it (can be open to interpretation).
- Fold in half again or as close to two halves as possible (it may not possible to fold exactly into two symmetrical or even asymmetrical halves).
- Tear or cut off 2cm of the sharpest corner with a straight cut or tear.
- Tear of cut off 1cm of the opposite or farthest corner to the above corner with a curved cut or tear (curved what way? - again this is open to interpretation).
- Punch three holes along the longest edge (where exactly along the edge is open to interpretation).
- Punch two holes in the next-to-longest edge (where exactly along the edge is open to interpretation).
- Cut a 0.5cm sharp 'V' two-thirds into the shortest edge (this is open to interpretation).
- Unfold the paper and compare your doily with your partner's doily.
Points for the debrief and review discussion: How many of you ended up with paper projects exactly the same? Why were you unable to end with exactly the same doilies? What instructions were the least helpful and why? How could these instructions have been made clearer? What clarifying questions would you have asked if permitted to clarify the instructions? What additional tools or devices would help the reliability of the instructions and fullness of understanding (the obvious ones are a ruler, and a diagram for each stage - the point here is that complex instructions often need tools, references, examples or other devices to enable proper clarity and accuracy, and the responsibility is with the writer to take the initiative to use and include these aspects if required - don't assume that words alone are sufficient, because they rarely are).
As an extension of the exercise ask everyone (in pairs of as a group discussion or brainstorm exercise) to re-write the instructions so as to guarantee producing two identical doilies.
NB If facilitating this exercise ensure you try out your instructions before using them in the activity.
(Based on a suggestion from D Smith)
desert island menu
A quick, simple (and often revealing) warm-up, ice-breaker and introductory exercise for any group up to about a dozen people. (Group size can be larger if the 'show-and-tell' time per person is controlled tightly). Delegates have a couple of minutes to consider and decide three types of food that they would choose to live on for a year, if stranded on a desert island, with nothing else to eat or drink, other than water. After considering their selection and reasons, each delegate then takes turns to tell the group what three foods they would chose and why. The facilitator can determine finer points of the rules, such as if there's anything to cook with, if there are any condiments, and "Does 'chicken tikka masala' count as one food type?", or "Can we choose processed ready-made meals as one food type?", etc. The point of the exercise is to get delegates thinking about something completely different, in a way that allows them to express their own personality, likes, dislikes, weaknesses, etc, to the group. For large groups put people into teams of three and have them come up with a selection of three foods that satisfy each member of their team. Other than obviously daft selections like 'whisky, lager, and magic mushrooms' or 'burgers, chips and eggs' there are no right or wrong answers - it's simply an exercise in personal preference.
newspaper models (team building, problem solving, creativity, leadership, planning and project management)
A variation on the newspaper construction exercises featured below. For bigger teams, especially comprising engineers and technical team members. Instead of making newspaper towers or newspaper bridges, the challenge is to make a more complex model, of a machine, or vehicle or building, again out of newspaper. If the model is to be a machine it could be a working model. the machine could be one from the particular work situation. Introduce additional materials as appropriate - string, pipe-cleaners, rubber bands, stapler, etc. The bigger the team then the more complex and challenging the task can be. For teams of 5 or more ask that each team appoints a leader, and state that each team leader is responsible for ensuring full participation of all team members. Refer to the tips and rules for newspaper construction exercises below.
the postbag exercise (for group selection recruitment, time management, planning and prioritising, and assessing strategic judgement and initiative, team-working, organization and decision-making)
This exercise is good for group selection activities. The team exercise is to sort a big pile of your typical post. Team size 3-5, so if there are more than 5 delegates create more than one team, and ensure suitable space, materials, and facilitator for each team. If used as a group selection activity involving more than one team (it would be suitable for supervisors and clerical staff) observers can move between teams. You'll need to define the typical destinations/actions - give basic guidelines but not sufficient for all the answers, so that there's opportunity for teams and team members to use their own initiative. Define the purpose of the exercise clearly in terms that reflect what you want the delegates to achieve and the hypothetical situation in which they'll be working. Also explain to the team(s) that they can ask facilitators about certain items if required, and include two or three oddball items that definitely need asking about. Observers will be able to see how the teams organize themselves, people's levels of initiative and judgement, experience, who has good and less good ideas, input, and how people work with others in a team situation. You could ask the teams to present their conclusions as to what should happen with the contents of their postbag. Review and discussion also will provide useful indicators. For added challenge you could throw in a couple of 'interruptions' such as phone calls or visitors introducing additional issues to be sorted, prioritised and actioned. This exercise can also be used for supervisory management development and assessment. If used with people who already work for the organization the exercise provides useful indication as to delegates strategic awareness and prioritisation capabilities and judgement.
SWOT analysis team building exercises (for team building, decision-making, change-management, strategy development, direction and motivation)
For a single team or any number of teams. For teams of three or four team members. Teams of five and over require a team leader. This is a really motivational and empowering activity that can deliver immediate organizational and business benefits. The exercise duration is from 30 minutes upwards, depending on the complexity of the SWOT subjects issued to or agreed with the teams. The SWOT exercise can take a whole day if the task is complex and big. First refer to the SWOT analysis notes and template examples on this site.
Ensure all delegates are issued with SWOT analysis instructions, and confirm their understanding of the process, which makes an ideal initial group exercise.
Identify before the session, or have the teams or team members do so at the start of the exercise, suitable subjects for SWOT analysis. Have the teams choose a subject each, and then work as a team to produce the SWOT analysis, which should then be presented back to the group for discussion and review. It's important that the teams want the particular subjects.
Prior to the exercise it's important for the facilitator to clarify what will happen after the exercise to the teams' SWOT analysis findings, so that team members have an appropriate expectation for where their efforts and recommendations will lead.
This SWOT exercise is very flexible - use it to suit the situation, the group, and what the organization needs. Examples of SWOT subject areas (have some specific propositions, opportunities or options handy in case you need them):
- organizational or departmental change options
- business development ideas
- team re-structuring
- problem-solving options
- customer service improvement ideas
- production/distribution/technical support efficiencies or improvements ideas
- The above headings are not SWOT subjects, they are areas within which you can identify SWOT subjects.
- A SWOT analysis can only be used to assess a specific option, proposition, company, department or idea - a single SWOT analysis cannot be used to compare options or evaluate a number of options or propositions at once.
- Avoid agreeing to SWOT subjects that are clearly beyond the remit of the teams (which creates expectations that cannot be met), unless the situation allows for the group to make recommendations.
- A SWOT analysis measures a business unit, a proposition or idea; a PEST analysis measures a market.
PEST analysis team building exercise (for team building, motivation, direction, strategy development, gaining buy-in and consensus)
See the PEST analysis article and template. Structure the activity as with the use of SWOT analysis exercise above. Note that a SWOT analysis is based broadly on half internal and half external factors. A PEST analysis measures a market; a SWOT analysis measures a business unit, a proposition or idea. PEST is almost entirely based on external factors, so ensure at least some members of each team have knowledge of, or are able to consider, the PEST factors if you intend using this exercise. PEST is a good exercise for marketing people, and is good for encouraging a business developmant, market orientated outlook among all staff. If you want to use PEST with staff who are not naturally externally focused you can have them do some research and preparation in advance of the exercise. As with the SWOT exercise, it's important to clarify the subject of the/each analysis.
'my pet hate' exercise (for rapport-building, empathy, facilitative questioning, active reflective listening, interpretation, personal development)
An innovative and effective team building exercise for training and practising active and reflective listening skills, empathy, and facilitative questioning. Also a great team activity for personal development and personal problem solving. For groups of six or more in teams of three or pairs.
Ask each delegate to think of a situation or person that they find extremely difficult or frustrating. The situation can be from work or home life, but nothing so personal as to cause discomfort when revealed to others. Guide delegates also to avoid criticism of other people who might be part of identified frustrations, whether these people are present or not.
For teams of three, the first person is the interviewer, second person is as interviewee, and third is observer. The first person in each team has 5 minutes (facilitator can allow longer, depending on total exercise time available, group size and desired intensity) to question the second person about the second person's difficulty or frustration. The first person should use rapport-building and empathy, sensitive facilitative questioning, active listening, reflective listening, and interpretation skills, to encourage and enable the second person to explain how they feel, why they feel like it, what are the causes and what might be the remedies, plus any other points of relevance. The second person should try to respond naturally to the interviewer. The group then reconvenes and the first person from each team must then briefly (max 2-3 mins) describe, explain and summarise to the group the second person's difficult situation. The second person from each team then gives feedback to the group (including to their interviewer) as to the accuracy of the interpretation and the quality of the interviewing (rapport-building, facilitative questioning, active listening, reflection, interpretation and empathy) used by the first person. The third person observer of each team then provides a brief neutral overview comment, if required and helpful. When each team has completed these stages, rotate the roles and run the exercise again, so that each person plays the interviewer, interviewee and observer.
This exercise can also be run in pairs, without the third-person observers, which is appropriate for small groups of 4-8 people, or if the time available for the exercise doesn't allow three rotations of the team roles. Use the review sheet to provide a break-it-down structure for feedback and review. For odd numbers of groups the facilitator can take part to make teams numbers equal, which is important so as to avoid creating 'passengers' (inactive team members) at any stage.
Training and review elements of the exercise (optional use of training element review sheet):
- rapport building and empathy (intuitive sensitive style)
- facilitative questioning
- active/reflective listening
- accuracy of interpretation and description
Exercise duration and activity options typically:
- Facilitator's introduction and explanation, in use of training element review sheet - 5 mins
- Optional brainstorm of review elements - 5 mins
- First interviews in teams of three - 5 mins
- Summaries to group and feedback - number of teams x 3 mins
- Second interviews in teams of three - 5 mins
- Summaries to group and feedback - number of teams x 3 mins
- Third interviews in teams of three - 5 mins
- Summaries to group and feedback - number of teams x 3 mins
- Final group review of activities and experiences - 5-30 mins depending on exercise depth and intensity requirement
- Optional review of personal actions arising - 5 mins (defer major issues outside exercise session)
- Total exercise time nominally 30-45 mins plus 3 mins for each interview summary = total delegates x 3 mins, ie., a group size of fifteen in teams of three will take a total of 75-90 mins.
If the exercise is run in pairs without observers the third round of interviews and summaries is obviously not required.
smartie hunt game (team building, ice-breakers, warm-ups, leadership, delegation, fun)
A funny game involving lots of anmal noises, and potentially actions too, for a team-building ice-breaker or training warm-up, for leadership and team motivation, and a great party game for kids or adults. This activity is also a great leveller and funny to play and observe. For groups of ten to thirty or so people, dependent on the room size. Split the group into two or more teams - ideally 5-7 per team - and have each group appoint a leader, which can - if helpful - be the least confident, most junior member of each team (leadership in this game is fun, and should help build confidence and status of the leader).
As a party game, teams of boys versus girls is an obvious way to split the group.
Before the game/session hide the contents of a tube of smarties sweets (or a box, depending on team numbers and game duration) around the room. Write down on separate pieces of paper the names of as many animals as there are team members (or children if its a kid's party). Animals should be those associated with recognizable noises, eg., pig, horse, cow, donkey, snake, duck, chicken, monkey, frog, etc., although for an adults party, for extra fun, you can include one or two animals for which no recognizable sound is commonly known, eg., platypus, armadillo, hamster, etc. (For very large groups you can double the number of available animals by prefacing each one 'little'/'large', or 'mummy'/'daddy', and stipulate that the noises should differ accordingly - high and low of course...) First have each team member take a piece of paper which shows the animal they are to play in the game. The object of the game is for team members to find the hidden smarties, and direct their leader to them by making their own animal noise (actions are entirely optional in this game, also great fun and virtually inevitable). The team leader who collects the most smarties wins the game for their team. Team leaders are not permitted to look for smarties. Team leaders are not permitted to follow the sounds of animals belonging to other teams, but opposing team members are permitted to follow sounds of animals of other teams, and then to make their own noises on seeing the smarties. This great game requires leaders to remember which animals are in their teams, so a minute can be permitted for this before starting the game. You can also allow a couple of minutes for teams to prepare game tactics, although this is not essential. Give a time limit - 5-10 minutes is fine - as smartie hunts are tricky to predict. The use of smarties provides a good link to the SMART and SMARTER acronyms relating to task delegation. As an alternative to smarties sweets you can use M&Ms instead, which link well to the 3M mnemonic or MMM acronym: measurable, manageable, motivational, defining the essential elements of any contracted arrangement or delegated task (see the acronyms and delegation free materials).
tattoo game (relationships, attitudes and behaviour perceptions)
A game for dinner parties or team building and bonding, however this game is definitely not an activity for particularly sensitive people as it involves revealing personal information, and entails discussion of potentially personal feelings and perceptions. Seek all team members' agreement before playing this game. This exercise can be used for fun and relationship-building, or to highlight and challenge assumptions and pre-conceived judgement about people, class, background, stereotypes, etc. You can develop different games ideas around this exercise depending on the type of party game or team building activity required (and the level of intimacy welcomed by the group), based on the game as follows: ask team members to write down secretly on a piece of paper each whether they have any tattoos on any part of their body, or for more daring groups or party games, a description of the tattoos and their locations. (The amount of detail to be given is a variable factor of the game and must always be subject to agreement by the delegates.) Team members then fold their pieces of paper and put each into a container to prevent cheating. Group members then take turns to pick one of the folded pieces of paper and guess who it belongs to. Team members should read out what's written on the paper and explain their thought process (which obviously raises points for comment and reaction during or after the guessing game). If the person guesses correctly, the paper is removed, if not, it is placed back into the container. Points can be awarded for correct guesses and/or to team members incorrectly matched to tattoos. For groups of up to seven the guessing stage of the game is best played by individuals; groups of eight and over can be split into two teams for the guessing stage of the game, in which case members of the guessing team are not allowed to admit or deny ownership of the description. Team members should also be instructed to disguise handwriting, and to use the same sort of pen or pencil, to avoid giving clues. Allowance also needs to be made for team members having visible or known tattoos, the simplest rule being to disregard these tattoos. For the same reason team members selecting a description that they know already (of a friend for instance) should return the piece of paper to the container without revealing its contents and pick another. The point of the game is not the score or who wins, it is the speculation and guessing, and the ensuing discussion and reaction, particularly people's reactions when being matched incorrectly, and correctly, to particular tattoos. For more adventurous activities and variations to this game you can extend the exercise to include body piercings, which, like tattoos, for the purpose of the game, should not be known or visible. N.B. Tattoos and piercings are actually a serious and fascinating aspect of human behaviour, culture and evolution, and have featured in one form or another across most civilizations throughout the history of human-kind; in a games context the subject can produce lively and enlightening debate. (As with all of these games on this team building page please read carefully the disclaimer below - if in doubt about any team member's vulnerability or sensitivity to any team building game or activity, don't use it.)
the 'prisoner's dilemma' win-win game (based on the 'prisoner's dilemma' puzzle, for team building, and team-working, co-operation skills)
Use this exercise for a great team building game, and to demonstrate the value of cooperation. Run the exercise as it appears on the sheet or adapt it to suit your situation (change values and numbers etc, etc). Here's a free 'prisoner's dilemma' win-win game sheet and scorecard (pdf) and the same game sheet/scorecard in MSWord format which you can amend to suit your needs.
Ideally split the group into two teams of up to five per team (larger teams require leaders to avoid chaos or disaffected passengers). The teams must select simply either 'defect' or 'co-operate' in each round. Scoring is based on the selections of both teams. The point of the game is to game is to demonstrate that poor co-operation leads to winners and losers, and ultimately everyone loses as a result of retaliation. When the teams decide to cooperate, everyone wins. The facilitator acts as the 'banker'. Use this free team building exercise with groups sizes from four (in which case the 'teams' would be pairs), up to twenty or more, or split teams into pairs and have them play separately. For details and examples of the prisoner's dilemma look at the puzzles section.
More guidance for playing the prisoner's dilemma game:
- The game is better with two teams, but it will work with several teams - adapt the sheet and scoring accordingly.
- The game sheet that is available as a pdf or MSWord file is all you need to give to the teams.
- The only 'question' each round for each team is to decide whether to 'defect' or 'cooperate'.
- If delegates want to start with an imaginery 'float', rather than having to contemplate being in debt, you can agree a small credit balance for each team.
- The point of course is that if all teams cooperate they will beat the banker, but it takes a while for them to realise this - so don't tell them before hand, just explain the scoring system and tell them the point is to accumulate as much 'money' as possible - teams then tend to defect and try to win at the other team's expense, which in turn causes relatiation, which produces unsustainable losses.
- For background reference, read the explanation of the prisoner's dilemma on the complex puzzles page.
- Use the game sheet (pdf or MSWord format - also available from the free resources section) - one game sheet per team - make sure all team members can see it - if necessary issue copy-sheets or show the sheet on a screen.
- The facilitator should practice the game first with individuals (eg family members) playing the part of the teams, so you see how it works.
- In early rounds make sure that teams do not reveal their selection to other teams until they all show their selection at the same time - the best way is have them write down on a sheet of paper and then all show together, or for them to hold up a pre-prepared 'defect' or 'cooperate' card, simultaneously, when the facilitator says to. As the game progresses allow teams to confer if they ask to.
- The facilitator needs to keep the score for all the teams on a flip-chart or equivalent.
- The game ends when the teams get the point and are all cooperating every round, which will beat the banker.
team-building workshops (for team building, change management, performance management, creativity, train-the-trainer, problem solving, process development, etc)
Workshops are a wonderful way to motivate and focus teams, as well as breaking down barriers, and developing performance, confidence and achievement. Workshops are also ideal for teams and groups who might resist or feel uncomfortable with games or activities too far removed from their normal work. Workshops can be very quick, and integrate well within routine team meetings. Workshops also help establish new leaders into teams whether established or newly formed. The participative aspect of workshops make them highly effective team building activities. As ever, for any training session, workshops need clear aims be established and agreed, and the session to be clearly planned and managed, with useful, relevant outputs, which can be coached later through implementation. More details about workshops, and a sample format for a 1-2 hour session are on the workshop section.
up in the air (for team building, handling change, team development, teamwork, listening skills, illustrating the training and learning process, and more)
You can use this game to support the training of any new task, particularly if delegates feel unsure about their ability to learn the new task and apply it along with existing activities. The game works extremely well, and trainees love it because it's different and fun. This exercise will also help participants understand and deal with that uncomfortable feeling when they join a new team, experience change within their own team, or are forced to adjust to a change in procedure or policies. It emphasises the understanding of 'what is now new and will soon become the normal' and helps demonstrate how the transition from new to normal can flow naturally. Amongst other things, use this great team building game to develop multi-tasking ability, eg., for people who are unsure of their ability to talk to customers and work on the computer at the same time. This game is also ideal as a warm-up for training sessions or courses because it helps delegates remember the names of other people in the group.
How it works: A group of 6 to 20 stand in a circle facing each other. The facilitator must participate as well. The facilitator explains to the group that they will call out a person's name and toss a ball (such as a stress ball or juggling ball - any soft object actually, even fruit or cuddly toys will suffice) to the named person. That person must then call out another person's name in the circle (who has not yet had the object tossed to them) and then throw the object to that person. This continues until everyone in the circle has thrown and caught the object. The facilitator must explain to the group that each person must remember their catcher. When the object has been thrown to everyone in the group, the ball returns to the facilitator, and is then thrown around the circle again, in the same order as before. This cycle continues until the facilitator is happy that the whole group is comfortable with the exercise. (You'll know this because people are actually listening for their name to be called out and catching the object.)
When the group is competent with the first ball, the facilitator introduces a second ball (or suitable object), which must follow the same order as the first, so that two objects are being passed around the group. When competence is reached with the two objects, a third is introduced, and still, every thrower must announce the name of the catcher before throwing.
And so on. At some stage between three objects and saturation point (ie as many objects being passed as people in the group - it's up to the facilitator) without warning the facilitator instructs the group to begin tossing the objects in the REVERSE order (ie., catchers call out names of, and throw to, the people who previously threw to them. Chaos at first, but all great fun, and gradually people learn, which after all, is the point of the game.
Points to review: How did you feel when the exercise began? After you reached a comfort level with the task, how did you feel when more objects were added? How soon did you achieve comfort level when new objects were introduced, and did this timescale change for each new object? Did anyone in the team begin encouraging or helping others by telling them to just focus on the person tossing the object to them? When we had the major change of reversing the order the object was tossed, did you expect it? How did you handle it? Did the group eventually perform well at it and get a constant flow of objects in the air? You will think of more questions to ask and points to review, especially when seeing the game played. (Ack. Tori Sarmiento)
team jenga and reverse jenga (team building, leadership, tactics, planning)
Jenga is the traditional wooden-block tower de-construction game, table-top version or giant garden outdoors size. In teams of between two and six, play it normally (removing blocks, each team taking turns to remove a block until it collapses) or in reverse (building it up, taking it in turns, keeping to a specified pattern or set of rules, again until it collapses). You can use other suitable building blocks or materials in the absence of Jenga (snack-size chocolate bars are good). With larger teams (four or more) allow some planning time for tactics and leadership issues to be developed, and review afterwards accordingly.
who am i? game
Lots of variations to this one: Can be played individually or in teams. A card on is taped onto the player's forehead showing everyone the name written on it. The player with the card on his/her forehead (who does not know the name on the card) must then ask closed questions (requiring only 'yes' or 'no' answers) to establish his/her identity. The method of creating name-cards is flexible: the facilitator can prepare in advance, or have the group think of names and create cards, based on any theme that's appropriate, including work colleagues, or even the session group members themselves. Using names of work-colleagues and group members adds a fascinating dimension, (relationships, reputations, perceptions, emotions), so needs sensitive facilitation and review.
A wonderful team building game for teams of ideally 10 to 15 persons, although a minimum of six people per team will work, and actually there is no upper limit per team - it depends on space, and how much emphasis is placed on the planning stage. Total group size is therefore as many 10-15 person teams that the space will accommodate, which also makes this team building exercise terrific for conferences and warm-ups of very large groups. You'll need two bicycle tyres, with different tread patterns, for each team. Organize each team into a circle, with the team members' hands tightly clasped. The tyres are introduced by the facilitator at opposite points of the circle by unclasping hands of two members and hanging the tyres on the arms, which should then be joined again by clasping their hands. The object of the game is for the team to pass each tyre in a different direction around the circle, involving two crossings of the tyres, and then finishing with each tyre at its starting position. The team which finishes first wins the game. Hands must not be unclasped, and thumbs cannot be used to support or move the tyres. Allow ten minutes planning and thinking time, (or for very large teams where a warm-up only is required, give instructions so that the game can start immediately). Obviously the game must start at the same time for each team. The trick is for the tyre to be moved up the arm, over the head, down the body, at which point the person steps out of the tyre, one leg after the other, and the tyre continues down the other arm to the next team member. The stepping manoeuvre when two tyres cross is the most difficult and requires some agility, so the planning and team selection is potentially very important. NB As a facilitator you must practice this game before using in a team building or conference situation, to prepare for questions and to demonstrate, if required.
Here are the typical review points for the tyre game team building exercise, usually based on the performance of the winning team:
- The team understands the task and aim of the team building game.
- The circle of people develops into a team with a common objective.
- Technique to achieve task is discovered and refined by 'storming' (see the Tuckman team development model).
- A team leader emerges.
- Practice (essential) develops technique and plan.
- The leader's role becomes stronger as the team develops.
- Difficulties are ironed out.
- Resources (people) are reorganized.
- Right person for the right job (notably for the two crossing points)
- Training and practice are carried out.
- The team becomes increasingly motivated to perform.
- Performance improves, excels, achieves and wins.
(With thanks to Lt Col Ajay Ukidve (retired), Victory Associates, Pune, India)
It's very easy to create a simple quiz - base it on a theme or general knowledge - which can be use for teams or pairs in competition. See the Big Boys Toys table quiz as an example of a themed quiz, available as a pdf download (Ack. J Hespe). See also the puzzles section for quiz questions. The Big Boys Toys table quiz can be given as a competitive exercise between teams lasting 20-30 minutes plus 10 minutes to review, or as a quiz to be worked on in breaks or overnight as light relief. Prizes always increase team-building value and enthusiasm.
Here's a free quick trivia quiz in MSWord.
spaghetti and marshmallow towers
For a variation on the newspaper construction theme....... Issue spaghetti (raw uncooked) and marshmallows to groups of 4-5, and give them 15-30 minutes to build the highest structure in the room (or a widest bridge or tallest arch, etc - whatever the facilitator decides). A really different fun exercise for team-building, motivation and illustrating many management and organizational principles. Exercise duration, amount of materials allocated, group sizes, and whether to appoint team leaders are all flexible aspects of this wonderful game. Excellent for jaded business-people, young people and schools. The review afterwards can focus on a wide range of issues - team-building, motivation, time-management, organization, systems, planning, communication, resources, research and development, etc. If you use this exercise to illustrate a particular aspect - eg communication - it is helpful for the delegates to discuss and highlight some of the essential points in the pre-exercise brief, which provides a useful framework for the review. These unusual materials can also be used instead of construction kits for the organizational modelling exercise below. (Thanks Kathi Bogue)
Look at the newspaper construction games which provide other ideas for using these materials in construction exercises, although I should point out that marshmallows are not a particularly good weight-bearing material, and also are not ideal in very hot conditions, unless getting messy is part of the fun.
See also the ideas for working with aluminium baking foil in the baking foil games on the other team building page.
A very easy warm-up to relax everyone - whether the delegates know each other or not (surprisingly this is often more fun when they do - and if they don't they'll appreciate the opportunity to meet and get to know each other early on). This will also take the early pressure off you as the facilitator by having them do some of the work. Ask the delegates to pair up - you can simply suggest the person sitting next to themselves, or something more active, like finding someone with the same colour hair, or same height, or same colour eyes, anything appropriate for the group. Then ask each person briefly to interview the other person (say three mins each), and then everyone to present the other person to the audience, again briefly, say a minute each. This is much more dynamic than simply asking everyone to introduce themselves. If necessary give people pointers as to what they should be finding out about the other person (eg - job, home-life, likes, dislikes, hobbies, why they are there, etc). You can also say that after the exercise that everyone will have achieved useful experiences and developed useful skills, ie, questioning, listening, interpreting and then (scary for some) speaking to an audience of strangers. These aspects of communicating are usually consistent with at least one theme of the day, so is a relevant and helpful way to start any training session.
the golf-ball shaker (for creativity and ice-breaking)
The exercise is great for beginning any creative session as it gets people thinking and working outside of their known area. It's also a good warm-up for any situation as it gets people participating, smiling and laughing. It's best done by individuals, although for a large group it can be done in pairs. Ask the delegates first to design a shoe - any shoe - making a sketch in 30 seconds. Displaying and reviewing quickly all the ideas is an important part of the exercise so have the delegates draw on acetate for an overhead projector, or make a large drawing on a flipchart sheet, using coloured fibre-tip pens. Quickly review each of the designs. There are no right or wrong answers - the likelihood is that most people's shoe designs will all be similar and certainly resembling styles available in the high street, which is because they are thinking about a concept that already firmly exists - people mostly will be accessing memory and experience rather than truly creating. Next ask each delegate or pair to design an electric heater, again in 30 seconds. Review each design quickly. This time there will be some quite different designs - again no right or wrong answers - the purpose is to show that with less well-defined pre-conceptions the ideas will be slightly fresher and a lot more varied. Finally ask each of the pairs or delegates to design a 'golf-ball shaker' - give no other explanation (what the hell is a golf-ball shaker?.....) - again give 30 seconds for the task. Review the designs and marvel at the range of interpretations and ideas. The ideas necessarily are more creative and innovative because there are no pre-conceptions or existing products in the delegates' minds. The exercise is liberating and enjoyable, particularly when the ideas are reviewed. You can add more intrigue to the exercise by asking the delegates to guess who is responsible for each design, which highlights the aspect of personal flair and style in design and creativity. (Ack. Tony Wills).
round tables (for delegation, leadership, team building)
Split the group into three teams of five. Around the room (or building) put five tables and on each table put three sets of materials and instructions for a task - use things like newspaper bridge building, newspaper towers, playing card sorting, anything that's complex enough to create a delegation challenge for a team of four plus leader (lots of ideas for the tasks appear below).
The game is a contest (or time-based race, depending on the scoring system you prefer to use) between the three teams to complete all five table tasks in turn, only moving from one to the next when each task is completed, or when time is elapsed.
Every team member takes it in turn to lead their own team and delegate the task activities as the team moves from table to table. While leading, the leaders are not permitted to take part in the task other than speak to their team members.
To prepare, you need three sets of five task materials/instructions. Each exercise should have a time limit (up to you), and there needs to be a clearly understood scoring system for each task (easiest would be simply 3pts for winner, 2pts for 2nd and 1pt for 3rd).
As the judge, you reserve the right to deduct penalty points for transgressions (eg leaders participating, or tasks being incomplete or running over time). There needs to be a clear way to measure the performance of each team for each task, so there can be a clear result at the end. The extent to which relative performance is visible to all teams at the time of doing the tasks is up to you - it's a variable factor that changes the nature of the activity (the less visible the performance the more test for the leader as to what's required to win) - some tasks could be clearly visible (eg., tower height), others might only be revealed at the end of the whole activity (eg playing card sorting). Tasks don't all need to be physical construction. Tasks can be varied, including mental (eg puzzles) or creative (finding things out), and they don't necessarily need to be done at the table (teams might be required to go off in search of things in the building - information, or obscure items, like a mini-treasure hunt). The tables need only be the base points for each task, where the leader gets the task instructions.
Prior to the activity you should brainstorm with the whole group the relevant skills/aspects that will be useful in the whole activity, eg: establishing who's good at what, timing, resource planning, clear instructions, etc. Use these points as a basis for review afterwards.
After the activity review with participants how they felt when being delegated to do things - motivation, consultation, participation, encouragement, clarity of instructions, style of leadership, etc.
Also review experience of the leaders - what was difficult, what could be improved, why some things are more difficult to delegate than others.
Refer to the notes on delegation and issue these guidelines before or after exercise.
maslow ads (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and motivation)
In pairs or threes, or brainstorm with a whole group, ask for examples of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs motivators in advertising. Ask for explanations as well. You can issue several glossy magazines and/or show videos, or simply ask for examples. Here are some pointers:
- Biological and Physiological needs - wife/child-abuse help-lines, social security benefits, Samaritans, roadside recovery.
- Safety needs - home security products (alarms, etc), house an contents insurance, life assurance, schools.
- Belongingness and Love needs - dating and match-making services, chat-lines, clubs and membership societies, MacDonald, 'family' themes like the old style Oxo stock cube ads.
- Esteem needs - cosmetics, fast cars, home improvements, furniture, fashion clothes, drinks, lifestyle products and services.
- Self-Actualization needs - Open University, and that's about it; little else in mainstream media because only 2% of population are self-actualizes, so they don't constitute a very big part of the mainstream market.
organizational modelling exercises (to prompt thought and debate about organizational structure and communications)
Split the group into threes or fours. Issue each team with a good quantity of components from a particular toy construction kit (Lego, Stickle Bricks, K'nex, or similar - each team need not have the same as each other). The task for each team is to create a model which represents the organization that they work for, including other parts of the organization relevant to service delivery or product manufacture. The models require thought and discussion about structure, relationships, departments, co-operation, dependencies, isolation, etc., which can then be reviewed by the whole group when complete. It's a very enjoyable exercise, illuminating for all, and an ideal prompt to debate and develop solutions for improving organizational effectiveness, systems and communications.
N.B. This activity has now been expanded and a 'zero-preparation option' developed - see the Organizational Models Exercise - for helping groups understand and improve work structures of all sorts - and great for organizational development workshops.
agenda wall (barriers to team working)
This exercise illustrates the importance of having a clear collective aim for any group, and how poorly a team or organization functions when individuals (or teams within the whole) have different aims within it. The parameters of the exercise can easily be changed according to group numbers. For large groups create pairs or threes to work together. Issue the group a box of toy building blocks, such as Lego, with various different bricks (colour, length, features, etc). The group task is to build a wall of certain dimensions (you as the facilitator state height and width according to time and group numbers). Issue each group member (or pair or threesome) with their own 'hidden agenda', which they must keep secret and try to achieve. The hidden agendas can be anything that conflicts with other hidden agendas, which will create conflict while the main task of building the wall is under way. Check that each hidden agenda is possible, albeit at the expense of other agendas. Here are some examples of hidden agendas to issue. It's easy to think of others when you have all the bricks in front of you.
- ensure there are three red bricks on each row
- ensure no red brick touches a yellow one
- ensure a blue brick touches a yellow brick on each row
- ensure every row contains two yellow bricks
- ensure there is a vertical line of touching white bricks, one block wide, from top to bottom
- ensure no row contains more than three different coloured bricks
- ensure one row contains only single blocks (no doubles or trebles etc)
- ensure every row contains at least one double-block brick
(Adapted from a suggestion by Ruth Fradenburg)
fun and games with video (for team building and any other subjects)
Video is a great team building and training medium if you use it creatively - not off-the-shelf stuff which rarely works for specific situations. Instead use home-recorded video to provide you with unlimited interesting subject matter for exercises, role-plays and reviews, it's much more fun.
For instance - record on video some scenes with a suitable number of characters (relative to your team sizes) from famous TV soaps (especially amusing ones with amusing characters). Then have two teams recreate the scene(s) incorporating your own key messages or products. Alternatively have the teams critique the behaviour according to the theme or message of your session.
Using brainstorming before a review or critique session is a great way to establish a common approach and understanding towards the points for review and why. This saves you as the facilitator having to do a lot of detailed preparation on the points to review - get the team doing it instead as they'll learn more that way. A proforma tool which will help you and the team establish and then refer to the points for review is available on the free resources page.
Also, video some TV adverts (good and bad) and have each team critique them, brainstorm first the points you want to look for and review, eg., the AIDCA format (see acronyms), image, style, relevance to target audience, likely effectiveness or otherwise, 'feel', etc.
Also, video some scenes from the TV show 'The Office' or another show featuring inept workplace behaviour (the funnier and worse the better) and have teams critique the behaviour from different aspects, eg Action Centered Leadership, Tannenbaum and Schmidt, motivation (eg. XY/Herzberg) leadership, culture, quality, Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Transactional Analysis, etc.
Make sure you establish the review points and then use a review sheet to focus on, to manage and get the best out of the review or critique session.
Using video in this way creates a lot of fun and interest for any team building or training session - there's so much you can do with this approach, and it's simple and very inexpensive.
variables and values (negotiation game)
Two teams - have each team identify as many tradable variables (concessions - real and perceived) that exist within your product/service offering. You can extent the exercise by asking the teams next to give real and perceived values to each concession. Also to identify actual costs to your organization for each. You can award a prize to the member of each member of the winning team, and maybe a special prize to whoever thinks up the best variable with the lowest cost and highest perceived value.
sweet traders (negotiation game)
Teams of three - each given an equal amount (as many as you like) of at least six different types of sweets and/or chocolate snack bars - wrapped preferable or things get a bit sticky - each type of sweet has a value (eg 1pt, 2 pts, 3 pts, 4 pts, etc.). Devise a complicated scoring system - something that really makes people think and has many different possible winning combinations, Eg., bonus points for sets of all one sort. Bonus points for collections containing one of each, two of each, three of each, etc., bonus points for biggest collection compared to other teams, etc. Teams must trade with each other to collect the highest value collection. The purpose is to illustrate need for planning and trading, and continual search for new ideas and agreements. See how enthusiastically people plan and how actively they trade - imagine if this dynamism were applied to business.... (Eating the sweets during the exercise is strictly forbidden and carries a penalty of 1 million points)
'pit' trading games (party games, negotiation game, team building, or for warm-ups, ice-breakers)
This is perhaps the greatest party game ever invented and is very easy to adapt for work teambuilding and icebreakers.
The game is highly involving and active, and brings out everyone's competitive instincts.
It is very easy to make the cards required for this game if you don't have the PIT! game or some other suitable playing cards. Paper can be used instead of card. Cards need plain backs so that the type of card is hidden during trading.
(The boxed PIT! trading card game requires players to collect a set of the same sort of cards - the original PIT! game is based on the commodities exchange - wheat, barley, rye, etc.)
The game can be played by individuals or pairs or teams of three or more. The bigger the teams the more noise and chaos happens.
You need 8-12 cards of as many types as there are teams or individuals (for example, if you have six players or six teams, you'll need six sets of cards, say ten of each = 60 cards total).
The game needs at least five separate playing individuals or teams. As an example of what to make, create ten cards of each (with one of the following drawn/written on them):
dog, cat, horse, lion, elephant, mouse, bee, fish
This is enough for eight teams or players. For more teams/players, make additional sets of ten 'type' cards as required.
Shuffle cards and distribute evenly.
When the game starts, players may swap cards by shouting how many they wish to swap - but not by not showing or revealing what type of cards they wish to swap or acquire. Equal quantities of the same sort of card must be traded, which produces chaotic and enjoyable trading as players hold cards aloft shouting 'two, two,' or 'three, three', etc, (being the number of cards they are wishing to swap).
The winner is first player/team to collect all of the same cards.
In work-based teambuilding and training this exercise illustrates principles of trading in negotiation, rather than simply giving away (concessions, discounts, etc). It also demonstrates enthusiasm and determination, which hopefully can be applied to business.
As a party game or work exercise the activity is enormous fun and usually very noisy.
If playing with large teams, the teams will need leaders, and so can be used as a leadership development exercise, including the need for planning, checking and communication.
Teams and individuals will sometimes cheat - swapping cards of mixed varieties - which is technically not allowed, but the strictness of this rule is up to the facilitator. Use this point also to illustrate importance of integrity - teams and players will be reluctant to trade with people who cheat. Also, cheating in this game can create a cliamte in which other teams begin to cheat as well, with chaotic results.
See also the chaos lesson game for variations in using this game for very large groups.
bop it (communications, team building, warm-ups, etc)
'Bop-it Extreme' is a terrific hand-held game that was primarily designed as a children's toy, but it's great fun and extremely challenging for grown-ups too.
You hold it like a steering wheel and wait for the robotic voice to shout instructions, to 'flick it', 'twist it', 'spin it', 'pull it', or 'bop it', while a rhythmic drum beat marks the time allowed. If you get it wrong or are late, it tells you how many times you got it right - it speeds up so the challenge never ends.
Bop-it Extreme is great for team warm-ups, and for contests between individuals or teams, and for demonstrating how the brain doesn't always do what you want it to, especially under pressure. It's available from any big toystore and various online suppliers. Cost around £20 or $30. It's utterly addictive so beware...
bidding game (tactics, negotiation, game theory dynamics)
Announce to two or more people that you will auction a £20 note to the highest bidder. The only rule is that the unsuccessful lowest bidder will have to pay you their bid. The bidders will start off low - maybe at just a penny or two. As they progress higher the awful trap starts to emerge - but there is nothing they can do about it: no-one wants to lose and have to pay a few pounds and watch someone else get the prize for a lot less than it's worth. And so it goes. Eventually you see (if they haven't run away) the ludicrous spectacle of people bidding higher than the face value of the note. Of course, the only winning first bid (and this is a good lesson on greed in any aspect of life) is £19.99...
(Thanks Rupert Stubbs)
silent touch exercise (listening skills, non-verbal communications, body language)
If you want something a bit different, here's a great quick one for highlighting and developing non-verbal awareness.
Each delegate does this in turn:
One person (the 'touchee') stands against a wall facing it. The rest of the group, one by one, walks up to the person, places a hand on their shoulder and says their name (the toucher's name not the touchee). The person being touched must not look around to see the toucher. Then repeat the exercise using a different order for the touchers, this time without saying their names (you may need to point to people to control the order).
The person being touched has to use their various senses more acutely to guess the identity of each toucher (the 'feel' of the shoulder-touch, maybe smell, the sound of the approach, etc.)
You must explain to the whole group the whole exercise before it starts. You must instruct everyone not to disguise the spoken touch or the silent touch. The 'winner' is the person who guesses most of the silent touches, which means you need to keep a tally of each 'touchee's' correct silent guesses.
Review and discuss only after everyone has had their turn as the 'touchee', otherwise clues will surface and benefit the later touchees. When reviewing you can refer people to brain types and styles, and particularly right-side brain strengths, which generally enable greater sensitivity and awareness for this type of exercise. See the Benziger theory. (Thanks Chris Baker)
nail puzzle (team building, problem solving, lateral thinking)
This fantastic puzzle makes a great quick warm-up or teaser for a whole group or for teams to solve. Details on the puzzles page. Also a great puzzle for reinforcing any idea or training that involves a theme of 'nailing' something or 'hitting the nail on the head' - ie emphasising the need to be very specific.
memory exercises (team building, questioning, information gathering)
Show a picture for a minute with lots going on in it - big comic book cartoons are ideal - and then ask different questions about what was in the picture (eg what animal was to the left of the camel?, what colour was the teacher's tie?, etc). A great variation on this is to have each team to think of a certain number of questions to ask the other teams. Teams get points for correct answers and for other teams failing to answer.
Put about 20-30 household items on a tray and let people memorise them for a minute, then have them jot down all they can remember within a time-limit, say 5 minutes.
Draw some geometric/coloured shapes and do the same as above.
Do the same with long numbers.
speed games (team building, mental ability)
Traditional games 'speed versions' - time-limit draughts (chequers) - points for pieces captured, speed chess - the winner is one to achieve check-mate or take most pieces (different pieces are worth different points) within a time limit. 'Connect-4' and 'Mastermind' colour or number versions work well too. These are all great mental challenge games that can be played by individuals or teams, and against the clock if you introduce a suitable scoring system. Look at the boxed board games and card games ideas page for more 'speed games' ideas.
sycamore seed game (creativity, team building, problem solving)
Design and demonstrate a 'wing' or 'spinner' which stays in the air for the longest time when dropped from a specified height (a sycamore seed is a great example to show after the exercise to demonstrate a lateral thinking approach). Issue just a small sheet of paper. Teams of three or pairs are best.
Alternative version is to make a paper aeroplane which glides the furthest from a specified height, with or without push start (depends on room size). Time allowed can be as little as 3 minutes, but it's better with 10-15 so that it brings in a planning element.
the paper girder (team building, planning, organizing, creativity, problem solving)
Using one sheet of A4 paper and an item issued for a weight (eg a small coin), make the longest horizontal extension from the edge of the table, to support a paper-clip at its end (attached or hung within the final ½inch of the end of the girder). The measurement will be the horizontal distance from the tip of the girder to the table edge. Scissors, knives or moistening the paper are not allowed. Teams of three are ideal. Again, time allowed can be as little as 3 minutes, but it's better with 10-15 mins to bring in a planning element.
playing card sorting (team building, planning, organizing, creativity, problem solving)
Issue one, two or even three packs of cards to each team (teams of three best). Mix up all the cards in each team's pack(s). Aim is to sort into packs and suits fastest (display face up on table). Be aware that if packs are of different designs you will need to state whether these need sorting too, which obviously increases difficulty. Teams of three and upwards. Great for organization, especially if large team sizes are possible.
bigger team building games and exercises..
Most of the following ideas and games are bigger and more time-consuming team activities than those listed above, which can generally be used or adapted for icebreakers and short groupwork sessions in meetings and training courses, etc.
These activities mostly require more planning and management, and usually more materials and logistical consideration, especially if large groups are involved.
They are suitable for conferences and gatherings where more time is available for teambuilding than typically is available at short meetings, training sessions, and group selection job interviewing/recruitment sessions.
clay islands (team-building, team-working, planning, negotiation inter-personal skills, creativity, problem-solving and more)
A wonderful hands-on team exercise that takes people way outside their normal work comfort zones. It's always different, is full of learning and development, and always a lot of fun. Group sizes of 6-8 people work well, 8 is ideal. Smaller group sizes of 3-5 will work, but produce less team dynamics and inter-action than with larger groups. It's best with three or more groups, but possible with two. Issue each team with a football-sized lump of clay (the type used for making pottery, available from craft and educational suppliers), and a suitable flat board or tray on which to work. Clay modelling implements are optional.
The task for each group is to create an island, which the groups themselves are to imagine they inhabit, which they will model with the clay. Instruct the groups that for the first two parts of the exercise the members within each group are to not allowed to speak to each other. Give 10 minutes for the first two 'silent' parts of the exercise:
- Ask the groups to create the geographical features of the island e.g. cliffs, rivers, inlets/harbours, mountains etc.
- Ask them to create shelter for themselves individually eg., a house, a cave, a mansion, a hut.
After these two activities have been done in silence, allow the members of each group to speak within their own group while creating their own island 'community', which can be scheduled to go on for 15-30 minutes. Suggest elements that need to be discussed and established as to how their island operates and what constitutes the 'community' (some of which may be modeled, others not) such as health care, education, commerce, defence, food production, transport, infrastructure, governing structure, decision-making process, etc - all to be discussed and developed by the group. The group is of course the 'ruling council' for their own island, and they have the opportunity to define how they will work together, including issues of leadership and decision-making, etc.
Observing all of this experiential development produces excellent data for review afterwards with the group, and is particularly useful for training and development concerning gender, leadership styles, decision-making, personality types, team-working, etc.
After a further 15-30 minutes tell them there are other islands (they'll probably know of course, but hitherto will not have given a thought to any islands other than their own). Tell them that they are not obliged or required to do anything about the other islands - it's up to each group what they do. Typically the groups will want to take action of some sort, whether to trade, attack, make friends - whatever.
Again this leads to all kinds of experiences within the group and between groups, which should be noted by the facilitator(s) for use later in the review.
The exercise needs to be given a finish time or it could go on indefinitely. There is no winner and no stipulated objectives for individuals, groups, islands - it's meant to be very open, which enables the relationships, cultures, systems and styles, etc., to develop very freely.
The review can be conducted in various ways - group presentations, individual presentations, group discussion, personal experiences 'felt' by people; focus on certain headings: leadership, decision-making, communications within and outside of the island groups, good planning, bad planning, issues of morality and integrity, island cultures; the list obviously is very long, and the extent to which groups are focused on these issues before and during the exercise is flexible and up to the facilitator.
Using clay is messy, so make sure people have aprons and somewhere to wash. The use of such an unusual material provides excellent motivation and interest - working with clay is a very 'earthy' and basic activity and people do not often have the chance to play with it. It does add another dimension.
This exercise works particularly well as an evening activity on a residential course.
As a guide, allow at least an hour for the exercise and 30 minutes for the review - obviously longer if it involves presentations. Typically younger people take less time, but whoever is doing it, if the exercise is providing useful learning experience keep it going.
The facilitator should look especially for the development of relationships in the island communities, and how these affect the relationships between the islands. Leaders and styles emerge, which can all be discussed in the review.
The exercise can be used with all ages and in all situations, whether for, business, organizational, educational, or behavioural development.
(Ack Judith Jenner)
mini-business project game
Games activities with a real ongoing business purpose - like the website challenge below - are ideal for training and developing people over a period of a few weeks or months. The focus should be the products/services that the company offers or are within strategic intention/capability to do so. Using a series of mini-business projects as a basis for the 'games' gives the organization some serious business-related output, as well as developing the delegates' behaviour and skills (creativity, research, planning, finance, negotiation, selling, design, contracts, buying, management, etc). This type of project based activity also develops a strong feeling of involvement and responsibility among the delegates. As an alternative to creating a new website business , which is an exciting project for most people (see the website challenge below), delegates can instead be tasked to establish a new distributor or retail outlet, or a new product line, as a basis for the 'game' activity. The 'game' is essentially to conceptualise and then implement a mini NPD or new business project. Mentoring, coaching, liaison with other departments are important support elements during project set-up and as the projects unfold. There are also potentially big additional benefits for the organization in building bridges between interested departments - marketing, finance, IT, etc - while parameters are established and projects develop. Terms of reference need to be clearly agreed, and adequate consultation and approvals are essential. The business and training benefits can be huge.
website challenge (team building, creativity, commercial skills, financial skills, planning and organizing, technology, presentation, communicating, etc)
Needs to run over several weeks or months. Great for inter-departmental or regional competition. Challenge is for the teams to each set up a real website and achieve the highest traffic to beat the other teams (need to issue some money or allocate a budget - not much - you don't need much for this - and need to establish clear parameters). You can introduce lots of variations and complexities depending on how far you want to take it. You can stipulate the product/service area or leave as open as you wish.
stranded - the team building survival game
You can use this type of exercise with various scenarios for teams/groups of between 3 and 15 people: desert island, jungle, etc. It's also great to use in group selections for recruiting staff, when the interviewing panel observe the efforts, abilities and attitudes of the participants.
Here's a mountain survival scenario exercise. It's a very flexible theme provided you avoid the requirement to establish a definitive correct list of items - there's no definitive 'right answer'; there are other reasons for this too. It's best not to have a definitive list of items as recommended by experts - what's important is for the group to see the benefit of group discussion and collective expertise, experience and input, which produces a generally accepted better list of items than anyone's individual list.
The risk in referring to a supposed definitive 'right answer' list is that:
- it focuses too much attention on the outcome rather than the process,
- it causes participants to guess what they think the facilitator thinks, as if it's a trick question, and
- it can undermine the credibility of the exercise and the facilitator when inevitably someone in the group, or worse still, the entire group disagrees with the 'right answer', as is likely with any hypothetical scenario.
Position the exercise like this:
After your small light aircraft crashes, your group, wearing business/leisure clothing, is stranded on a forested mountain in appalling winter weather (snow covered, sub-freezing conditions), anything between 50 and 200 miles from civilisation (you are not sure of your whereabouts, and radio contact was lost one hour before you crashed, so the search operation has no precise idea of your location either). The plane is about to burst into flames and you have a few moments to gather some items. Aside from the clothes you are wearing which does not include coats, you have no other items. It is possible that you may be within mobile phone signal range, but unlikely.
(Other than these facts, he session facilitator may clarify particular questions from the group(s) as to details of the circumstances and the environment, and these details remain constant for the duration of the exercise. Other details may simply not be known - it's at the facilitator's discretion.)
Your (the group's) aim is to survive as a group until rescued. From the following list choose just ten items that you would take from the plane, after which it and everything inside is destroyed by fire. First you have five-ten minutes (flexible, this is up to the facilitator) by yourself to consider and draw up your own individual list of what the team should have, without consulting with other members of the group. Retain this list after presenting it briefly to the group. Then you have 30-45 minutes (up to the facilitator) as a group to discuss and agree a list on behalf of the group. Nominate a spokesperson and present this new list.
With the facilitator's help, the group(s) afterwards then reviews the benefits of discussion, teamwork, collective expertise, group communication skills, etc., in the team approach to compiling the list, compared to each individual working alone to establish a list, and obviously why the team list is likely to be better than each of the individual lists.
Choose ten from the following - splitting or only taking part of items is not permitted (again the list and number of permitted items is flexible to suit the facilitators and situation requirements. This is a long list and will provoke an enormous amount of debate. To run a quicker exercise definitely reduce the list or delegates will feel rushed.)
- Pack of 6 boxes x 50 matches.
- Roll of polythene sheeting 3m x 2m
- 1 crate of beer (12 litres in total)
- 1 bottle of brandy
- 1 crate of bottled spring water (twelve litres in total)
- Small toolbox containing hammer, screwdriver set, adjustable wrench, hacksaw and large pen-knife.
- Box of distress signal flares.
- Small basic first-aid kit containing plasters, bandages, antiseptic ointment, small pair of scissors and pain-killer tablets.
- Tri-band mobile phone with infrared port and battery half-charged.
- Clockwork transistor radio.
- Gallon container full of fresh water.
- Box of 36 x 50gm chocolate bars.
- Short hand-held axe.
- Hand-gun with magazine of 20 rounds.
- 20m of 200kg nylon rope.
- Box of 24 x 20gm bags of peanuts.
- Bag of 10 mixed daily newspapers.
- Box of tissues.
- Bag of 20 fresh apples.
- Electronic calculator.
- Laptop computer with infrared port, modem, unknown software and data, and unknown battery life.
- Inflatable 4-person life-raft.
- Large full Aerosol can of insect killer spray.
- Small half-full aerosol can of air freshener spray.
- Notebook and pencil.
- Box of size 8 women's promotional pink 'Barbie' branded fleece-lined track-suits (quantity is half of each team/group size).
- Gift hamper containing half-bottle champagne, large tin of luxury biscuits, box of 6 mince pies, 50gm tin of caviar without a ring-pull, a 300gm tin of ham without a ring-pull, and a 500gm christmas pudding.
- Travelling games compendium containing chess, backgammon and draughts.
- Sewing kit.
- Torch with a set of spare batteries.
- Box of 50 night-light 6hr candles.
- Bag of 6 large blankets.
cotton reel cars (team building, planning, organizing, creativity)
Teams need an hour or two to do this justice, so it's great for an evening exercise when there's an overnight stay. Give each team a set of materials - the more the better within reason (the exercise becomes more complex and longer lasting with more materials). Materials could be anything that could be used to make a small car - for example: shoe box or egg box, wooden kebab skewers, sticky tape, stapler, some wheels - from Lego or Meccano or cotton reels, plus the basic drive-unit components, (ie at least one cotton reel, a couple of matchsticks and at least one rubber band - and if you don't know how to make a cotton-reel 'tank' see the exercise below). The objective is to build a self-propelled (rubber-band-powered) car that goes fastest, or covers the greatest distance, or both - it's up to the facilitator. The exercise climaxes with a race/competition in the bar in the evening. (The exercise has the feel of Robot Wars or Scrapheap Challenge, if you've seen either on the TV.)
A variation on this theme is simply to issue each team with a box of mixed vegetables - fresh not frozen please - (eg., cucumber is good for a chassis; sliced carrots make reasonable wheels) and some cocktail sticks, and there being no obvious vegetable-based drive-unit, each vegetable car must be launched from a slope. The furthest distance is the winner.
cotton reel tanks (team building, planning, organizing, creativity)
You may remember making these as a child. This is a great exercise for teams of three or pairs, competing against each other.
Materials required per team - 1 cotton reel, any size over about 3 cms diameter and 3 cms length. 1 rubber band the same length (cut and tied if necessary) as the cotton reel. At least two match sticks (or cocktail sticks or wooden barbecue skewers). A wax crayon or candle. Sellotape or stapler.
Construction - Thread the rubber band through the reel and anchor the loop around a stick, which must be cut so as not to protrude wider than the edge of the reel. Fix the stick in place to the end of the reel with a staple or Sellotape. Cover the opposite end of the reel and inside the edge of the hole with plenty of wax for lubrication. Insert a second stick, which should be at least an inch - better 2-3 inches - longer than the diameter of the end of the reel, though the loop of the rubber band and then 'wind up' the rubber band using the stick, until it is pulled flat against the waxed end of the reel. Put the reel on the floor and watch it go... slowly. Then spend the next twenty years trying to find the perfect specification!
Some people cut notches in the rims of the reels to create a cog effect for better grip. Different lengths and thicknesses of rubber bands are an important variable affecting performance and stability. Wax is essential - it won't work without it. The type and length of stick - other than the one used at the fixed end - also affects performance.
The challenge can be a race, distance travelled or obstacle course, whatever you like. As the facilitator, ensure you practice it first and establish clear rules about the aim (what the tanks have to do when they've been made) and the quantity of materials available.
design a game (creativity, team building)
One of the best activities (and particularly to develop problem-solving/analytical skills) is to actually set the group the task of designing the activities or games themselves. You can mix it up any way you want, for example, split group into syndicates of threes and give them different games or activities to design (communications, team building, problem-solving etc), which all syndicates will then have to do. Ensure everyone understands the criteria for designing development activities - brainstorm them to establish clear understanding of the aims and parameters with the group is a good starting point. These main criteria can then act as the assessment criteria for each syndicate to assess the activity designs of their peers. To add extra interest and fun you can give each of the groups some props and limit their designs to using the props, eg paper, scissors, string, dice, building bricks, some newspapers and magazines, cotton-reels, a bucket of water or two, blindfolds, foreign language dictionary, video cameras, anything. Introduce other rules and constraints - must be outdoors/indoors, must be a ten minute exercise, 20 minutes, whatever.
treasure hunts (team building, determination, organizing, problem solving)
There's no better activity for team building than a well-planned 'treasure hunt'.
Treasure hunts can be based on solving clues or finding things, or a mixture. Teams have a set amount of time to collect a list of items from the hotel/office complex/local vicinity - eg a restaurant menu with a fish dish on it, a box of matches with a phone number with a seven in it, an acorn, a brochure with a yacht in it, a sports programme with green grass pictured in it, etc etc. This is fantastic fun and a supreme leveller. Obviously ensure participants are warned not to do anything illegal or anti-social. Great for evening exercises for overnight stays.
If you are planning a big event for more than twenty people or so, it's essential that the facilitator goes to the location in advance, so that you can sort out the clues and the route and ensure it all works. It's easy when you're there. It's possible to think up a certain amount remotely, but the best clues will be specific local ones - that you must be able to rely on - something of this scale must be planned and tested at the location.
Do some basic preparation remotely before you go there (start point, finish venue, rough area and route) and then spend a day there to find/create the specifics, design the whole thing, and be sure that it will all work in practice. Logistics (getting people from A to B) and timings (how long will it take the first and last to complete) are crucial.
Timings are always difficult to predict - be aware that tourist venues are very busy in the Summer, which will affect how quickly people can complete it and the ease with people can all meet up along the way and at the finish.
If it's an overnight event, how you design the event will also depend on where you're all staying and what you want to do before and after the treasure hunt. Ideally you don't want to have to worry about bussing people to and from the hunt, so ideally people should be staying where the hunt is and all together. If it's for the evening avoid any necessity for car-driving - it's too risky - on foot is much more fun, people can walk for miles without complaining provided there's not too far between stops for clues - the exercise helps too - maybe have them catch a bus at most, but no driving at night.
The local tourist information office and library are always a useful reference points for ideas about a basic route, best area, plus contact numbers etc. If you're happy with drinking and can trust people not to be daft than basing the treasure hunt on pubs works well - pubs will offer good potential for clues, a route and lots of fun, subject to your view on alcohol playing a part.
Definitely plan an organized gathering for the end of the treasure hunt where you can give prizes and relax as a group, particularly if the treasure hunt is in the evening. The finish venue needs to be reliable and under your control - you don't want everyone to be finally meeting up amongst hundreds of strangers.
For a large group of people it's best to have a few marshals along the route to help the lost and tardy.
Teams of four, five, or six at most, work best - the bigger the team the quicker they solve the clues, although teams of seven would be too big and result in one or two being left out. Teams of five sounds are good.
Think about your team building priorities - if it's to improve inter-departmental team-working then create inter-departmental teams; if you want to build stronger relationships within departments create departmental teams. If you've got gender, race or hierarchy barriers to break down, mix the teams accordingly.
Try to mix the clues so they require different skills and knowledge, which will enable everyone in each team to shine - some clues very cryptic, some require observation, some historical, some technical, some mathematical, some requiring good persuasive or investigative skills, and always preferably with a local location reference/ingredient.
Whatever you do, remember planning is vital.
mime act (creativity, team building, organizing, presentation skills, and lots more)
Groups have a set time to get/make costumes and mime a performance of a song, especially something with theatrical potential like Bohemian Rhapsody, or Stairway To Heaven - the more extravagant or camp the better - props can be begged borrowed or otherwise purloined, and the whole thing climaxes with a show when each group performs their mime act. Fantastic leveller, great fun, normally hilarious. Great to video and enjoy afterwards. House rules are absolutely necessary to avoid serious inconvenience to hotel or conference centre.
sports challenge series (team building, organizing, determination, physical ability, and lots more)
Each team can nominate a sport or game (in local house rules) in which it challenges the other teams. Agree a common weighted scoring system and run it like a weekly or monthly league. Be very careful and clear on the rules and scoring. Sports can be anything from softball on the park to chess and stud poker. League updates and prizes and trophies increase the buzz.
communication corridor (team building, communicating, physical activity, problem solving, listening skills and more)
Here's a great one for a conference warm-up. Great for communications too. Have two rooms with a corridor separating them - the further away the better. Teams of three. Each team has a 'builder' with a set of building bricks or a construction kit in each room, and a runner between the rooms. In only one room do the builders have the instructions for what they're building. As they build, the runners have to run and explain to the other builder in the other room what is being built and how. Winning team is first with a correctly assembled construction in each room.
Get the book on lateral thinking puzzles featured on this website at the businessballs online bookshop page. In it you'll find loads of really great lateral thinking problems you can use - ideally for syndicates of three - give them four or five at a time. More puzzles books also on the board games and card games ideas page.
problem solving treasure hunt
Give teams of three a list of challenges and a timescale - anything from an hour to a week or two - even a month, depending on complexity and type of problem. Great for overnight stays, and can be integrated with normal treasure hunt for obscure items. Examples of challenges: Translate a passage of writing or verse from an obscure foreign language into English; Negotiate the best possible deal for the whole group to visit somewhere interesting and maybe a bit exclusive - a sports event, the opera, the zoo, etc. (Need to clarify house rules on dates timings etc, and that the booking should be provisional.); give them a real problem from your own organization; give them a real problem from the local council or from the newspapers.
the 'in-tray' time management exercise (time management, decision making, delegation)
Issue the teams (or have them bring) a typical in-tray of correspondence. Their task is to decide how and when to deal with each, and then to present their answers to the group. Get the group to observe and critique the answers.
Things to look out for:
- First assess all items and prioritise them (most won't do this, they'll just deal with them in the order they appear)
- Treat urgent items differently from important ones (most think they're the same)
- Only handling each item once (ie procrastination or deferring is a no-no)
- Opportunities to delegate (tips on the businessballs delegation page)
- Decision-making (tips on the businessballs decision-making page)
- Communication method and style in responding to memos, requests, complaints etc (most spend too long writing too much - hand-written notes often suffice - email is useful - but recognise potential major hazards and make/agree time to deal with them properly)
- Avoiding making unnecessary work for oneself (most make mountains out of molehills)
- Using the phone to deal with sensitive communications/relationships issues (most are frightened, so write or delay, which costs more time and problems)
- Saying No when called for, and justifying why it's No.
Make sure the sample in-tray material is a good mix of issues, otherwise there's no challenge and people won't see the need for different responses. If you can't be sure that people will bring suitable material provide it yourself. Best of all is to get your hands on copies of someone's in-tray who is forever complaining he/she's got no time.
newspaper towers (team building, planning, organizing, problem solving, time management, creativity, lateral thinking)
Lots of variations to this one. Adjust to suit group and time available.
Split group into pairs or threes (four or more will create 'passengers', who don't get involved). Issue each group an equal given of newspaper sheets (the fewer the more difficult, 20-30 sheets is fine for a 10-15 minute exercise), and a roll of Sellotape (Scotch tape in the US). Task is to construct the tallest free-standing tower made only of newspaper and Sellotape in allotted time. Point of the exercise is to demonstrate importance of planning (time, method of construction, creativity), and the motivational effect of a team task. Facilitator will need tape measure. Instructions need to be very clear (for instance does tower have to be free standing at completion of time, or can it be measured before - it doesn't matter which, it matters only that any issues affecting a clear result are clarified.
See also the ideas for working with aluminium baking foil in the baking foil games on the other team building page.
newspaper bridge (team building, planning, organizing, problem solving, time management, creativity, lateral thinking)
Again, lots of variations to this, including using mterials other than newspapers - See also the ideas for working with aluminium baking foil in the baking foil games on the other team building page. These activities are good for reinforcing communications, support, interdepartmental co-operation themes. In teams (threes are best; teams of four or five can create 'passengers' unless you brief clearly for everyone to be involved and/or have each team appoint a team leader) using only the newspaper and Sellotape (alternatively known as scotch tape) issued, each team must construct a bridge, including floor-standing supports at each end and a horizontal span. The winning construction will be the one with the longest span between two floor-standing supports. If any additional floor-standing support is created, qualifying span measurement will be the longest length between any two of the floor-standing supports. There must be at least (say) 20cms clearance between the span and the floor. Any of the span lower than 20cms clearance will not count towards the measurement. The span must support certain objects issued (eg apple, chocolate bar, can of drink - consumable items are more fun) which must be placed (not fixed with Sellotape) on the span. The objects can be positioned anywhere along the length of the span, but must not touch the floor-standing supports. The floor-standing supports must be free-standing, ie not attached to the floor or any other object or surface. The use of Sellotape as 'guys' from the bridge to the floor or another object or surface is not allowed. Time allowed for planning and building and placing objects on the span is say 20 (max 45) minutes.
Variations to tower and bridge games:
Tower must support an object (eg a lemon, book, brick, plastic beaker of water, etc). Measurement is taken to height of supported object. If you issue an object to be supported at the top of a tower consider the well-being of the flooring and furniture. Beware safety and mess implications of certain objects, so avoid cups of coffee, glasses, etc.
Build a newspaper and tape bridge between two tables, to support the greatest weight (number of given objects).
Build the highest platform to support a person's weight, using only newspaper and tape - make sure there's plenty of newspaper for this version, ie, three big newspapers for each team. (Bear in mind that a platform is still a platform if it's only an inch high, although platforms of a few inches are perfectly feasible.)
Build the longest horizontal pier from a table top, supported with newspaper struts or not.
tips for newspaper constructions exercises
You can allocate as many sheets as you wish, although it really depends chiefly on the main purpose of the exercise, and then to an extent the duration and how many team members per team. As a general rule - the fewer the sheets the smaller the teams and the shorter the exercise. Lots of sheets and big teams require longer. Short timescales, big teams, lots of sheets = lots of chaos - which is ideal for demonstrating the need for leadership and management. Unless the purpose is leadership and managing the planning stage, avoid small numbers of sheets with large teams. Small teams don't need lots of sheets unless you make a rule to use all materials in order to put pressure on the planning and design stage. Examples of main purposes and numbers of sheets:
- Very strong emphasis on preparation and design - 1-5 sheets - in pairs or threes.
- Design, planning, preparation, team-working - 5-10 sheets - in threes or fours.
- Team building, time-management, warm up, ice-breaker, with some chaos-management - 20 sheets - in fours, fives or sixes.
- Managing a lot of chaos - 30 sheets and upwards - teams of six or more.
News paper construction exercises are terrifically flexible and useful. When you decide the activity purpose and rules, the important thing is to issue the same quantity of materials to each team.
other tips for newspaper construction activities
- Building tips: It doesn't matter how big the sheets are, but big double pages offer the greatest scope for the towers.
- Think about how much paper is issued as it changes the type of challenge: lots of paper makes it much easier and places less emphasis on planning. Very few sheets, or even just one sheet, increases the requirement for planning.
- The main trick for the bridge and tower exercises (don't tell the delegates before the exercise) is to make long thin round-section struts, by rolling the sheets and fixing with sticky tape - Sellotape or scotch tape, or narrow masking tape instead. The struts can then be connected using various techniques, rather like girders. The same construction approach works well for the bridge too.
- Round struts (tubes), and any other design of struts or sections, lose virtually all their strength if flattened or bent.
- Very few newspaper exercise builders understand this fundamental point, and some fail to realise it even after completing the exercise, so it's worth pointing out during the review.
- Square sections are not very strong. Triangular or circular sections work best, although the former are difficult to make.
- It's possible to make a very tall tower (8-10 feet) using a telescopic design, which requires many sheets to be stuck together end-to-end, rolling together and then pulling out from the centre.
- Most people make the mistake of forming big square section lengths or spans, which are inherently very weak and unstable. This is why the newspaper constructions are such good exercises - each one needs thinking about and planning and testing or people fall into traps and make simple mistakes.
- The strongest design for weight-bearing is 'building blocks' of hexagonal tubes (six sides). This is the shape that naturally results if lots of circular tubes are compressed sideways together, and it's also the shape found in nature's beehive construction. Hexagonal tubes are difficult to make though and it's unlikely that people will think to do it. It's useful to make up a few samples to demonstrate in the review how strong the hexagonal construction is.
- Less strong, but quicker is to make is lots of short rolled circular tubes, up to six inches high - make sure there's enough paper for the teams when using the human weight-bearing platform exercise.
- Grouping the tubes together, stood on their ends and placing sufficient sheets on top to spread the person's weight usually is the easiest way to complete this exercise to a winning standard.
- Alternatively, roll up lots of solid cylinders, again a few inches long. Grouped and fixed together on their ends these make an immensely strong platform.
- The best way of finding answers is to try it - you should be doing that anyway if you are facilitating and running the session - you'll be amazed at how strong paper can be if it's folded and/or rolled and assembled with a bit of thought.
- The weight bearing platform will only be a few inches high - we're not expecting to get someone up to the ceiling.
- If all else fails, if you think about it, at it's simplest a team member could simply stand on all of their allotted sheets of paper. It'll only be a few millimetres high, but it's still a platform.
- All of these exercises are generally tackled best by making the 'building block' elements, whether struts or tubes or any other shapes. And this emphasises one of the big lessons from the exercises - planning, and testing (time and materials permitting) are essential.
See also the ideas for working with aluminium baking foil in the baking foil games on the other team building page.
juggling (right-side brain, warm-up, team building, physical activity and lots more)
Juggling is a powerful warm-up and training aid. It's extremely flexible for training and team building, from a 10 minute warm up to a continuous activity over a few days. You'll need to learn the three-ball cascade first - it's easy - just follow the juggling instructions on this site.
To use as a ten minute warm-up, give a summary of the instructions, then issue juggling items. Loosely 5-10% of people can already juggle, and others soon pick it up. Emphasise that everyone can do it provided they go through the proper learning process.
Short warm ups can also be done in pairs, using three balls or bags (or lemons or potatoes depending on budget!). Pairs can stand side by side or face to face, but should only use one hand each. One person holds two and starts. The second person throws their ball before catching the ball thrown by their partner. And so on..
To use juggling as an activity to inter-weave with a training course or workshop, break down the juggling instructions and sessions to one ball, then two balls, then three balls. Link to training themes as appropriate (lots of training naturally breaks down into threes, so it fits well).
Use any existing jugglers in the group to help coach other delegates, or issue them with four balls and have them learn to juggle four (basically two balls in each hand, not crossing hand to hand, thrown alternately), or issue them with clubs. For more information about juggling four balls and clubs please contact us.
Juggling equipment is expensive in the specialist retail outlets, use trade sources instead. Typically you'll get 'Tri-its' pyramid bean bags at £1.50 ($2) for three. Proper juggling balls are more expensive, £3-5 ($4-7) for three, but the extra cost is worth it if you want to print on them to reinforcing a theme or brand, because people keep them. For details of corporate juggling products, or specialised juggling support/facilitation please contact us.
plate spinning (right-side brain, warm-up, team building, physical activity and lots more)
Plate spinning is a great exercise for team building and for warming up delegates for training sessions and conferences. A plate spinning set comprises a plastic plate and a 'wand' - a plastic rod with a point at one end. You can obtain these from a juggling equipment trade supplier for about £1-2 ($1.50-3.00) per set - shop around for the best deal and contact us if you need help. It's easy to teach yourself, which you must do before you try to teach others! It's possible to pass a spinning plate from one person to another using the wands, and this gives lots of possibilities for team races. Plates, like juggling balls, can be branded to support themes, training messages or product launches, etc. They're also cheap enough to give away without denting the budget. People will ask for spares for their kids, so make sure you have plenty. Look at the how to spin a plate page for plate spinning instructions.
diabolo (right-side brain, warm-up, team building, physical activity and lots more)
The diabolo is another great street performer's skill that you can use for team building and training activities. The diabolo set comprises a diabolo 'reel' and two sticks, connected at each end by a length of string. Expect to pay around £5-10 per set depending on the quality and size of diabolo. The diabolo is easy to get started and then to do some basic tricks - throwing up in the air and catching again for instance, after which the diabolo requires quite a demanding level of skill to progress to the more advanced tricks. For instructions how to use and teach the diabolo look at the diabolo instructions on this website.
devil stick (right-side brain, warm-up, team building, physical activity and lots more)
The devil stick is a fantastic piece of equipment, again used by street entertainers the world over. The devil stick set comprises three parts: the devil stick itself, which is a rounded wooden stick, about two feet long, two inches wide at each end, with a taper from each end to a middle 'waist' of about an inch diameter. The other parts are two wooden dowel controlling rods, each sleeved with rubber for grip, about a half-inch in diameter. For instructions how to use and teach the devil stick look at the devil stick instructions on this website.
yoyo (right-side brain, warm-up, team building, physical activity and lots more)
Yoyos are cheap and easy, and great fun. The new style clutch yoyos are now available for less than £1 or a dollar due to over-production in the Far East, so shop around. Start by teaching people how to position the string properly on the yoyo and the finger, then simply making the yoyo go up and down in a controlled way. Next increase difficulty to spinning the yoyo on its clutch (the yoyo stays spinning at the bottom of the string given a fast throw), and then graduate to tricks like 'walking the dog'. Lots more tricks can be demonstrated and taught if you have time. Most yoyos will have instructions on the packaging - make sure you learn the basics yourself before you try teaching others or using yoyos in a warm-up or games activity.
levitron (team building, organizing, lateral thinking, skills development)
The Levitron is without doubt one of the most incredible toys ever invented - it's a small precision spinning-top that with the aid of a repelling magnetic base and special weights, actually stays spinning suspended in mid-air, for two or three minutes. And the Levitron is all the more amazing for the fact that hardly anyone has ever heard about it. It was launched about 1995, but has never really achieved wide distribution. The Levitron is a great product for team games, training and reinforcing concepts about quality, accuracy, patience, the brain, all sorts.
The Levitron is available online from several internet
retailers. The basic model if you can still get it was around £20 or $30.
There are now more advanced 'easier' models, which in many cases will be better
for team building activities. See the maker's website levitron.com, or enter
'levitron' into a decent search engine to find a suitable supplier. The UK
distributor for trade enquiries is Brainstorm Ltd, tel +44 (0)1200 445113.
The use of levitron for team building games and business exercises is restricted only by your imagination - here are some ideas to get you started:
- in pairs or teams of 3 - a race to spin first.
- in teams of 4 or more - a race to spin first with each team member only able to handle a stipulated number of items (eg coloured washers, rubber washer, wedges, the top itself, the perspex plate, the base, etc) - a leader must be elected who allocates responsibilities after a stipulated time to assess abilities. Option to change responsibilities after stipulated periods.
- in pairs or teams of 3 - longest spin time competition (increase team size and add responsibility requirements as above.)
- teams of 3 - use levitron instead of construction kits with communication corridor exercise.
- in teams of 3-5 - create the most spectacular levitron tricks and demonstration using items and materials in the training room.
- in teams 3-5 - write a training plan to teach someone how to use the levitron.
- in teams of 5 - role-play the training plan with an individual from the team who does not know how to use it (1 trainee, plus all other team members to have a training duty within the training plan).
- in teams of 3 - play with the levitron then create an advert for the levitron for the educational physics market.
De-brief and review according to the exercises selected and the local situation and people, abilities, training or team-building purpose, etc. The best way to create a framework for de-brief is to brainstorm the headings before the exercise with the whole group - this also helps people get the best out of the exercise, because they are aware of the pointers.
This is page 1 of teambuilding games and listing of page 2 and 3 games.
Here is page 2 of teambuilding games.
Here is page 3 of teambuilding games.
More ideas for exercises, quizzes and games on these free pages:
- fantasticat - see the Fantasticat ideas for motivating, teaching and developing young people - grown-ups too..
- free motivational, inspirational posters for teambuilding themes ideas
- amusing and fascinating origins of words, expressions and cliches
- puzzles and games for quizzes and exercises
- singing - for personal and group development
- stories and analogies for training, public-speaking and writing
- difficult puzzles for teams