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This page has got lots of Team Building games with the main focus being icebreakers, so they can be targetted at, for example, new employees or a team working together for the first time.

Company Quiz Game

Icebreaker, discussion-starter, inter-departmental relations, company/product-knowledge, induction training, policy review, staff awareness, etc

This simple exercise format is adaptable for a wide variety of training and development situations.

Cut the questions from the grid below, or create your own.

Fold each question and put them into a box, or the middle of a table.

Members of the group must then in turn take a question, read it aloud, and offer an answer.

Before moving to the next question, the group should discuss, refine and agree the correct answer.

You can expand the exercise by splitting the group into teams and giving points and offering incorrect answers as bonus questions.

Tips and variations:

  • Keep the exercise flowing - don't become stalled for a long time on discussion or disagreement which cannot be resolved correctly and quickly.
  • Make notes of issues which cannot be agreed correctly/satisfactorily, especially those with potentially serious implications, or which highlight a serious development/awareness need.
  • Optionally allocate responsibility for delegates to check and report back to the group later in the day/course about unresolved questions.
  • Ideally the facilitator should know/research the answers to all questions before running the exercise.
  • Optionally ask the group to create the questions - for example, one question to be contributed per delegate, which works well where inter-departmental awareness is a development need. (If anyone draws out their own question they should pick another.)

Question grid (devise your own as appropriate):

Our top-selling product by value? Our top-selling product by profitability? Our biggest customer by value? Our biggest supplier by value?
Our staff grievance procedure first point of contact? Our receptionist name(s)? Our company ownership is public / private / partnership / social enterprise /other? Our CEO / MD is?
Our company head of legal department is? Our customer services telephone number is? Our health and safety information is held where exactly? Our COSHH (or equivalent) information is held where exactly?
Where can customers / staff park bicycles? How many days holiday are new starters entitled to in the first year? What is our policy on trade union membership? What is our policy on the minimum / living wage?
What are our opening hours? Where is the outside rallying point for fire evacuation? Who is our PR agency? What is our main industry trade association?
Who is responsible for on-site first aid? Where is our corporate governance policy? When was our company founded? Who founded our company?

These questions are just examples. Create your own, and ensure you clarify questions where ambiguity could exist.

Toilet Paper Exercise

Icebreaker/ introductions

This is a very simple and amusing introductions activity, and a super icebreaker and energizer, for groups of 5-12 people, any age and level, or bigger groups subject to splitting people into smaller sub-groups and giving guidance to self-facilitate as required.

Equipment: just a roll of toilet paper per group.

Give a toilet roll to a group member and instruct the group to:

  • Stand up and form a circle (standing is far more energizing than sitting around a table, although sitting around a table is okay if space is limited).
  • Chant a repeating: "One, two, three - One, two, three.." timed at about two seconds for each repetition. Hand-clapping in rhythm is optional depending on how energizing you require the activity to be.
  • When the chanting is established and consistent, each group member must take as many sheets as they wish from the roll, and then pass the roll to the next person, within the time of a single 'one, two, three' chant .

Then, after everyone has taken their sheets (do not issue these instructions until everyone has taken their sheets):

  • Stop chanting (and clapping), thank you.
  • Each person must now take it in turn to tell the group a number of facts about themselves: and the number of facts must equal the number of sheets of paper that the person holds.
  • Facts must be new information to the group (easier for groups meeting for the first time - not so easy in groups who already know each other).
  • Facts must be one very short sentence each (so that the most competitive paper-grabbers, who might now be regretting holding 15 or 20 sheets, do not have to talk for too long..)

Aside from the obvious values of the activity (energizing, ice-breaking, quickly introducing people to each other in an interesting way), the exercise cleverly makes the points that:

  • Competitiveness can backfire, unless you know what you are competing for, and
  • Making assumptions carries risks

There are also many ways to vary the exercise and to focus it towards a particular learning subject or workshop purpose, for example (and you will think of better orientations given your own situations/groups):

  • Facts given must be related to (for example) past career, work ambitions, strengths, weaknesses, dreams, passions, hobbies, under-utilized capabilities and interests, things I want to to do before I die/next year/next Tuesday/whenever, etc.
  • Facts must not include.. (puppies, kittens, children, motorbikes, fishing, whatever)
  • Facts must include.. (each group member can name a category, and only facts related to these subjects can be given).
  • Facts must be the sort of information, and conveyed in a way, that would hugely impress a job interviewer/potential customer/date.
  • Group members will vote at the end of the session for the most amazing/surprising/inspirational/whatever fact or fact-giving presentation.
  • Facts must be conveyed enthusiastically and inspirationally, etc, etc.
  • Facts can only be mimed, played out like 'charades' - optional points awarded for correct guesses.
  • Facts must relate to learning/subjects/theories, such as Erikson's Life Stage Theory , Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs , The Psychological Contract , etc)

The exercise naturally relates to various learning subjects notably (among others):

The Johari Window model/theory

Tuckman's Forming Storming model

Presentation skills

Career/life fulfilment and Self-confidence/assertiveness , etc, etc.

(Thanks to N Kent)

Personality (Self-Image) Exercise

Self-awareness, personality, interviewing and selection

For groups of any size and virtually any ability/age/discipline, subject to organizing the group numbers, facilitation and review, etc.

The basic activity is:

Instruct delegates to (individually) consider and describe the personality of a well known admired person (which you can suggest, or assist the group in deciding who to describe). The descriptions must be very concise and ideally according to a personality theory that the delegates all know (or which can be explained to the group quickly and easily). Ask delegates to reveal their descriptions, record/share them visibly, and then discuss/review the differences between the delegates' views. A common cause of differences between delegates' views - and a fascinating aspect of the exercise - is that delegates' descriptions of a greatly admired person commonly match their own self-image. This is obviously a useful realization for anyone whose work entails assessing/evaluating other people, for example in management, interviewing and selection, etc.

(N.B. For obvious reasons it can be preferable to omit 'self-image' from the name of the activity before you run it with a group.)

In more detail..

First review the personality theories section.

Select a personality theory which suits the group's needs/interests.

Select a well known admired person. Involve the group in this if you wish (but avoid being distracted by other discussions about the selection, unless you welcome such discussion). You may select more than one well-known person to repeat the exercise, but of course the point of the exercise is for the group to describe the same person at one time.

If the group has expertise in personality theories and psychometric systems, then for extra focus on the technical aspects of personality theories you may select more than one theory for delegates to work with (which means delegates give more than one view - i.e., a view for each theory).

Importantly you must be able to explain the basic workings of the chosen personality theory to the group, or the group must already understand the chosen theory to a very basic level.

If working with young people or others who have no appreciation of personality theory then begin the activity by helping the group to establish and agree 10-15 key describing words of personality, which can then be used for the exercise. If using this method do not disclose/agree the famous person before establishing the 10-15 key describing words of personality, or the choice of person will influence the choice of words.

Encourage delegates to use only 2-4 words to describe the dominant features of the personality. (Ideally for delegates who understand a psychometric system they can use the personality code/terminology of the system concerned.)

Some suggestions of well known generally admired famous people: Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa, Queen Elizabeth II, Nelson Mandela.. (You and the group will perhaps think of more appropriate examples for your local situation and the group's interests.)

Points for review:

  • Why do we see the same people in different ways?
  • To what extent does our view of ourselves influence our views of others?
  • If to some extent, then why?
  • What do we dislike about others, which might be an unreasonably harsh reaction?
  • What do we tolerate in others, which might be an unreasonably generous reaction?
  • What is subjectivity/objectivity? What is discrimination?
  • Is discrimination always against the law? If not is it always okay?..
  • What problems can result from judging people subjectively rather than objectively?
  • How can we develop more objectivity in judging others?
  • In organizations what safeguards can be introduced to reduce risks of unfair assessment/treatment of others?

You will think of other review points, and others will arise anyway.

Some useful reference materials:

Personality theories

Johari Window theory

Interviewing and selection


Multiple Intelligences theory

Day Colours Exercise

Individual perspectives, emotional triggers, empathy, Johari window, respecting personal differences

This is a very simple quick and fascinating exercise to illustrate how people often have different views of the same thing, which is central to understanding empathy and many related concepts.

The activity may be used as an icebreaker or larger discussion exercise, for groups of any size and age/seniority, subject to appropriate facilitation for your situation.

Example explanation and instruction to a group:

Emotions and feelings within each of us are 'triggered' in different ways. We think differently and therefore see things differently. We often do not imagine that other people may see something quite differently to how we see the 'same' thing. Management and relationships, in work and outside of work too, depend heavily on our being able to understand the other person's view, and what causes it to be different to our own.

To illustrate this, and to explore how mental associations can 'colour' (US-English 'color') our worlds differently:

  1. Close your eyes and imagine the days of the week
  2. What colour is each day?
  3. Write down the colour of each day

Review and compare people's different colour associations, and - where people consciously know and are willing to share their reasons/associations - review these differences too.

Note: If anyone sees all the days as the same color, or sees no colour association at all, or perhaps sees or senses a more powerful alternative association, then this is another equally worthy personal viewpoint and difference.

The days of the week are a simple fixed pattern. Yet we see them in different ways. It is easy to imagine the potential for far greater differences in the way we see more complex situations - like our work, our responsibilities and our relationships, etc. Human beings will never see things in exactly the same way - this is not the aim or work or life - instead the aim should be to understand each other's views far better, so that we can minimise conflict and maximise cooperation.

Useful reference materials:

Johari Window


Transactional Analysis

The Psychological Contract

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)

Erikson's Life Stage Theory

Generational Differences

Personality Theories and Models

Psychological Contract 'Iceberg'

The psychological contract, work/life alignment, organizational development, motivational understanding, employer/employee relationships, leadership)

The Psychological Contract is increasingly significant in organizational management and development.

The Psychological Contract 'Iceberg' model diagram assists explanation and exploration of the subject.

Ask group members to create their own version of the Psychological Contract 'Iceberg' diagram - individually, in pairs or teams, and review/discuss as appropriate for your situation.

Versions of the 'Iceberg' may be mapped according to different perspectives, for example - how people see it currently; how they'd prefer it to be; from a personal, departmental or workforce standpoints.

The exercise can be used as a basis for all sorts of learning and development activities, for example relating to:

  • Motivation and attitude
  • Work/life balance and wellbeing
  • Organizational structure and purpose
  • Alignment of people with organizational aims
  • Work/management/leadership relationships with employees
  • Mutual awareness (employee/employer) and organizational transparency - and especially in identifying hidden or confused perceptions which may be obstacles to improving employee/employer relationships

Refer to the Psychological Contract theory and within it whatever related learning concepts might be helpful to your situation.

Johari Window is particularly relevant.

Distance Guessing

Assumptions, multiple intelligences, hidden abilities, risks in judgment

This is a simple and adaptable exercise which can be used to explore various themes. You could run a version on a table-top, or use it to get people moving around quite a lot.

As facilitator you need just a tape measure and a pad of small sticky notes. You can change the scale targets (in scale or metric/imperial) according to your situation. You can treat the activities as a competition by awarding scores, and/or run the activity for teams, which adds an interesting extra perspective.

Here is the basis of the exercise. Adapt it and use different exercises to suit your own situations.

Instruction to group:

This is an experiment to explore the brain's capability to estimate scale. Your guesses will be measured and results given. The exercises involve simple guessing, but provide a basis for understanding more about how reliably (or unreliably) our brains can estimate scale, etc., without measuring tools or precise references. This relates to risks of making assumptions, and the merits/risks/surprises associated with guessing, short-cuts, working from habit/instinct, etc. Sometimes guessing and instinctive assumptions are effective; often they are not.

(Additionally/separately the activity prompts appreciation and exploration of multiple intelligences theory - specifically how some people are naturally better at some of these tasks than others.)

Using sticky notes (to be personalised for identification) mark the following:

  • A distance of ten feet on the floor
  • A height of three feet on a wall
  • A distance of one metre on a table

Note: As facilitator it will take you a while to measure and note scores for lots of guesses, so think how best to do this. If using the exercise as a quick icebreaker, or if time is tight, especially if group is large, think carefully about how many measuring exercises to include. Just one is fine for an icebreaker. With big groups and treams issue people with tape measures and have them score each other. Or see the examples for simplifying the activities below.

Review the activities as appropriate for your purposes, points for example:

  • What surprises did we find?
  • What clues are there to people's different abilities?
  • What differences are there in guessing different types of scale?
  • What creative methods were used in 'measuring'.
  • How does the brain guess something?
  • In work/life how do we decide when to guess and when to measure, and are these the best criteria?
  • How can we make our guessing more reliable?
  • (If exercises are performed in teams) are team guesses more reliable than individual guesses?
  • What merit is there in the 'Wisdom of Crowds' in guessing and making intuitive judgments?

Depending on time and how you want to use the activities, other materials and measuring devices can be used for different exercises, for example:

  • An angle of 30 degrees (ask people to draw two straight lines on a sheet of paper, like two sides of a triangle - facilitator needs a protractor for measuring)
  • A square sheet of paper equal to one square metre (newspaper and sticky tape - a square metre is for some people a surprisingly large area - each side must measure one metre)
  • For more adventure, which might appeal to children, explore volume and weight with water and sand, etc, for which basically you only need the water, sand, some plastic foodbags or balloons, and a measuring jug (and some cleaning-up cloths...)

For a smaller table-top activity you can give target distances in centimetres and/or inches rather than feet and metres, and use a ruler of greater precision, (and be prepared for some innuendo among certain groups).

To simplify and speed up the activities, and to reduce preparations and measuring, have people guess weight/volume/height/distance/etc of a pre-prepared example (for each exercise), rather than have each person produce their own, for example:

  • Show the group a loosely coiled length of string, on a table or the floor, and invite estimates as to the length of the string.
  • For an exercise requiring people to guess a large quantity of units, you can show a bucket of marbles, or simply cut or tear a sheet of paper into lots of pieces (unseen to the group members, too many to count at a glance) and scatter them on a table.
  • Show the group a page of printed words and invite guesses as to how many words.
  • Show the group a pile of coins and ask them to estimate the total value.

Team guessing enables additional exploration, for example linkage to ideas about the 'Wisdom of Crowds', and also benefits/disadvantages of working in isolation versus working in cooperation, especially where intuitive or subjective judgment is required.

Adapt the exercises depending on how active and logistically involved you wish the activities to be.

Reference materials, for example:

Multiple Intelligences and MI test - correlations between natural strengths and task expertise

VAK learning styles test - a simple three-way view of learning/thinking style

Kolb learning styles theory - different thinking styles suit different tasks

Conscious Competence learning model - how well do we know and trust our own judgment

Johari Window - specifically knowing our own and others strengths/weaknesses

Touching and Feeling

Sensory perception, self-awareness, non-verbal communications, body language, relationships in teamwork and personal support

Here are some ideas and exercises to explore human physical contact and touching; the types, benefits, risks, associated feelings and reactions, in relation to self others.

Touching people is understandably a neglected aspect of relationships and communications, especially in management and education relating to sexual harassment and child protection. Nevertheless touch is a highly significant part of body language, and crucial to human interaction. We therefore benefit by improving our understanding of touch and using it appropriately, rather than avoiding it altogether.

A 2010 New York Times article by Benedict Carey reported some interesting findings on human touching:

  • Research suggests that we may be able to detect at least eight different emotions using only a simple touching contact from person to person (M Hertenstein, DePauw University, Indiana US).
  • Separate studies found touch and physical contact among teams to be linked to success in sport (Kraus, Huang and Keltner, Berkeley US).
  • And the amount of physical contact between romantic or married couples when simply sitting side by side has found to correlate with relationship satisfaction (C Oveis, Harvard US), which while not hugely surprising, is perhaps often overlooked or forgotten with the passing of years.

Many and various other studies have reported the positive powers of human touch. For example see Leo Buscaglia on hugging and love . As with physical exercise, human touch triggers the release of chemicals in the brain. These are basic primitive human responses, not easily understood, and even now only beginning to be researched and analysed in reliable scientific terms. In time we will know what it all means and how it all works. Meanwhile a little practical experimentation can be helpful and enlightening. Here are some ideas:

  • Based on the Hertenstien research referenced above, ask people to work in pairs or threes and with eyes closed, to experiment in giving their reactions to different types of touches - to the hand, by another person's hand or fingers. Be careful and seek the entire group's agreement before encouraging/allowing any more adventurous touching than this. Hand touching (including handshakes) alone should be ample to demonstrate emotions such as confidence, aggression, timidity, reassurance, curiosity, etc., and any other reactions generated. A third person can act as a toucher and also to observe facial expressions and give external reaction.
  • Hugging: Subject to the group's agreement, get people hugging each other and noting their reactions and feelings. As Buscaglia discovered, and many since then, hugging is potentially powerful medicine. Explore implications and issues.
  • Group-hug: Try it and see how it makes people feel. As a variation split the group into two teams. Ask one team to group-hug. Then give both teams an identical task, competing against each other (for example sorting a pack of cards, or making ten big newspaper balls and throwing them into a bin at the other end of the room). Ask the second team if they want a group-hug before starting. Maybe ask the first team if they want another group-hug. Maybe allow group-hugging at will (if the group likes it go with it..) After the task, discuss relevance of hugging and physical contact to teamworking and bonding, enthusiasm, etc. Were the biggest huggers the most motivated? Is a hugging team generally a winning team?
  • Discuss with the group: what are people's own views and feelings about what sorts of touching are acceptable, unacceptable, positive, reassuring, supportive, etc., according to different situations. Is a gentle pat on the back always okay? What cultural differences exist? What are the real practical no-go areas? Shoulders? Arms? Hands? What's the difference between a light touch and a caress? Different rules for different genders? How do observers (other team members, customers, etc) view touching when they see it? How do we improve our use of this sort of body-language at work, mindful of the risks? Etc., etc.
  • See also the Silent Touch exercise on Teambuilding Games page 1.

Reference materials, for example:

Body language

Johari Window

Love and compassion at work

Maslow - (basic needs - love, belongingness, etc)

Stress management

Tuckman's theory - (from a team-bonding view)

And your own policy material on harassment and child protection as appropriate.

The Three Describers

Introductions, Johari mutual awareness, team dynamics, team development)

This is a long explanation for actually a very simple activity.

The game is for groups of up to twenty people, or more provided they know each other.

Equipment and set up:

  • Split the group into equal teams of three or four people.
  • Teams of five or six are okay although will require firm time control. Teams of seven or more are not recommended.
  • Issue each person a pen/pencil and four note-sized pieces of paper, or four sticky-notes - 3-5 inches wide.
  • Each team should be sat around their own table, or around ends/corners of a big table, or alternatively on the floor, or around a wall-space if using sticky notes.

Instruction to both teams (to each person):

  • Write your own name on one of the notes (in plain handwriting which cannot be identified to you - or ask someone else to do this if you have a distinctive writing style).
  • Write clearly three positive words - one on each note - which strongly describe or represent you. Do this hidden from others, and again in a plain style of handwriting which will not identify you as the writer. ( N.B. For the purposes of this exercise only positive describing words are permitted. This activity is not suitable for exposing and discussing individual weaknesses, and negative describing words can be unhelpful given the nature of this exercise. This is important to clarify at the outset, because there's no easy way to remove or substitute unhelpful words once they've been exposed.)
  • Move all describer notes and name notes to the centre of your team's table (or wall-space) and mix them up .
  • (Optionally before this, turn/fold the notes face down. There is benefit where people do not reveal their descriptions to their own team, so that discovery and surprise as to who 'owns' the describers is experienced by everyone and not just the guessing team.)
  • Ask the teams to move to the/an other team's table/wall-space so that they are working with another team's describers.
  • The task for each team is to re-arrange the describers in sets of three beneath the appropriate name note, correctly allocating the describers to the 'owners'. (Obviously negative or controversial words would at this stage become potentially upsetting and problematical.)
  • The winning team is the one which achieves the most correctly allocated describers.
  • N.B. Where more than two teams play the game, the initial review stage (when correct answers are given) becomes complex logistically and so teams should be instructed to show the correct answers on a separate sheet of paper when returning to their tables/walls, rather than disturbing the original suggested answers. This enables everyone in the group, (if warranted - notably for groups which work together), to review all the guesses and the correct answers - which works best using sticky notes and wall-space.

Additional guidance notes:

  • Where groups do not already know each other ask them to make brief personal introductions to the group before the exercise. Do not give warning of the exercise to come - but do ask for people to introduce themselves with a little more information than merely name and job.
  • When explaining the exercise - describing words ('describers') can be personality characteristics, such as determined, diplomatic, reserved, confident, friendly, etc., and/or more symbolic words such as music, football, mountain, adventure, family, etc., which represent a very significant personal characteristic.
  • Some people will relate readily to the idea of using symbolic words; others will prefer to use only words which conventionally describe a personality.
  • Emphasise that people should try to use words which genuinely and honestly represent themselves in a positive way .
  • The facilitator reserves the right to withdraw any negative or controversial describing words, and to deduct penalty points from the offending team. The facilitator can explain that exposing personal weaknesses is important, but not in this exercise (so this is not a matter of denial or rose-tinted spectacles - it's a matter of what's appropriate for the exercise, given how it works).
  • The facilitator reserves the right to deduct points from any team where a word is considered to be too obscure and not strongly representative of the person, and to award bonus points where a particularly difficult describing word is correctly allocated.
  • Where several teams play the game, the initial review of correct/incorrect answers - as teams move from one table to another - needs to be planned and controlled appropriately. Ensure teams are instructed not to move the describers arranged by the guessing team , instead to show the correct answers on a separate sheet of paper, which can be used to manage the awarding of points.
  • Where it is not possible to form equal team sizes (for example with groups of 7, 11, 13, 17, etc) the facilitator is advised to to rule beforehand (that either): team totals will be adjusted pro-rate to take account of the imbalance; or that since there is both advantage and disadvantage in having a larger/smaller team, no points adjustment is warranted. The important thing is to decide beforehand rather than be caught out mid-exercise without a firm rule.
  • It is perfectly possible to play this game using ordinary pens/pencils and paper (rather than thicker marker pens), although visibility is reduced and so is less effective, especially for larger groups.

Review and reference materials:

The Johari Window Model is central to mutual awareness.

  • Explore what alternative words people would use to describe each other? What words surprised us and why?
  • What can we say about the differences between: how we see ourselves, how others see us, and how we imagine others see us?
  • What obstacles tend to exist when we don't know each other? (And when other aspects of mutual awareness are not good?)
  • Why is it that lack of mutual awareness tends to cause difficulties, whereas good mutual awareness tends to produce benefits?
  • How does good mutual awareness in a team enable greater delegation of responsibility, and generally better and easier performance?
  • Relate these issues to team development models, such as Tannenbaum and Schmidt and Tuckman's Forming Storming model .
  • Consider awareness of team strengths in the context of models such as VAK and Multiple Intelligence .
  • Discuss mutual awareness from a team leadership view, for example Adair's Action-Centred Leadership model .

Many other views of personality and differences in people can be explored via Personality Models and Theory .

N. B. Where the exercise is used as more of an ice-breaker for a group which has only recently been introduced to each other, a separate learning illustration is how much (or little) we seek, observe and absorb about new people we meet, and whether we can be more attentive at such times, since this reflects on perceived levels of empathy, and can influence people's self-esteem and confidence, and readiness to cooperate, etc.

Sheet of Paper Step Through

Problem-solving, togetherness, kids' scissor-skills

A novel paper-cutting icebreaker exercise, played in pairs, or threes, or as a group. The activity can be used as a bigger group problem-solving and team-working task.

Equipment: Scissors and sheets of paper, A4 size or similar.

Instruction to group: You have five minutes to devise a way of cutting the sheet of paper so that it creates a ring - without any breaks or joins - large enough to fit over both people, and then to step through the ring (in your pair/three/as a group).

A cutting solution and diagram are below, and also explained in smaller scale in the business card trick.

Depending on your purposes, situation and group, you can change this exercise in various ways, for example:

  • Issue the cutting diagram to all participants. This should ensure that the activity produces at least one successful demonstration of the task.
  • Do not issue the cutting diagram, but instead demonstrate the solution, and instruct the participants to remember it. This tests people's concentration and retention.
  • Issue the cutting diagram half-way through the exercise when (as is likely) participants fail to discover a cutting solution - which highlights the importance of having instructions and knowledge for challenging tasks which might initially seem quite easy.
  • Ask people to do the exercise in teams of three rather than pairs, which increases the brain-power available, but also the potential for confusion, and also the size of the paper ring necessary to fit over three people rather than two.
  • Issue sticky tape, allow joins to be made and add a two-minute time penalty for each join in the ring.
  • Change the task so that the group creates a paper ring large enough to fit over the entire group - allowing for only one sticky-tape join per pair of delegates . This opens the possibility for many different cutting solutions because each pair is effectively then required merely to convert their sheet into a long length of paper rather than an unbroken ring.

Activity notes:

As facilitator it is recommended you practice the suggested cutting solution so that if necessary you can demonstrate it (before or afterwards, depending on your adaptation) to the group.

Beware of using this activity in any situation that could cause embarrassment to overweight people or where delegates would be uncomfortable with the inter-personal proximity required.

The qualification of putting the ring of paper over a given number of people is that while standing (necessarily very close) together they are able to pass the paper ring over their heads and down to the floor, enabling them to step over and thereby through the ring without breaking it.

Here is an example solution, assuming that the sheet of paper is first folded. This is one solution to the exercise. If you know another please send it . There are some alternative solutions listed after the first diagram and explanation.

Fold the sheet of paper in half, and cut it through both sides of the paper, as shown in the diagram, in the following sequence:

Cut 8-12 slits (8 are adequate - the diagram shows 12), from the folded edge up to about 1-2cm of the open edge, each slit being about 1.5-2cm apart.

Cut a slit between each of the above slits, from the open edge to about 1-2cm of the folded edge.

Cut along the folded edge, but not the ends marked with blue circles .

You should then be able to open the paper into a ring which comfortably fits over two people.

Cutting more slits increases the size of the ring, as would using a larger sheet of paper. Slit dimensions can be increased for larger sheets.

paper cutting trick

A further adaptation of the exercise is to issue one large sheet of paper (for example from a broadsheet newspaper) to a group of people (up to ten or even twenty people) and task them to work out how to cut (or tear, for added difficulty) the paper into a seamless ring which will fit over the entire group. This creates lots of problem-solving activity in the planning stage, and much physicality and togetherness when the ring is being passed over the group. You can avoid inactivity for group members during the cutting/tearing by instructing that all group members must take a turn at cutting/tearing. Team members can also plan the step-through strategy and other logistical aspects of the exercise.

You will be surprised how large a ring can be created. An A4 sheet easily makes a ring circumference of 3m. A big newspaper sheet easily produces a ring circumference of 7m.

Alternative solutions

Here is an alternative solution (thanks E Roddick and one of his workgroups in San Gabriel Valley, US). Cutting lines are shown in red and blue. The diameter of the ring produced would increase by lengthening the parallel spiral pattern, requiring cuts closer together. I understand from another contributor (thanks Brian) that in 1970s London this method was used by young lads with bus tickets, to ease the boredom of the daily school commute..

The technique entails cutting or tearing the red line first, and then the blue.


Here is another alternative solution (thanks A How).

The cutting lines are shown in red. The solution is similar to the first folded solution, but without the fold.

The blue line is the outside edge of the paper or card.

If you have another solution please send it .


Truth and Lies Introduction Game

Johari mutual awareness, interaction, amusement and fun

Inspired by a sketch on Armstrong and Miller's TV comedy show in October 2009, this is an amusing variation of the usual around-the-table introductions at the start of courses and other gatherings.

Instruction to group:

Introduce yourself in turn by stating your name (and role if relevant) plus:

  • One true statement about yourself, and
  • One false statement about yourself

so as to make it difficult for the group to determine which is the true fact and which is the lie.

You have 30 seconds to think of your statements, after which (according to the order decided by the facilitator) each person makes their statements, pausing after each truth and lie for the group to decide which is which.

While producing some amusement, the exercise can reveal surprising and impressive information about people (hidden talents and claims to fame, etc). The activity can therefore be useful for team-building from a Johari awareness viewpoint, and it also stimulates creative thinking and group interaction. The exercise also requires group analysis and decision-making in deciding which are the true statements and which are the lies.

Gardner's Multiple Intelligences model is a useful reference if using the exercise to illustrate the nature of individual natural or hidden capabilities.

(This exercise is adapted from the Armstrong and Miller comedy sketch. Adapt it further to suit your own purposes.)

Egg Balancing

Concentration, positive thinking, discovery, breaking down barriers, wonderment and fascination

For groups of any size. Each person must have an egg and a table-top surface.

According to myth, due to planetary gravitational effects or similar nonsense, it is possible to stand an egg on its end during the vernal (Spring) equinox, which is on or close to 21 March, when night and day are equal.

In fact it is possible with a little patience and a steady hand to balance an egg on its end on a flat level surface, any time. The big end is much easier.

Here's one on my kitchen table. This interesting feat of manual dexterity and myth-busting provides the basis for an enjoyable and fascinating group exercise. The temptation to pun is almost irresistible.


A raw egg is perhaps easier to balance than a hard-boiled egg because the weight sinks to the bottom and creates a sort of 'googly-man' effect. The science is not especially clear about this and if there are any professors of egg balancing out there I'd welcome your input.

You can use this activity in various ways, to demonstrate or emphasise patience, discovery, positive thinking, questioning assumptions, breaking barriers, stress avoidance; and for team contests.

Incidentally you can tell the difference between a hard-boiled egg and a raw egg by spinning the egg. A raw egg spins slowly and speeds up, and continues spinning after you stop it; a hard egg spins faster and stays stopped. These differences are due to the independent motion of the liquid in the raw egg, whereas a hard egg behaves as a single mass.

An additional point of interest is that a few grains of salt enables a very quick balancing 'trick', which is of course cheating.

Facilitators are recommended to practice the task before asking others to try it. The balancing is easier on slightly textured surfaces and a lot more difficult on very smooth surfaces. Eggs with slightly pimply shells are much easier to balance than eggs with very smooth shells. Some eggs are easier to balance than others so have a few spare for any that simply will not balance.

A mop and bucket is recommended if using this exercise with children.

(Thanks to N Mehdi for the suggestion.)

Fancy Dress Exercise

Self-expression, mutual awareness)

A very quick and easy ice-breaker, requiring no equipment or preparation.

The game can be used to make introductions a little more interesting than usual, or as a separate ice-breaker activity.

For groups of any size. Split large groups into teams small enough to review answers among themselves.

Instruction to group:

  • You are invited to a fancy dress party which requires that your costume says something about you.
  • What costume would you wear and why?
  • Take two minutes to think of your answer.

Review :

Simply by asking people to explain their answers briefly to the group/team.

The exercise can be varied and expanded for groups in which people know each other:

  • Ask people to write their answers on a slip of paper (in handwriting that cannot easily be identified), and to fold the slips and put them in the middle of the table.
  • In turn group members must each pick a slip of paper from the pile and read the answer aloud.
  • On hearing all the answers, group members must then try to match the answers to the people present.

Drawing Game

Teamworking, change, communications, creativity)

A quick flexible exercise for groups of all sizes and ages. It's based on a simple drawing game we have all played as children.

Equipment required: Pens/pencils and paper.

Split the group into teams of three.

Instruction to group:

One person in each team starts by drawing a shape or outline.

The drawing is then passed to the next team member who must add to the drawing.

And so on.

Time spent by each person in turn on the drawing is limited to 5 seconds. (The facilitator can shout 'change' when appropriate.)

No discussion is permitted during the drawing, nor any agreement before the drawing of what the team will draw.

The drawing must be completed in one minute.

Optional review (short version of exercise), for example:

  • Did the team draw anything recognizable?
  • How easy was the understanding between team members?
  • How did team members work differently on this task?
  • What was the effect of time pressure?
  • Was there a natural tendency to draw supportively and harmoniously, or were there more conflicting ideas?

Continue without the above review for a longer activity, involving scoring and a winning team:

After one minute of drawing each team must agree privately a description (maximum three words) of what they have drawn, and pass this to the facilitator, to be referred to later. Teams must identify their drawing with a team name.

The drawings are then passed around the group for each team to guess and write on the reverse of other team's drawings what they believe the drawing is or represents.

Teams are not permitted to look at the reverse of the drawings (at other descriptions guessed) until they have decided on a description.

Drawings are awarded two points for each exact correct description achieved, or a point for a partly correct description.

Teams are awarded two points for each correct description guessed, or a point for a partly correct description guessed.

(Drawings/teams can be scored by the teams themselves, which is much quicker than the facilitator doing the scoring.)

If you score the exercise, ensure teams are instructed to put their team name on their drawing, and alongside their guessed descriptions on the reverse of all other drawings.

Final review, examples:

  • What factors enabled teams to produce recognizable drawings?
  • What factors led to drawings being unrecognizable?
  • Are 'drawing' skills especially helpful in this exercise, or are other capabilities more significant?
  • What does this exercise demonstrate about mutual understanding and how to achieve it?
  • What obstacles to understanding and teamwork does this activity illustrate?


Teams can be told to agree what they are to draw at the beginning of the exercise.

Deduct ten points for teams drawing any of the following 'obvious' subjects: cat, house, car, man, woman, spacecraft, etc.

Award bonus points for teams drawing anything highly obscure and yet recognizable, especially if resulting from no prior discussion.

When the facilitator calls out 'team change', one person and the drawing must move to a different team, (which can be likened to certain changes that happen in real organizational work teams). It produces complete chaos of course.

Group Connections

Mutual awareness, introductions, networking, team-building)

Split groups into teams of between three and six people.

No equipment or preparation is required.

Instruction to group/teams:

You have five minutes to discover an interesting, surprising and separate connection you share with each person in your team. (A different connection with each person, not a single connection that every team member shares.)

'Interesting and surprising' does not include working for the same company, living in the same town or country or having the same colour hair. Try to find a connection or something in common that surprises both of you.

The purpose of the exercise is to ensure that each person of the team ask some questions and gives some answers about themselves and all other team members, and so gets to know each other better.

Discussions can be in pairs or threes. The team can decide how best to enable each person to speak to every other team member in the time allowed. This requires more care in larger teams.


No review is necessary if the purpose is merely to enable quick introductions.

Group review of individual connections is unnecessary although particularly interesting connections can be volunteered and highlighted as examples if people are keen to do so.

More general review aspects include for example, (optional depending on your own situation and wider aims for the group):

  • What sort of questions helped discover most information?
  • How does mutual awareness (knowing each other better) help team-work, cooperation, communications, etc?
  • What normally prevents people from getting to know each other better?

You will think of many other review points depending on the situation.

Larger teams need more time to ensure everyone learns something new and ideally establishes an interesting connection with each other team member.

Examples of questions people can ask each other, if they need prompting:

  • What is your passion in life?
  • Where would you most like to visit/travel?
  • What would you change if you could?
  • What music/food/weather do you most enjoy?
  • What do you like best: words, numbers, pictures or sounds?
  • What is your most under-used strength?

Younger people might be happier with questions about less deep subjects, which is fine. Guide the group as you consider appropriate.

Some related reference materials:

Johari Window

Multiple Intelligences

Personality types and models

Paper Bowls

Competition, energizer, teamwork, tactics

For groups of six to thirty people.

Play as a team game in pairs, threes, fours or fives, which keeps everyone involved all the time, and introduces teamwork and tactics.

The game is essentially team bowls (played like beach bowls or green bowls) using balls of newspaper.

Scoring is one point for each ball closest to the 'jack' ball. If a team gets say three or four of its balls closer than the balls of any other team then three or four points would be scored accordingly. The potential to score high - notably for big groups split into big teams - means a winning team can emerge surprisingly late, which sustains full involvement of all players.


  • A floor or corridor giving at least 5'x15' playing area.
  • A sheet of newspaper for each player.
  • A different coloured roll of electricians insulating tape for each team (to differentiate their balls from other teams).
  • Tape measure for the facilitator.

The larger the floor area then the more energetic the game will tend to be. The game can also be played outside provided there is no strong wind. (For a more messy game outside for kids, supply a bucket of water and instruct that the balls should be wet..)

Instruction: The winner is the player/team who rolls or throws their ball(s) to stop nearest the 'jack' (a smaller ball, suitably different, rolled by the facilitator or a contestant to the far end of the playing area).

Decide order of play, which should be a player from each team in turn.


  • Play a specified number of 'ends' (rounds), totalling the points to produce the eventual overall winning team.
  • Or play 'ends' until a team reaches say five points. Or more points for a longer game. (Decide a points target mindful of total maximum score per round per team - for example teams of five can potentially score five points in one round.)
  • A player may roll or throw his/her ball at another player's/team's ball to dislodge it or achieve a position nearer the jack.
  • You'll need a clearly understood rule in the event of the jack being hit out of the playing area, if this can happen. (For example replace the jack to its starting position, which should therefore be marked by the facilitator; or mark the position at which the jack left the playing area as the target.)
  • If you are running this as a reasonably big activity, offer a trial game first for players to practise, develop tactics, and to clarify rules.
  • In any event, you can offer players the chance to practise rolling their balls a few times before the start of the game (they'll probably do this anyway..).

The game is very adaptable. Consider and decide your own rules and scoring for your own situation.

If playing the game with individuals (for example in a small group of five), allow players two balls each. This makes the game more interesting for individuals, in which the order of throwing can be reversed for the second ball, making it fairer for all, assuming playing only one 'end'.

Or play big 'marbles' instead - best on a square playing area - in which players eliminate other players by rolling their ball to hit another player's balls. Players take turns to roll their balls. The winner is the last player remaining whose ball has not been hit by another ball. Players have to decide how close to risk leaving their balls to other balls, so it becomes quite a tactical exercise. Simplest rule here is to eliminate only the first ball hit with each roll, not rebounds.

See also the bin toss game , and newspaper towers , for other newspaper games ideas.

Review points, optional, chiefly for team play, for example:

  • Would you use different tactics, knowing now how the game is played?
  • Was the teamwork good or could it have been better, if so how?
  • Did the construction (of the balls) affect the quality of play/performance?
  • How competitive did the exercise feel? Why?
  • What advantages arise from playing in a team?
  • How would you change/develop the game to improve it?

Life Highlights

Introductions, life priorities, self-awareness, Johari awareness, motivation and personality

This is a quick adaptable exercise for small groups, or for large groups if split into self-facilitating teams, or alternatively pairs.

It's also a longer discussion game for pubs, dinner-parties, etc., especially in couples..

No equipment is required.

Instruction to group:

Take a minute to consider - What thirty seconds of your life would you most want to re-live, if you only had thirty seconds left?

For the purposes of the exercise participants can choose several different life experiences, provided the total time is no more than thirty seconds.

Review (various options depending on your situation):

  • Ask people to keep their thoughts private - and then consider the review points below.
  • Or ask people to explain to the group briefly their chosen thirty seconds and why.
  • Or - if review time is limited or if it suits your purposes better - ask people to review/discuss in pairs
  • Or if working with a large group arrange the group into small self-leading/facilitating teams.

Review points (examples):

  • What do our chosen highlights tell us about the type of person we are - what we love most in life, and what sort of things we should pursue to be happy and fulfilled?
  • How does your current life and likely outcomes compare with your chosen past life highlights?
  • Are you working towards or away from what really makes you happy and fulfilled? If away from, how might you regain and redirect your focus?
  • Do your chosen highlights provide clues for passions and talents which you are currently under-utilizing or neglecting?
  • Did your highlights come by planning or accident?
  • How significant is money in enabling life's best times?
  • What do our best moments tell us about making the most of what time we have?


Exclude sex from highlights if there is a risk that it will unhelpfully distract, embarrass or be too dominant.

Shorten and concentrate the exercise by reducing the highlights time period from thirty to ten seconds, or lengthen and deepen the exercise by increasing the time period to ten minutes or an hour.

Note: To make the exercise more dynamic and forward-looking you can encourage people to consider especially life highlights which can be repeated or extended in some way. (Childbirth is for many people a highlight which is not likely to be repeatable, although this can of course prompt thoughts and discussions about the importance of family compared to other life issues.)

Useful reference models:

Johari Window (self/mutual awareness)

Maslow (motivation and Hierarchy of Needs)

Herzberg , Adams , and Personality Theory

Passion to Profit (career/new business start-up process/template)

This website accepts no liability for any marital or romantic strife arising if you play this game socially in couples, especially under the influence of drink or other inhibition-reducing substance.

(Thanks H)

Creativity, self-expression, Johari awareness

Here's a really quick exercise, ideal for ice-breakers - 5-10 minutes - for groups any age or size.

Equipment: Lots of coins, in case participants need extra. (At last a use for all the shrapnel in your piggy bank..)

Instruction to group:

Take all the coins out of your pockets/purses and put them on the table in front of you.

(Lend coins to participants who have none or very few.)

You have one minute to make a personal logo - representing yourself - from the coins.


Large groups can be spilt into teams (of 3-6 people). Combine team coins. Produce a single team logo, themed according to the situation. Optionally ask teams to guess the meaning of other teams logos, before the explanations.

Allow other pocket/purse/handbag items to be included in the logos, for example pens, phones, diaries, etc.

Ask the whole group to combine all coins and produce a logo for the organization/group/department, etc.

Split the group into two. Half leave the room while remaining half make their personal coin logos. Half return to room and try to match logos to people. Repeat the process enabling the guessers to make, and the makers to guess.


Ask participants to explain their logos to the group, or if pressed for time and for large groups - split the group and have the logos explained among teams of threes.

If running the exercise in teams - review the discussions and feelings leading to the design of the logo, and the team theme if appropriate.

To enlarge the exercise and offer material about self-and mutual awareness see the Johari Window model .

See the other coin exercises on this page, for example:

Take-away game

Tactical team shove-ha'penny

Moneygram activity

See the Money slang and history page for lots of interesting facts about coins and money.

Coded Team Communications

Non-verbal communications, communications systems, body language, team understanding, creativity

This game can be played by one group, or between two or more teams competitively.

The activity is more dynamic if played in competitive teams, minimum three players per team, ideally 5-10 per team.

This game can be played by very large groups, in teams, for example at conferences.

The exercise involves devising and using a simple coded non-verbal (unspoken) communications system.

The game may be played just once as a quick activity or ice-breaker, or in several rounds, optionally enabling the group/teams to review and refine their coding systems, at the discretion of the facilitator.

This is a very flexible game concept, and can be adapted in many ways to suit your situation and purposes.

These instructions are for competitive teams playing the game. Adapt it accordingly for a single group.


A pen/pencil and paper for each team member.

Instruction to teams:

  • Devise a secret coded (non-spoken, non-written) communication system for your team which enables a very simple piece of information - a single digit number between 0-9 - to be passed throughout the whole group/team - person to person ideally - so that everyone knows the number.
  • The winning team is the first to successfully convey the number to all team members. (If playing as a single group then the task is simply to successfully communicate the number throughout the group.)
  • The number must be conveyed using non-verbal and secret signals - it cannot be spoken, mouthed, written, signalled by holding up a number of fingers, or 'tapped' using fingers or feet, etc.
  • Facial expressions and eye contact are likely to be significant in non-verbal code systems developed, although teams will devise other methods, which is part of the fun.
  • Whether to allow or mention touching - for example secret hand-squeezing, which teams might think to try - is at the discretion of the facilitator.
  • The secret code aspect is important if the game is played competitively and teams are given the same number to convey, or awarded bonus points for identifying an opposing an team's number.
  • When receiving the number each player must privately record the number on a piece of paper, as proof of successful communication. Alternatively to avoid risk of cheating or accidentally revealing numbers, instruct people to write down the number after all teams have completed the round.
  • The team leader must raise his/her hand to signal to the facilitator when group/team members have received the number correctly. This potentially requires another team coded signal - to confirm successful understanding - which is a matter for the teams to decide.
  • No speaking is allowed while the game is in progress.
  • Teams can be given between 5-10 minutes to devise and test their codes. Large teams may require longer.
  • The facilitator begins each round of the game by showing the number (a single digit between 0-9) to the team leaders.
  • The team leaders then take their seats or starting positions and await the facilitator's signal to start the game, at which the number must be communicated to all team members - using the non-verbal secret code - and ideally person to person (which introduces greater risk of errors and is a sterner test of the code system devised, and also of teamworking).
  • (At facilitator's discretion) teams may stand, sit around the same table, or on separate tables, although separate tables makes cheating less easy to detect.
  • Standing and mingling makes the activity more dynamic and energising, and increases the need for competing teams to devise a clever code to avoid it being 'cracked' or interpreted by members of competing teams.

Variations to the game:

  • A way to enforce the conveying of the instruction person-to-person is to have the teams stand in a line, so that each person sees the conveyed signal individually, then turns about-face to convey it down the line to the next person. Such an arrangement increases the need for teams to consider having a signal for confirming to the leader that all members have correctly received the number.
  • (At facilitator's discretion) teams may or may not make written notes of their coding system (so that each person has a code key). The facilitator can decide whether using a code key, or working purely from memory, will be most enjoyable/beneficial. Allowing written code keys enables more complex codes to be developed, which is appropriate for bigger exercises, whereas not allowing written code keys encourages quicker simpler codes and is more appropriate for a quick game or ice-breaker. Alternatively the facilitator may choose not to mention the possibility of teams making written code keys, and leave it open for teams to use the option or not.
  • Where the game is played between competing teams, the facilitator can choose to give a different number to each team (rather than require teams to communicate the same number). This offers the option to award bonus points for a team which manages to identify the number of an opposing team.

Review points:

  • Isn't it amazing how many signals can be conveyed without spoken or written words?..
  • The section on body language provides useful background theory about non-verbal communications.
  • It's one thing to devise a communications system or set of communications rules - it's quite another challenge to ensure everyone understands it and uses it properly.
  • Vital parts of communications systems/rules work best when people can remember them, without having to refer to complicated instructions.
  • Complex communications systems/rules are often very good in theory, but difficult to apply in practice because they entail an additional dimension - represented in this game by the code key - equating to a reference or instruction manual, which in real work situations people often fail to use, understand, keep updated, etc.
  • Written instructions and reference guides are obviously important for quality management and training, etc., and for the operation of all complex/vital functions, but the fundamental rules of communications (and other critical organisational activities) are best kept as simple, intuitive and memorable as possible, so that core performance is not hindered or made unnecessarily complicated.
  • In terms of this exercise, conveying the communication is only half the communications process - the other half is checking the communication has been received and correctly understood.
  • In terms of wider organisational communications other subsequent steps are required, notably ensuring that the communication is agreed and acted upon, which involves management areas such as: motivation (within which models such as Adams' Equity Theory , and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs are helpful); delegation , especially follow up; and project management , within which reporting and monitoring are vital.

Tubes, Strings and Balls

Teamwork, planning, creativity

For groups of four people or more, best with six people or more. Teams of more than ten become chaotic (which is okay if that's what you are seeking to demonstrate).


  • A ball of string or very thin rope.
  • Scissors.
  • Two empty cardboard tubes of Pringles, or similar cardboard tubes (for example postal tubes for rolled papers).
  • Some marbles or golf-balls or other small balls which fit into the tubes. (The exercise works fine with one ball; more and different balls increase the interest.)

The group must work together to achieve the task:

  • Place one tube in the centre of the room or table, open-end upwards. This is the 'receptor' tube.
  • Optionally (facilitator decision) secure the receptor tube to the table or floor using sticky putty (e.g., Blu-Tack) - don't put sticky putty on carpet..
  • Using the string and the other cardboard tube (one end open, other end closed - called the 'transporter' tube), transport a specified number of balls - one at a time - into the receptor tube standing at the centre of room/table.
  • Each group member must hold at least one length of string connected to the transporter tube.
  • No group member may handle a ball within six feet (two metres) of the receptor tube.
  • No group member may move from their position once a ball has been placed into the transporter tube and the transporting commenced.
  • (Strings need to be tied to the transporter tube not only to move the tube, but also to tip it, in order to deposit the ball into the receptor. The facilitator does not need to tell the team(s) this unless failing to realise this becomes counter-productive.)

Variations and preparation ideas:

  • Large groups can be split into competing teams - each with their own equipment and floor-space/table.
  • Optionally give groups planning/preparation time.
  • Introduce penalties for dropped balls, dislodging/upsetting the receptor tube, team members moving illegally, etc.
  • Introduce more awkward items for transporting, e.g., coins, pens, chocolate snack bars, etc.
  • At its simplest the game is to transport just one ball. Increase balls and complexity as you wish.

Given the variation and interesting dynamics within this exercise you are especially recommended to test it first with a group so you can understand how it works and the sort of controls and guidance or freedoms that you would like to apply for your own situation. It's a very flexible concept; adapt it to suit your needs.

Solution example:

This exercise is subject to a lot of variation, including the solutions that people devise. If you are a facilitator trying to imagine how it works, this might help..

At least three strings need to be connected to the top (open end) or near the top of the transporter tube, which keeps the tube upright and hanging from the connected strings being pulled tight by team members, and enables the tube potentially to be suspended and moved anywhere by and between the stringholders. Given that people cannot move their positions once the ball is loaded into the transporter tube, the method of 'playing out' string, as well as pulling it, is crucial. Strings that are too short become a problem. At least one team member needs a string connected to the bottom of the tube to enable the tipping. If just one string is connected to the bottom of the tube then the tube can be tipped from just one direction, which means the team needs to have good control over the positioning of the tube. Having more than one string connected to the bottom of the tube (from more than one position) increases the options for the direction of the tipping, but the downside is that (beyond a certain point, depending on the coordination capability of the team) the difficulty tends to increase with more people having more strings connected. Any bottom-connected string that crosses with a top-connected string will encounter a problem when it comes to tipping, because logically the bottom-connected string must get higher than the top-connected strings, hence the example solution which follows.

At its simplest, imagine the receptor tube (the target into which the ball must be tipped) being in the centre of a clock face. Three team members are positioned at, say, 12, 4 and 8 o'clock, each of whom has a string connected to the top of the transporter tube, and a fourth team member, say, at 6 o'clock, has a string connected to the bottom of the transporter tube to enable the tipping. The ball is placed in the transporter tube, say by the team member at 12 o'clock. At this time no one can move from their position. The people at 4 and 8 take up the slack while 12 string is kept tight enabling the tube to be lifted. While 4 and 8 pull the tube towards the clockface centre, 12 plays out, keeping a tight string. When the tube is in the correct position for tipping, 6 can pull, while the other three strings stay tight to keep the tube's position, or adjust as necessary.

As you can perhaps now imagine, putting six people into a team, compared to four, tends to increase the difficulty because of the risks of top/bottom strings crossing, the complexity of gauging who needs to pull and who needs to play out or slacken off, and the general confusion resulting from a bigger team making more inputs.

You will see various creative solutions, often by bigger teams, involving for example:

  • The construction of a sort of cable-car solution, in which the tube can be pulled, suspended from strings acting as 'cables' threaded through the top of the tube
  • Teams which discover that they can pass strings/control from one team member to another (which you may choose to allow or disallow - disallowing makes the task more difficult)

Paper and Straws Variation

A quicker simpler version of this game can be played using drinking straws, a ball of rolled-up paper and a (very thin) dinner-table place mat:

  • Team members sit around the table.
  • Put the place-mat in the centre of the table. Alternatively stick a suitably sized/shaped piece of paper flat to the table to act as the target area. Alternatively mark a circular target on the table surface - optionally with concentric scoring rings - using chalk or coloured sticky tape (e.g., electrician's insulating tape).
  • The task is for team members to use the drinking straws (one each) to blow the ball of paper onto the place-mat, and optionally (facilitator decision) additional paper balls afterwards (very difficult without dislodging any balls already in place).
  • Facilitator decides how many paper balls are involved in the game, and where the balls are placed to begin (not crucial, provided some way from target). More balls = more complexity/difficulty/time.
  • No team member may be within one yard (one metre) of the paper ball. (You might need to reduce this distance for weak blowers and big balls..)
  • Split large groups into competing teams with their own equipment and table.
  • Optionally require all team members to remain in their seated positions once the blowing commences (this makes the task more difficult than enabling team members to move around the table).
  • A very flat target is required so that 'overblow' happens, which tends then to involve all team members in the blowing, especially if static around the table. (If the target mat is too thick it will stop the ball rolling over it).
  • Warning: Blowing can cause dizziness. Ensure all players are advised not to blow to the point of hyper-ventilation and collapse; it's just a game.

Review points (especially for string/tubes game version):

  • Did we work as a team?
  • Leadership - did it happen, what was the style and the reactions?
  • Planning - did it happen? Was it required?
  • Did the activity energise us? How and why?
  • (If competing teams were involved) What were the competitive effects?
  • Lots more review points will arise, and you will think of your own depending on your own situation and purposes.

Classification Game

Introductions, discrimination, mutual perspectives

This is a simple exercise requiring no equipment or materials preparation, for groups of any size and age.

Split large groups into teams of six to ten people.

The activity is quickest when teams are smallest. Minimum team size is four.

Instruction to group/teams:

We all tend to classify and stereotype each other - 'pigeon-holing' is a common expression for this.

Usually this sort of classification is subjective, unhelpfully judgemental, and sometimes of course it's unfair to the point of being illegal discrimination.

Discuss/introduce yourselves in your team(s).

Discover a way to divide or classify yourselves evenly into two/three/four subgroups within your team(s) by using criteria (ways of classifiying/describing people) which contain no negative or prejudicial or good/bad discriminatory judgements.

Optional briefing:

Examples of criteria to evenly divide/classify the team according to -

  • Late-night people and early-morning people
  • What sort of weather we like
  • What sort of food we like
  • What we like to do for fun
  • Our fears
  • What we would change in the world

If as a facilitator you use these examples feel free to instruct the group to think of their own ideas, and not merely to use one of the examples.

More complexity and/or specific focus on a subject can be suggested, for example:

The purpose of the exercise is to encourage people to get to know each other better, to collectively consider the nature of all individuals within the team, and to think of each other in ways that are quite different to how people tend usually to classify others.


  • Share and discuss the team'(s') decisions, making notes where helpful on a flipchart (or equivalent hi-tech system).
  • How easy was it to find out and think about each other in different ways?
  • How does this thinking differ from potentially negative or subjective judgements?
  • What sort of classifications can be negative?
  • What makes a classification positive/helpful rather than negative/prejudicial?

As a facilitator/teacher, you can approach the exercise as a quick ice-breaker, or a more complex longer-lasting learning activity.

You can stipulate how many subgroups should be classified within the team(s), and how many different classifications are required (one 50:50 split using a single classification is simplest and quickest), or you can offer wider more open flexibility, and see what the teams develop for themselves.

The Johari Window is a useful reference model, as is (up to a point) employment background on discrimination, minorities, bullying, etc. Approach the activity with a broader view than reminding people about employment law and discrimination:

The way we understand and regard each other is a big subject, offering far more helpful outcomes than merely applying a legal code.

Face Game

Body language, non-verbal communications

For groups of four to ten people. Split larger groups into teams with leaders who can facilitate the exercise.

Equipment required: paper and pens/pencils.

Time: 5-20 minutes depending on group size and review discussion.

Introduction: Facial expressions are an important part of communications. There are many different emotions and corresponding facial expressions. Some are easier to interpret than others. This exercise helps illustrate different expressions and how some are more obvious and easy to 'read' than others.


Each team member must think of one emotion (or two or three emotions, for a longer exercise), which they should then write separately on a slip of paper. Fold the slips of paper and put it into a cup or glass in the centre of the table, to enable 'blind' selection.

Each person must then in turn take one of the folded slips and show the emotion on their face to the team, who must guess the emotion.

Review points, for example:

  • How significant are facial expressions in conveying feelings?
  • In what situations are facial expressions especially crucial to communications and understanding?
  • What emotions are easiest to 'read' and why?
  • What emotions are less easy to interpret?
  • What facial expressions are easiest to misread or fake?
  • What effect do facial expressions have on us?
  • What emotions are probably universal across all cultures?
  • To what extent are we aware of our own facial expressions?
  • To what extent do we 'read' facial expressions and respond to them unconsciously?
  • And importantly - how can we manage our communications methods given the significance facial expressions in certain types of communications?

See Body Language and Mehrabian's communications theory for background.

Stress Exercise

Stress demonstration, teambuilding

This is a helpful and non-threatening way to show the effects of stress and confusion, especially in teams, and by implication the effects of stress on productivity, organisational performance and healthy working.

Ideally for teams of eight to ten people. Split larger groups into teams of 8-10 and establish facilitation and review as appropriate, appointing and briefing facilitators since each team requires facilitation.

You will need for each team about five balls of various sizes, compositions, weights, shapes, etc., depending on team size and the team's ball-handling skills. Five balls is probably adequate for most teams of eight people.

Using very different balls makes the exercise work better (for example a tennis ball, a beach ball, a rugby ball, a ping-pong ball, etc - use your imagination).

Form each team into a circle.

The aim is to throw and catch the ball (each ball represents a work task/objective) between team members - any order or direction.

The ball must be kept moving (the facilitator can equate this to the processing of a task within the work situation).

Allow the team to develop their own methods/pattern for throwing the ball between members if they find this helpful.

A dropped ball equates to a failed task (which the facilitator can equate to a specific relevant objective). A held ball equates to a delayed task.

When the team can satisfactorily manage the first ball, the facilitator should then introduce a second ball to be thrown and caught while the first ball remains in circulation.

Equate the second ball to an additional task, or a typical work complication, like a holiday, or an extra customer requirement.

Continue to introduce more balls one by one - not too fast - each time equating them to work situations and complications.

Obviously before not too long the team is unable to manage all the balls, and chaos ensues.

Avoid creating chaos too early by introducing too many balls too soon.

Allow the sense of increasing stress and confusion to build, according to the ball-handling capability of the team. Introducing balls too quickly will not allow the stress to build.

Points for review:

  • Relate the experiences of the game to the work situation, especially effective team working and communications.
  • What does too much pressure and failure feel like?
  • Are these feelings the same for everyone?
  • Do we know how others are feeling and can best deal with stress and confusion, unless we ask?
  • How can we anticipate, manage and avoid these effects at work? (Not easy, especially if the pressure is from above, which often it will be - nevertheless understanding the causes and effects of stressful confusion is the first step to resolving them).
  • What helps us handle these pressures and what makes things worse?
  • Relate this learning to work situations, and then to possible improvements and changes.

Use relevant reference materials if helpful, for example:

Stress theory and stress management

Johari Window model (mutual and self-awareness)

Assertiveness (especially for junior people managing stress caused from above)

(Thanks to Karen Wright of for the contribution of this excellent exercise.)


Warm-ups and for demonstrating that things are rarely as crucial as they seem)

See the acronym CRITWATNF (Currently Residing In The Where Are They Now File).

Explain it to the group.

Ask the group to think of an example - any example, from their own personal life (not too personal) or from work or the world of media, politics, economy, anything.

Discuss the examples.

Discuss how and why things can seem crucial one day, yet often can soon become completely insignificant, given a little time.

Discuss the influences of emotions, peer pressure, zietgeist, the media, daft unquestioning management, personal mood, etc., on relationships, strategy, decisions, work, life, etc.

Would life/work/society be better if we could all be more objective and critical, and less led by our emotions and by others?

Quick Paper Tower

Warm-up, creative thinking, and/or teamwork, skills and process analysis

A quick table-top exercise for individuals or teams, and a quick version of the bigger newspaper tower activity .

Issue a single sheet of paper (A4 or international equivalent) to each group member (or one sheet per team if the exercise is to be played as a team game).


Using the sheet of paper only - no other materials - construct the tallest free-standing structure - in 5 minutes.

Points to review:

  • Planning and timing - who planned and who ran out of time?
  • Pressure - what were the effects on people and performance from the pressure of time?
  • Innovation - what innovative ideas were devised?
  • Risk - what observations could be made about high-risk and low-risk methods/approaches?
  • Learning - would each team/individual be able to improve their result at a second attempt? (Almost certainly.) Discuss how and why, and the value of experience.
  • Best practice - if the whole group were to be given the task to build a single tower what ideas would be combined, and what does this tell us about the power of collective ideas?
  • Skills - what skills were found to be crucial for best performance of the task, and could you have guessed what these vital skills would be before the exercise, or did they only become apparent after actually attempting the task? And what does this tell us about the identification of skills (to be developed/taught) for a given task?
  • (If played as a team game) what were the opportunities and challenges in enabling the team to perform the task effectively? Consider and suggest a process which would enable an effective team approach to the task: What elements and principles from this are transferable to normal operations and team-working?
  • Process improvement - what single tool or additional material (no larger than the width of the paper sheet) would achieve the greatest improvement to the result?

Incidentally the best technical approach to this task almost certainly requires the construction and use of connectable tubular rolled or triangular telescopic sections, made from lengthways strips of the sheet. Using this technique it is possible to make a tower at least three times higher than the length of the sheet. If you know better and/or have pictorial evidence of a better solution please send it to share with others on this webpage.

The exercise can be adapted to suit your situation, for example giving group members 15 minutes for the task and issuing an extra practice sheet of paper will increase the depth and complexity of the task and the review.

Poetry Activities

Poems exercises, creativity, Johari awareness, thinking outside of the box, fresh perspectives

Thursday 3 rd October 2019 is National Poetry Day in the UK, although you can be anywhere in the world to enjoy poetry.

Poetry is great for creativity, fresh perspectives, and improving self/mutual awareness - (refer to Johari model ).

Here are some ideas for bringing poetry into your workplace or school, whether for development activities or for the pure fun of it:

Icebreaker ideas/group discussion questions -

  • Define the word 'poem'.
  • Why is poetry appealing to us? It's just words, isn't it?...
  • What is your favourite poem/extract/line and why? (Everybody can think of at least a line from a song..)
  • Are all song lyrics poetry? Is rapping poetry?
  • Could Desiderata be adapted to be a corporate/societal values statement? If so, how?
  • Does Rudyard Kipling's poem If serve as a modern set of personal values? If not how would you change it?
  • Can you suggest how the bereavement poem Do not Stand at My Grave and Weep has become so hugely popular around the world, and relate this popularity to the way society behaves?
  • Is Philip Larkin's poem 'This Be The Verse' a valid perspective on society? And how do these notions relate to the responsibilities of developing others, to parenting, teaching, especially of young people? (Warning - the poem contains language that could offend - which gives rise to another discussion question about how the context of words and language determine the actual meaning and sense, far beyond the words themselves).

Other group ideas -

  • Create a short poem for the purpose of promoting a product / service / department / initiative / educating / informing / memorising something / your team.
  • Write a limerick about yourself/the organisation (agree the structure/rules of a limerick first).
  • Write a haiku verse for a lesson/value/significant point in life or work (agree structure/rules of a haiku verse first).
  • Issue a page of a newspaper to people working in pairs - ask them to re-structure any chosen paragraph of news into poetry, with or without changing the words.
  • Same as above - changing the words into the style of Shakespeare/Chaucer/Byron, etc.

Individual ideas -

  • Put a poem on your notice board or intranet, and see what happens.
  • Send me a poem you've written about any aspect of work or personal development, etc., and I'll publish it on this website.
  • Send me a poem about charisma - and enter the charisma definition competition .
  • Next time you meet someone for the first time, ask them what they think about poetry, and see where the discussion takes you.

You will think of many more ideas for using poetry to add fresh perspective to work and play. Send your own ideas , and I'll add them here.

Incidentally the word poem is derived ultimately from the Greek word 'poema' (precisely 'póēma'), meaning 'thing made or created'. The word poet comes from Greek - poētēs - meaning 'maker'.

What Did You Learn Yesterday

Self-development, life attitude, self-awareness, discussions about what learning and development means

This is a powerful activity. Simple idea, and so potent.

Ask any group (to consider individually): What did you learn yesterday?

Review answers through discussion, brief statements, or presentations.

Optionally you can first establish what sort of learning qualifies to be mentioned, or leave that aspect open because it's obviously an interesting debate in itself which tends naturally to arise from the discussions prompted by the question.

Review angles:

  • If you can't think of anything you learned yesterday, how far back do you need to go to find something?
  • Was it learning for work, or life, or both - and what's the difference anyway?
  • How did you learn it?
  • How could you measure/quantify/apply it?
  • How might you transfer it/teach it to someone else?
  • What will change now you've learned it?
  • What further learning does it prompt or enable?
  • Can you analyse the learning in terms of the Kirkpatrick model ?
  • Can you analyse the learning in terms of Johari Window model ?
  • Can you analyse the learning in terms of Multiple Intelligences and/or VAK learning/thinking styles ?
  • What level of Maslow's theory does it impact?
  • What aspect of Erikson's theory does it impact?
  • What value would you put on it?
  • What would you have paid to have learned it some while ago?
  • What could you do to maximise the learning that naturally comes to you every day, for free?

You will think of lots more angles, and plenty more suggestions will arise in discussions.


  • What is the most useful thing you learned in the last week/month/year/previous life?
  • What did you learn at the watercooler/pub after work/party at the weekend/on holiday?
  • What did you learn on your social networking website when you should have been 'working'?
  • What's the most valuable learning you've obtained in the past month/year and how did you get it?
  • What's the most you've learned for the least cost/effort and the least you've learned from the most cost/effort?
  • List an example of your own recent learning for each of the categories: skill, attitude, knowledge, experience. (See Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains for useful reference relating to this aspect, and the exercise as a whole.)

Larger groups can be split into smaller work teams to explore what teams have learned and the extent to which learning is shared and assimilated and applied.

(This exercise was inspired by a brief story in Leo Buscaglia's wonderful 1972 book 'Love', in which Buscaglia recalls his father asking his children at the end of each day, "What did you learn today?". This expectation encouraged them to seek facts and knowledge - about anything - and the habit was very significant in forming Buscaglia's positive approach to life and lifelong learning. See more about Leo Buscaglia's ideas . I'm grateful to Kiran for reminding me of the source of this, and that Buscaglia's book 'Living, Loving and Learning' contains the same story.)

Tactical Team Shove Ha'penny

Teamwork, tactics, strategy, problem-solving, assessing and countering competitor threats

Equipment: a table (at least four feet diameter) with a smooth surface, some coins, and (optionally) blu-tack, paper, colouring pens and scissors.

The activity also adapts as a larger-scale ball game on ground-level, explained at the end of this item.

Split the group to make at least two teams - maximum three people per team. Five teams of three per team is fine, so is four pairs or other similar splits. Size of teams, number of teams, and number of coins can all be adjusted to suit the situation. Increase the number of coins to increase the complexity and duration of the game, and to enable more players per team.

Issue each team at least six coins - ideally different sorts of coins, and ensure each team has the same number of similar coins. Different size coins create more tactical options.

Then, (optionally) instruct the team to create a team logo or emblem and to cut out and colour the shape and fix to their coins using the blu-tack, like a little sail. This is to make it easy to tell the difference between the teams when the coins are in play.

Otherwise, ensure that (when the coins are placed flat on the table) each team somehow differentiates their coins from the other teams. (For example if two teams are playing, one team can be heads and the other tails. Or you can issue coloured sticky spots or stars, etc.)

The object of the game is to shove the coins, one coin at a time, from the table edge, to create the closest grouping of coins on the table compared to the efforts of the other team(s).

Each coin should be moved once only by pushing it 'shove ha'penny'-style, using the pad of the hand at the base of the thumb: Place the coin (about a third of it) off the table edge, and strike it from the side against the edge of the table, using the pad of the hand.

The facilitator must be able to demonstrate this, and allow some practice for the teams to get used to the method and speed of the table, and for the teams to decide who in the team will do the shoving.


  1. The winning team is the team to achieve the most (of their own) coins grouped into a specified area, which can be designated and measured by the facilitator before play commences by cutting or tearing a hole in the middle of a sheet of paper, to use as a template. The smaller the area, the more difficult the game is made. Around 12 inches diameter is a reasonable target area. (Do not put the paper on the table; use the paper to measure how many coins are in the groupings at the end of the game. Groupings can be anywhere on the table provided no coin is closer than 12 inches from the table edge.)
  2. Coin groupings must be at least 12 inches (30 cms) from the edge of the table (i.e., any coin closer to the edge of the table than 12 inches does not count towards the grouping).
  3. Each coin can be shoved once only.
  4. Coins may be shoved so as to move coins of own team, or teams may shove their coins to disrupt the groupings of other teams (which makes the game very tactical and is the reason for each team having similar coins since big heavy coins are generally advantageous and easier to use than small coins).
  5. Teams take turns to shove and only one team may shove a coin at a time (although for icebreakers and big quick games a time limit can be given instead within which teams can shove their coins freely, which creates different tactical implications).
  6. Toss a coin or draw lots to decide the order of play (which can be offered as a tactical option in its own right).
  7. State a time limit for tactical discussions between shoves.

Review points:

  • Choice between disrupting competitor and building own position.
  • Strategy at the beginning, and how it changed during the game.
  • Different approach next time in light of experience?
  • Strategic advantage in order of play?
  • Were the types of coins used at the best times? (Larger coins can be more disruptive, which is useful at the end of the game, but they also help in the early stages to create stopping points and positions of strength at the early parts of the game.)
  • Effectiveness of team in considering strategic options and making decisions.
  • Extent to which other teams' strategy was observed or anticipated.
  • Fairness of result - element of luck versus skill.
  • Name the 3-5 key capabilities that a winning team would need to perform consistently well at this game.
  • Relative importance of strategy, tactical adjustment, decision-making, and skill - any other major factors?
  • If you were the national coach for this game how would you coach a winning team?

N.B. Before the game, the facilitator should consider especially the timing of this game. It can take a long time if you have lots of teams and lots of coins. To speed up the game and/or create a quick icebreaker exercise, split the group into pairs, issue three coins per person, and change the rules so that all coins must be shoved in no order (a free-for-all basically) and the game completed within 30 seconds. This format has different tactical implications.

Bigger groups, more teams, and more coins, all require a bigger table.

Bigger scale indoor or outdoor versions of this game are possible using coloured tennis balls on a playground or a suitably marked floor or grass area, in which case a hula-hoop serves as an ideal measuring template.

Ageing Society Discussion/Presentation/Debate

Creative analytical thinking, trends, forecasting, ageism, demographics

The aim of the exercise is to get people thinking creatively and analytically.

The subject is how the increasing proportion of older people in society will change the world, but actually the subject can be about any large-scale trend.

The activity will prompt the use of visioning and imagination, and the consideration of big system changes, consequences, causes and effects.

In the case of an ageing society these changes are already upon us, so it's not a hypothetical exercise. The activity obviously also encourages people to think about ageism and age equality issues.

Specifically ask group members to consider and decide what they believe will be the single greatest effect in the next 1/2/3/5 years of the ageing population on their area of activity/responsibility/market-place - or on society generally - (years and area of impact decided by the facilitator, depending on the interests/responsibilities of the group).

The views of the group members can be discussed or presented or debated depending on the facilitator's aims and constraints of the session.

Review points can include:

  • Collective group decision as to the most perceptive suggestion
  • What suggestions are the most visionary and forward-seeing
  • How different suggestions might impact on each other
  • The extent to which group members suggestions and views differ according to age of the group members
  • Early evidence or indicators of the reliability of each/any of the predictions
  • What information is lacking for more reliable predictions
  • Where information might be found if required
  • What differs about this type of thinking compared to day-to-day decisions (proactive deeper thinking compared to reactive shallow)
  • Whether drawing diagrams and/or discussing and/or any other methods assist this sort of thinking (for example, is this sort of deeper complex proactive thinking easier when more senses are stimulated, or when more people consider and share ideas?)
  • Does this exercise teach us anything about the power of thought as a way to anticipate and develop solutions/responses to situations rather than simply waiting for things to happen?
  • Do the collective views of the group seem to support (or not) the notion of 'the wisdom of crowds'.
  • Is effective forecasting and predicting of far-reaching effects chiefly based on creative imagination or analytical logic, or equally both?
  • To what or particularly relevant or local trends could we usefully apply the same thinking?

Exercise variables at the discretion of the facilitator:

  • thinking/preparation time (icebreaker requires 2-3 mins - bigger exercises could extent to 30 mins or more preparation time)
  • group members to work individually, in pairs or threes, or as two debating teams
  • people could be asked to suggest two or three effects, not just a single effect
  • method of presenting suggestions - discussion, presentation, debate, diagrams, role-play?... anything else? use your imagination
  • the main subject can be varied to focus on any other significant trend - for example: increasing world population, increasing power of new economies (China, India, Brazil, etc), advancing technology (in any market), energy costs and demand, gender or ethnic trends, etc.

'Moneygram' Activity

Expressing and sharing perceptions about organizations, structures, systems, etc - and creativity sessions and teamworking

This flexible activity is based on using coins to create a 'picture' or diagram of an organizational system or structure which is relevant to the group's work or learning.

The subject(s) chosen for the 'moneygrams' (coin pictures) are at the facilitator's discretion, and/or can be suggested by groups, depending on the situation.

For example, a subject could be a team, department, division, or an entire corporation, or a market including suppliers, customers, competitors, etc. Or a school, college, a community or an industry sector, or even a region or country, or view of the world.

If the main aim is to express/share perceptions of a work or business structure, then the choice of structure is obviously is significant, and the facilitator should ensure a suitable choice. If the main aim is instead to get people working creatively together (for instance young people in school, or a creative workshop session) then the choice of structure is not significant, aside from something that the group will find interesting, and the facilitator can allow the group to choose a structure for their 'moneygram'.

The room layout must enable people to make a display on a table or floor and for others to see the display clearly, or for the whole group to work around on a single large display on a table.

Coins are of course various values, sizes, colours, years and designs - both sides - and can be stacked, and some stood on their edges. As such coins are potentially a really interesting medium for creating pictures/patterns/diagrams which express ideas and themes of all sorts. The exercise provides a completely different way (unlike normal words, discussion, diagrams, etc) for people to interpret and present their own view of a particular situation. This enables a tactile, fresh, liberating and more objective way for people to express and share their perceptions.

The facilitator obviously needs to consider and decide the best way to equip the group with sufficient 'materials' (coins) for the activities. For example a mature adult group could be asked to use the coins from their own pockets and purses. A less mature group should ideally have the coins provided by the facilitator.

Complex themes and big require lots of coins. Happily 1p and 2p copper coins very inexpensive materials - in fact probably cheaper than plastic counters and play-money nowadays - and it's useful to have a plentiful supply of coppers, or whatever is your currency equivalent. Foreign coins add international interest and diversity if you have some. If the situation allows, you can ask group members to bring in their piggy banks. The creative use of banknotes, cheques and credit cards is not recommended for obvious reasons. Messing around with loose change carries few risks; bigger values are not appropriate for play materials.

If you have any doubts about using real money in the exercise then playing cards can be used instead, which offers another perspective and different interpretations.

Be mindful of the time available for the activity and limit the complexity of the subjects accordingly. You cannot expect anyone to map out the global commodities market or the future of the world wide web in a five minute icebreaker with a pocketful of change.

See also the organizational modelling activity and the baking foil modelling games , which take slightly different approaches to the same idea.

The Johari Window is a useful reference model by which to explain and review the benefits and issues surrounding mutual awareness and perceptions.

The money slang and history page offers some entertaining facts and trivia on the subject.

As with any exercise much of the value comes from reviewing and discussing the issues arising from the learning experience, and where relevant encouraging people to determine their own preferred reactions. See the notes on experiential learning for additional guidance in this regard. An activity of this nature will tend to highlight various opportunities for future clarification and follow-up actions, especially for work-team leaders.

New World

Potentially bigger exercise for leadership/team roles, multiple intelligences, life skills, analysis and reaction

This is a flexible and fascinating scenario-based activity for groups up to 12 people and all ages. Split larger groups into teams and adapt presentations and reviews accordingly. Schools could potentially develop various extensions to this activity.

Ask the delegates to discuss in a group and answer the following question:

Scenario: Imagine the world suffered a catastrophic event like a meteor strike, plague or nuclear war, which destroyed most human life and all of the developments of the past century. A mixed group (age, gender, ethnicity, religion) of a few hundred lucky people has survived (it's helpful to agree where - anywhere - because location will influence some aspects of the approach to the question).

Question: If this group is to thrive and develop, what initial leadership structure would you suggest, stating 6-12 key roles? (Optionally and ideally ask delegates to justify their suggestions.)

Agree timings and presentation/review in whatever ways are useful to the delegates. The number of roles can be the same as the number of delegates, especially if you choose to extend the activity.

The exercise can be extended by adding any of the following supplementary questions, which can (optionally) be approached as if the delegates are the survivors leadership team, allocated the key roles identified.

Roles can be allocated via volunteering or some other group process, at the facilitator's discretion.

Optional supplementary questions:

  • What basic laws would you introduce for the group of survivors?
  • As the leadership team, what would be your ten immediate main aims?
  • What 3-5 main difficulties would you expect in leading the group and how would you try to handle these challenges?
  • What lessons from the modern world would you find most valuable in rebuilding the new world?
  • What would be your five main medium-long term aims?

You - and/or the delegates - will be able to devise further questions relevant to your own training/learning situation.

There are potentially thousands of useful reference sources which can be incorporated within an exercise like this, really anything you are currently seeking to bring to life and provide context for application. Here are a few examples:

The activity is very flexible. It can be shortened to a two-minute icebreaker, simply to agree the 6-10 roles, or expanded to incorporate all sorts of issues and reference models and tools, depending on the development aims and needs of the delegates.

To shorten the exercise into a quick icebreaker simply state the scenario and ask delegates to take 1-2 minutes to think of 3-6 leadership roles. Then quickly gather and count the suggestions on a flip chart or wipeboard, and close with a quick review of the most popularly suggested team roles. Relate to Multiple Intelligence theory or Belbin's team roles theory or another suitably relevant team roles/skills reference model.

Helium Stick

Assumptions, organising tasks, problem-solving

This is a classic teambuilding game, and an amusing exercise around which to design icebreakers.

For teams of three upwards, subject to the type and length of 'stick' used in the activity.

This explanation includes games variations, and very easily improvised ideas for the stick equipment - as the facilitator you do not need to buy anything.

The basic exercise requires all team members to:

  • Support a long stick or tube - each person using one finger
  • Lower the stick to the ground
  • With no fingers losing contact with the tube.

The tendency is for the stick to rise, hence the name of the exercise, because the collective force used to keep fingers in contact with the stick is greater than the gravitational force (weight) of the stick. For this reason use a stick for the exercise that is light enough for this effect to occur, given the number of people in the team. For example a broomstick is too heavy for a team of three people, but would be fine for a team of ten. See the suggestions for stick types per team size below.

Other rules and guidelines:

  • The stick (or any alternative item being lifted) must be rigid and not too heavy to outweigh the initial 'lift' tendency of the team size. If it's not rigid it makes it easy for team members to maintain finger-contact.
  • Start with the stick at about chest height.
  • Team members can be positioned either on one or both sides of the stick - depending on stick length and team numbers.
  • The team must return the stick to the starting position if any finger loses contact with the stick.
  • The stick must rest on fingers - the stick cannot be grasped or pinched or held in any way.
  • Typically teams are instructed to rest the stick on the outside (nail-side or 'backs') of fingers, however specifying a side of the finger is not critical to the activity.
  • Optionally you can instruct that a finger from each hand is used, which increases the lifting effect and the difficulty of the task. The length of the stick and the number of team members are also factors in this, i.e., two fingers per person requires a longer stick.
  • Clarify the point at which the stick is considered 'lowered to the ground' - underside of fingers or hands touching the ground is easier to monitor than actually depositing the stick onto the ground, which depending on the ground surface can be very tricky.
  • There are many ways of improvising sticks. Some people use inter-connecting tent-poles, but these are too heavy for very small teams (the gravitational force is greater than the collective lift, which makes the task too easy). Use your imagination - any rigid lightweight stick or tube will do, and if you can't improvise a stick then other materials and shapes can be used instead, as described below.
  • Team size of just three people is not ideal - the activity works best with six to a dozen per team, or even more subject to having a stick long enough. Teams of three would be used mainly for splitting a group of six or nine when a competitive element is required.
  • The bigger the team, the longer the activity will take to complete successfully. This is an important point - for example given a limited time you'd be better splitting a group of twenty into two or three teams rather than run the risk of failing to complete the task, which is not great for teambuilding or for creating a successful mood.
  • Two fingers per person (one finger each hand) creates more lifting effect and challenge but requires a longer stick than one finger per team member.
  • Positioning team members on both sides of the stick enables bigger teams, but can make it more difficult for the facilitator to monitor finger-contact.

Games variations:

  • Split large groups into teams, each team with their own stick, and have a race between the teams for the first to lower the stick to the ground. Watch for cheating. If appropriate appoint and rotate observers for say three rounds or a knockout contest.
  • Use a suitably sized square or other shape of cardboard instead of a stick. This achieves a closer team grouping for large teams and adds a different element to the activity if team members already know the stick activity. Cut a big hole in the shape ideally so you can monitor finger-contact.
  • Use a hoopla hoop instead of a stick - a hoop also offers better visibility than a sheet of cardboard.
  • Start with the stick (or whatever else is used) at ground height, raise it to shoulder height and lower it back to the ground. The challenge is stopping it rising beyond shoulder height when it gets there.
  • Issue two sticks per team - one finger for each stick - very challenging.
  • Mix up the teams for different rounds to explore the dynamics of working in a new team even after all members understand the challenge and the solution.
  • Just before starting the exercise ask team members to press down hard with their outstretched fingers onto the edge of a table for 30 or 60 seconds. This confuses the brain still further and increases the tendency for the stick to rise.

Ideas for sticks and team sizes (rough guides):

  • Joined-together drinking straws (3-6 people)
  • Houseplant sticks (3-6)
  • Kite struts (3-6)
  • Rolled sheet(s) of newspaper (3-10)
  • Straightened-out wire coat-hangers (6-10)
  • Wooden dowel rods (6-12 - cheap from most hardware stores)
  • Bamboo poles (5-20 people)
  • Telescopic or interconnecting fishing rods (6-20 people or more)
  • Inter-connecting tent poles or gazebo poles (6-20 people or more)
  • Drain clearer/chimney-sweeping rods (10-30 people)

Review points examples:

  • Why did the stick rise when we wanted it to go down?
  • Did we anticipate the problem?
  • How did we fix the problem?
  • Having achieved the task with this team was it/would it be easier/as difficult with a different team?
  • How did we feel when fingers lost contact?
  • What are the effects of time pressures and competition?
  • How might we coach or prepare others to do this task?
  • And countless other possibilities, many of which you'll see while running the exercises.

As a facilitator use your imagination. The 'helium stick' exercise is amusing and effective its basic format, and can be adapted in many ways to support many different themes related to team-working and problem-solving.

Change Exercises

Illustrating and experiencing dealing with change

Here are some simple quick ideas to help demonstrate the brain's reaction to change. They are based on having to accomplish a simple everyday task in a different way:

  • Do left-handed a simple task normally done right-handed (or vice-versa)
  • Blindfolded or with eyes shut (be mindful of safety issues)
  • Outside (instead of indoors - maybe even in the rain/wind - which tends to create radically different circumstances)
  • In pairs (when normally the task is one person's - like using a pair of scissors - which highlights pressures resulting from team changes)
  • By someone other than oneself, to oneself (which highlights fears around personal control and trust)
  • Upside-down against a wall being supported by a colleague (task and trust pressures)
  • Turn the task upside-down (for example a keyboard - strangeness, unfamiliarity and re-learning pressures)

Examples of simple tasks to which the above alternative methods might be applied (where safety and practicability allows):

  • Cutting paper shapes with scissors
  • Tossing a ball of paper into a bin
  • Typing on a keyboard
  • Cracking an egg into a bowl
  • Making a cup of tea or coffee or a sandwich
  • Writing or drawing
  • Using mobile phone
  • Putting a wristwatch onto the opposite arm
  • Applying make-up or tying a neck-tie
  • Tasks involving counting, sorting or building things (playing cards are ideal for all of these)

Not all tasks can be matched with all methods, for example making a cup of tea blindfolded is not very safe. Using a keyboard outside in the rain is neither safe nor practicable. Use your imagination and common sense to devise interesting and memorable combinations.

Different methods (types of change) create different pressures - on different parts of the brain - and these effects vary according to the individual.

It does not matter that the methods are mostly ridiculous - the point is to demonstrate and experience the different pressures of different types of change.

Observe and review how different people react in different ways to different methods. We do not react to change in the same ways. Empathy for other people's feelings is therefore crucial in managing change affecting other people. Motivational and attitudinal models such as those developed by Maslow and Erikson help explain why people react differently to change. One person might feel terribly threatened by a certain change which another person can take in their stride. Personality has a big affect too, for example, steady dependable people can find change more challenging than spontaneous intuitive people.

Change of any sort is difficult ultimately when:

  • Change requires the brain to overcome fear (of failure and self-doubt, etc) and uncertainty of the change itself (which can be extreme for certain people/personalities), and
  • Change requires the brain (and often the body too) to learn something new or to re-learn or accept something in a different way.

Change can be especially frustrating if it involves re-learning something which under a previous method or system was achievable competently (see conscious competence model) - because the brain can imagine and remember being competent, which can cause a sense of loss or failure relative to past experience.

The tasks and different methods above a just a few examples. You will think of many others more suitable to your own situation.

There are many more activities on this website which address change from more of a mental perspective instead of the physical examples above. Johari Window activities address a particularly useful aspect of change, i.e., self-awareness and exposure to other people's impressions of self.


Session warm-ups, creativity, alternative sources of ideas and inspiration

This icebreaker or exercise combines the traditional charades party game with thinking about work/management (or any other) principles, the central themes and meanings within them, and the value of using non-verbal themes ('vehicles') in conveying an idea, concept, etc.

The activity is relevant for any group with roles or interests in training, teaching, team-leading, coaching, presenting, advertising, marketing, design, and communications generally.

Basically the exercise is for group members individually to think of and then silently 'act out' a song, a film, a book or a play, etc., which illustrates a particular aspect of work, business or management, or any other key message relevant to the group.

The exercise teaches and practises the method of using a vehicle (in this case a book/play/song/film - or other categories if you wish) to convey (and illustrate and emphasize) a message (or a concept or any other important communication).

It's for young people as well as grown-ups, and encompasses many of the ' multiple intelligences ' - potentially connecting bodily/artistic/musical with logical/language/interpersonal capabilities.

The task concentrates people's minds on the central message and meaning within their chosen principle, and also prompts thought and discussion about using themes and different media and senses to reinforce or deliver an important message, as distinct from using words alone, which are often not the most powerful or memorable way to convey an important point.

The sequence of the activity is:

  1. Think of a simple message or rule or principle of management/business/or other relevant function.
  2. Now think of a book or a play or a film or a song which represents this principle - the 'vehicle' which carries the message.
  3. Next think how you can act this book/play/song/film silently to the group, using only gestures (as in the party game charades).
  4. Finally each member is given a minute to perform their charade to the group in turn, while the group has to guess the book/play/song/film, and (not so easy) the principle that the 'vehicle' represents.

The task also demonstrates the value of using simple clear themes and communications - especially non-verbal signals - that an audience (staff, customers, or any other target audience) can readily relate to and recognize, without the need for lots of explanation and description.

If necessary, brainstorm, and agree the rules for charades, or prepare a rules sheet and issue it so that everyone has an equal chance for the charades stage of the activity. Here is wikipedia's charades rules . You can use a much shorter set of rules to speed up the exercise, since the point of the activity is to think about themes and messages rather than become experts at charades.

You can also award points to group members and to performers for correct guesses of book/play/song/film, and for close and correct guesses of the principles represented.

The activity can be run as a much quicker icebreaker by removing the charades element, and simply asking group members for their suggested themes and vehicles rather than acting them out.


Shoe and Foot-Wear

Discussion about self-awareness, different types of people, Johari-type development

Mind and body are connected.

Here are some simple quick questions to prompt thought and discussion about that notion. The activity is useful as an icebreaker especially because it is active and usually humorous.

Look at the backs of the heels of your shoes. Do you wear your heels down on the inside or the outside, or in the middle? Is the wear the same for each foot?

To what extent is there a relationship between our personality and the way we walk? And additionally (or alternatively), how does our footwear reflect us as individuals?

Discuss with other people your and their reactions to these questions.

The facilitator can organize the groups, feedback, discussion, etc., to suit the situation. The Johari Window model is helpful in explaining the value of self- and mutual-awareness.

Discussion can be developed in various ways. 'Nature versus Nurture' (genes v upbringing) is often an interesting perspective when considering what makes us the way that we are. Also, the subject of our feet has several strong emotional and cultural connections, which can raise interesting questions about human behaviour and feelings from various angles.

Other ways to develop ideas about mind-body connections, for self-awareness and awareness of other people; types, personalities, styles, attitudes, needs, etc:

N.B. Given the nature of this subject, the facilitator should consider any potential discrimination implications.

How Many 'F's?...

Assumptions, checking details, the mind plays tricks, seeing is not always a basis for believing

A quick puzzle with various uses.

See ' How Many 'F's? ' on the puzzles page.

'A SenseAble Friend'

Card activities, icebreakers, problem-solving, creative thinking, hidden issues, Johari, etc

I rarely pick out a product on these pages but this one warrants inclusion because it's so different and appealing.

Developed by Peter Middleton, 'A SenseAble Friend' is a pack of 81 triangular cards, each carrying words or phrases designed to provoke and enable reactions, thoughts or discussion.

The cards can be used alone, or by a facilitator with a group, and as with other activities teams of three work well.

The cards can be used in a quick free-flowing and spontaneous way for activities such as:

  • Icebreakers
  • Problem-solving
  • Brainstorming
  • Uncovering hidden issues
  • Johari window -type development, e.g., developing mutual awareness among teams
  • Exploring needs and priorities not revealed in normal discussion
  • A basis for observation of people - for facilitator, team-leader, or among team-members
  • Exploring and developing relationships
  • Personal reflection, thinking outside of the box, breaking free, etc.

The approach, explained via simple and flexible instructions, is highly intuitive, and yet is effective with process-oriented folk as well as with intuitive types. From personal experience I can vouch for the strange power of the cards, which definitely seem to tap into the unconscious in ways that conventional development systems and methods do not.

The product would be an excellent addition to a facilitator's toolkit, or simply keep a set on your desk. Trust your unconscious - ideas will echo and return in ways you might not expect.

See Peter Middleton's A SenseAble Friend .

(My thanks to Soleira Green for drawing my attention to Peter and his concept.)

Why 81 cards?...

The design evolved from study of scientific, psychological, theosophical and spiritual teachings.

In our lives, contrast, or 'natural paradox' is always present. The opposites in us exist comfortably at the same time. They do not need 'fixing'; they exist to provide clarity. Some relate this to 'duality'. Jung's theory , for example, offers some explanation, among other ideas like yin and yang.

To give meaning to these opposites and decide who we, we need a third element: consciousness.

Aside from this three sided model, our lives can also be represented in terms of four perspectives: physical, psychological, spiritual and divine.

The 81 cards evolved to reflect this structure of three to the power of four (3 x 3 x 3 x 3 = 81).

There is more to the design, but this essentially explains why there are 81 cards.

Animal Perceptions

Self-awareness, team discussions and mutual awareness, Johari-type development

This is a simple, enjoyable and thought-provoking activity for workshops and team-building. This exercise should be positioned as mostly fun and to prompt reflection, discussion, etc. It is not to be presented or used as a scientific assessment of personality or attitude, and certainly not as an assessment of good or poor skills or temperament.

I am grateful for its contribution by Shwetha Singh, a post-graduate in psychology, Punjab University, India.

Ideally start the activity with some discussion about how other people affect one's own self-perceptions - for example:

"How do significant people in our lives affect the way we perceive ourselves?"

This discussion should prompt people to think about their own self-perceptions.

Next, ask group members individually to rank the animals below in order of their personal preference.

Lion, Dog, Parrot, Elephant Rank these animals 1, 2, 3, 4 in order of your preference or liking for them.
Write down the order.
You can keep your list private if you wish to.
There are no right or wrong answers.

Group members do not need to reveal their chosen order, but may do so if happy to in the subsequent discussion.

When group members have decided and written their list of the four animals in order of preference, you can then reveal the key for interpreting the results.

You must emphasise that this is mostly for fun and to stimulate reflection and discussion. People may keep their preferences and interpretations private if they wish.

Key to Order and Animals Dog Lion Elephant Parrot
1 How you want others (significant people in your life) to perceive you today. Friendly, faithful, loyal, supportive, protective, dependable, reliable, trustful, trusting, solid, keen, hard- working, loving Dominant, fearsome, independent, decisive, proactive, isolated, aloof, leading, critical, objective, detached, focused, fearless Tolerant, passive, cooperative, respected, big, strong, controlled, calm, indomitable, revered, wise Lively, fun, free- spirited, sociable, amenable, popular, attractive, cheerful, passionate, spontaneous
2 How you believe you are actually perceived today by others.
3 How you'd like to be perceived by others in the future.
4 How you actually truly want to be - without influence of what other significant people in your life feel and think about you.

Some discussion points:

  • To what extent do we shape our self-image and aims according to the influence and opinions of other people?
  • To what extent do we understand how we are actually regarded by others?
  • To what extent does what other people think of us matter?
  • Should the influence of other people today affect what we seek to be in the future?
  • If you could list different animals - or substitute people/role-models instead - what would the list be and what might it tell you about yourself?
  • Whether the exercise produces accurate results is not the point - the point is to encourage thinking about who we are and who we want to be, in more depth than we normally consider these things.
  • The Johari Window model is a useful reference for this exercise and surrounding discussions.

Underpinning theory and further reading if desired: Carl Rogers' ideas about Ideal Self and Real Self, and Sigmund Freud's theories, notably relating to animal personalization and influences of significant others (people in our lives).

I am grateful to Shwetha Singh for the contribution of this exercise and assistance with its adaptation. This exercise is not presented as a validated or scientific instrument. Please use it carefully.

Reading Out Loud and Listening

Listening, interpretation, understanding, speaking, creativity

Exercise 1. First here is a quick self-contained ready-made listening exercise (ack Claire Leach) which focuses on listening only.

Exercise 2. The activity which follows is different to the ready-made game above - it enables a group to devise their own exercises and therefore includes aspects of creativity and team working in addition to listening.

This second exercise is an activity idea chiefly for demonstrating and developing listening, understanding and interpretation abilities, but also for general communications and creative and competitive team working.

Split the group into two or more teams of up to five people per team. Split larger groups into more teams and adapt the exercise accordingly - it's very flexible.

Each team member (or a given number of people per team) must read out a passage from a newspaper or other suitably detailed text to the opposing team or teams.

Rotate the reading around the teams in turn rather than have each team perform all its readings one after the other.

Teams must listen to the readings so as to answer questions later, posed by the team asking the questions. Taking written notes while listening is optional at the discretion of the facilitator. If useful and relevant to the skills required then include this aspect.

When all the passages have been read, each team must then devise and ask the other team 5/10/20 questions in turn about the passages they've read.

Optionally the questions can be devised before the readings, which makes the listening challenge easier since there is no interruption or distraction between the readings and the questions.

The winning team is the one to answer most answers correctly. The facilitator can award bonus points for answers which demonstrate particularly good interpretation of the subject matter included in the readings.

Adjust the many variables of this activity to suit your situation, notably: structure teams number and size, number of readers, length of passages, number of questions, etc., according to time and group size, and level of difficulty required.

Here's an example:

  • Group of 10
  • Two teams of 5 people
  • 3 readers per team (self-appointed by teams)
  • Passages to be max 100 words or 30 seconds
  • 5 mins allowed for teams to decide passages (newspapers contain ideal content)
  • 3 mins total time for reading the six passages
  • 5 mins for teams to construct 5 questions based on their passages
  • 5 mins to ask and answer 10 questions, 5 questions each team, asked/answered alternately one from each team
  • Winning team is team with most correct answers/points including bonuses
  • Total time including set up, excluding review and discussion, about 30 mins

The activity format can be varied too, for example breaking the questioning and answering into two different sections, so that teams have a chance to work on their answers, which adds the extra difficulty of noting or remembering the questions properly too.

Introduce more fun or additional technical aspects by issuing amusing or obscure or very specific reading material.

Money Detail

Talking point, focus on observation, taking things for granted, noticing things right in front of us

This is a quick and very easy ice-breaker or scene-setter.

Everyone uses money - notes and coins - most days of their lives. Coins and banknotes are a part of our lives, and yet like other vital and ever-present aspects of our lives, their familiarity and constant presence cause us to ignore their details.

The same can be said of our friends, our families, colleagues, our own bodies, the world around us. We go through life taking it all for granted, and only miss something when it is gone.

To illustrate the point ask people (individually to write down) how many designs they are aware of on a pound coin. In countries other than the UK choose a suitable equivalent coin or banknote which has many variations.

Then ask people to look in their pockets and purses (manbags?... the world is changing, another story..), and show and tell as a group how many actual different pound coin designs exist. You will be surprised.

Arguably no harm comes from failing to appreciate the detail, variety and subtlety and purpose of all the designs of our coins or banknotes, but could we pay (pun intended) more attention to the detail, variety and subtlety that exists in other aspects of our world - people especially?

The world opens to us when we become more open ourselves to what and who are in it - then we see more clearly the opportunities and bigger priorities we might have been ignoring.

Ask the person next to you: "Tell me something important about you that I don't know." Again you will be surprised.

With a little effort we can see and enable more to happen, or we merely continue (quite understandably) to focus on our own very narrow priorities and view of the world, which when we take a wider view often don't seem to be so important after all.

The picture shows nine of the pound coin designs. How many others can you find? What do they denote? There are fourteen in circulation (as at 2007). See the a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Royal Mint pound coin page for full details.

For more supporting trivia and information about (mainly British) money see the money history and slang page .


Competitor- Partner Grid

Competitor intelligence, competitor research, different perspectives, seeking and finding positives and opportunities instead of difficulties and threats - choice over instinct - collaboration rather than conflict

The assumption is normally that a 'competing' organization or person can only ever be a competitor and a threat, to be attacked, defended, undercut, or beaten or fended off in some way.

Such tendencies commonly stem from instincts which give rise to basic human survival behaviours like: tit-for-tat, retaliate before being attacked, to see threats rather than opportunities, and to defend rather than expose our own vulnerabilities, etc.

There are good reasons however for taking a more modern rounded collaborative view of people and organizations that operate in our personal or business space or field or market.

The first law of cybernetics explains a crucial benefit resulting from considering and choosing our responses rather than defaulting to instinct (or worse still defaulting to the assumed or inherited instinct of others, or convention, tradition, status quo, expectation, etc).

Much energy is wasted developing and implementing competitive strategies, which often can either be avoided altogether (because the threat is vastly lower than believed) and/or which can better be channelled into collaborative partnership strategies (which can produce far better outcomes for all concerned).

This exercise (which can be simplified or extended) encourages a more sophisticated approach when responding to organizations in markets (or people within work teams) normally viewed as competitors or threats.

Split the group into teams or pairs or individuals as appropriate for your situation.

Allocate or ask the participants to identify an organization (or group, but can be a trend or a development) that they consider to be a competitor or threat. In certain situations choices can be kept private, for example where the exercise deals with people and relationships.

Validate the selections (in light of the remainder of this exercise, so that the subjects are relevant and helpful). Obviously this is more appropriate for commercial competitor situations. Where the exercise is used for private personal relationships just ask people to double-check themselves that they have chosen a suitable subject.

Ask people to think carefully about their chosen person/organization, according to the factors in the appropriate grid below (the grids are different for organizations and people), and particularly to cast aside all assumptions and historical beliefs and practices.

The factors can be adapted according to the circumstances, and for more complex situations (notably commercial competitor and market analysis) can entail quite detailed research (separate from the session, or part of the session, depending on the time available and local situation).

Essentially the exercise weighs the pros and cons of each factor from the perspective of competitor and partner .

Emphasise to participants when making the assessment to look continually for a fit between the other organization and their own situation and capabilities and needs.

You will often be surprised that there are far more reasons to collaborate than to persist with habitual aggressive or defensive competition strategies and responses.

This is the age of collaboration. We can all benefit by checking old assumptions.

Market Competitor/Partner Grid

As competitor? As partner?
Factor pros cons pros cons
Offering (products, services, added values, people, strategic, philosophy, ethics, culture, range, USP's, price, quality, approvals, licences, reputation, gaps and needs, innovation, brands - others..)
Territory (markets, countries, cultures, demographics, penetration, share, coverage, franchise, geography, area, dominance, trends - others..)
Connections (distribution, routes to market, communications, comms technology, ITC, inbound and outbound, advertising and promotions, PR, lobbying, export import, partners, suppliers, regulatory, international,
Scale and size (resources, expanding, declining, size strengths and weaknesses, growth aims, ownership and funding, debts and gearing, cash and liquidity, acquisitive, divesting, adaptability, speed - others..)
Totals/summary or overview - various ways to score/summarise - for example a point for each significant issue noted, or simply assess the weight and amount of comments in each column


  1. Using colour can make the exercise more intuitive and the results easier to see, for example use green for pros and red for cons.
  2. If developing strategy in relation to a single major 'competitor' you can have the whole group work on one big grid, using post-it notes or similarly ingenious display method - in which case allocate parts of the grid to teams or pairs to work on. Or have two teams - one work on the pros and the other the cons; or four teams or pairs, each working on one of the four factors.

People and Team Relationships Grid

The competitor-partner grid can also be adapted to help people or a group explore team and group relationships and ways to work together rather than to compete and conflict.

Again the emphasis should be on finding a fit between oneself and the other person - in terms of strengths and weaknesses, personality and styles, mutually supporting aims, experience and aspiration, etc.

If running an open shared exercise ensure anyone subject to the analysis is present and agreeable, and ideally participating constructing their own grid featuring another member of the team.

The tool can of course also be used as a private personal reflective instrument, in which case the findings are to be kept private and personal . It is not appropriate for a group to discuss and analyse a person who is not present and agreeable to the exercise.

You Me
Factor pros cons pros cons

Add other lines as appropriate. Allow and encourage people to adapt and develop the format to suit their situations. The aim is to find points of mutual support and compensation. Everyone is good at some things and not so good at other things. We do best in life when we help people where they are not strong, and this enables them where possible to help us where we are not strong.

Other relevant concepts:

Prisoner's dilemma (related to collaboration v aggression, game theory and win-win strategies)


Personality perceptions relationships matrix (based on the Four Temperaments/DISC model)

Personality types

Multiple intelligences and learning styles

© Competitor-Partner Grid concept alan chapman 2007

The Ampersand Game

Warm-ups, demonstrations of learning, thinking, and brain-types, knowledge versus skill

This simple exercise is a quick icebreaker, or can be extended into something more meaningful. Fundamentally the activity demonstrates that knowing something is very different to doing something. Knowledge is different to skill. The exercise also illustrates certain learning and brain processes, notably relating to retention, practise and repetition, as steps to perfection. Useful reference models would include Bloom's Taxonomy and the Conscious Competence model .

The basic activity idea is very simple: It's basically to draw the ampersand symbol (the 'and sign'). The exercise however can be adapted and developed significantly.

Everyone has seen the ampersand symbol. Most people call it the 'and sign'.

The ampersand appears in a wide variety of wonderful designs; it has provided designers through the centuries with more scope for artistic interpretation than any other character.

The activity is simply to ask people to draw the ampersand symbol - serif or sans serif - or a more stylised version - at the discretion of the facilitator. (Interesting background about sans serif and serif fonts is on the presentations page.)

It's actually not at all easy to draw a good-looking ampersand, especially if team members are not able to see the symbol to copy it.

Knowing and recognising the ampersand equates to 'knowledge'. Being able to draw it - to reliably produce one - equates to 'skill'. Different things. Knowledge we can learn by observation and other sensory input. Skill is generally only acquired from experience, practice, trial and error. This is the heart of the activity.

Where people should draw and present their artwork attempts - and how large and how long is permitted for the effort - is all flexible and at the discretion of the facilitator. People can use a blank sheet of paper where they sit, or alternatively can practise (or not), and then take turns to draw the symbol on a flip chart. Or ask people to work in pairs or threes or even teams, to design their definitive ampersand. Or encourage branding and styling of people's artwork according to a particular theme, which extends the activity beyond the basic purpose described here.

At its simplest, the exercise is a two-minute icebreaker. With a bit of imagination, it can be adapted into a much bigger activity if the idea appeals and fits the situation.

The exercise emphasises that we can know something very simply intimately but be incapable of reproducing it properly and expertly - whether a printed symbol, or something more significant. The principle extends to behaviour, style, techniques, etc.

The activity also demonstrates the significance of practice in becoming good at something. The brain must learn how to do it, which is very different from the brain simply recognising and being able to describe it.

Incidentally, while the symbol is about 2,000 years old, the word ampersand first appeared in the English language in around 1835. It is a corrupted (confused) derivation of the term 'And per se', which was the original formal name of the & symbol in glossaries and official reference works. More about the origins of the ampersand . Explaining the history can help position the exercise - it took 2,000 years to arrive at today's ampersand designs - the reason for it taking a bit of practice to reproduce a good one by hand.


Personal goals, visualising personal aims and potential, identifying personal potential, life values, purpose and meaning

A simple exercise to lift people out of habitual thought patterns, and to encourage deep evaluation of personal aims, values, purpose and meaning.

For groups of any size. Encourage post-activity feedback, review, sharing and discussion (or not), as appropriate, depending group/teams size, facilitators and time available. Encourage and enable follow-up actions as appropriate, dependent also on the situation and people's needs.

The activity is based simply on posing the question(s) to team members:

"Imagine you are dead - you've lived a long and happy life - what would your obituary say? "

Alternatively/additionally ask the question:

"How will you want people - your family and other good folk particularly - to remember you when you've gone?"

Modern day-to-day life and work for many people becomes a chaotic fog, in which personal destiny is commonly left in the hands of employers and other external factors.

It is all too easy to forget that we are only on this earth once. We do not have our time again.

So it is worth thinking about making the most of ourselves and what we can do, while we have the chance.

Focusing on how we would want to be remembered (who and what we want to be, and what difference we have made) helps develop a fundamental aim or idea from which people can then 'work back' and begin to think about how they will get there and what needs to change in order for them to do so.

Follow-up exercises can therefore focus on 'in-filling' the changes and decisions steps necessary to achieve one's ultimate personal aims.

Most things are possible if we know where we want to be and then plan and do the things necessary to get there.

See the various quotes posters related to life purpose and values, which can be used in support of this activity, for example:

"He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless dead" (Anon), and

"The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." (William James, 1842-1910, US psychologist and philosopher)

Baking Foil Modelling

Warm-ups, mutual understanding, expression of ideas, Johari window development, and fun for kids activities

This is not so much a game but a concept that can be used and adapted for all sorts of activities and exercises, ice-breakers, warm-ups. the ideas are also great for young people and school children.

Aluminium baking foil is a wonderful material for model-making. A horse is quite easy. Here's one we made earlier...

Baking foil is clean, looks great when put on display, and is very easy to clear up.

Most people will never have tried using it before, so it's very new and interesting and stimulating.

Aside from the ideas below, you can use baking foil for any exercise that you might use newspapers for, especially construction exercise like towers and bridges, etc. Baking foil is also very inexpensive and easy to prepare in advance and to issue to teams and groups.

baking foil animals exercises

See how to make a baking foil horse .

A 10-metre roll of the stuff only costs less than 50p (say 30 cents), a lot less than a big newspaper, and it provides a lot of material for table-top modelling and construction exercises.

People of all ages have fantastic fun making models - it's a chance for people to discover talents they never knew they had, and for lots of laughter from one's own efforts and seeing other people's efforts too.

Today people in organisations need to be more aware and expressive about concepts that are intangible and not easy to write down or talk about. Culture, diversity, attitude, belief, integrity, relationships, etc - these are all quite tricky things to articulate and discuss using conventional media and communications tools. Making models helps the process of expression and realisation, because these less tangible concepts are more related to 'feel' and 'intuition' than logic and typical left-side-brain business and organisational processes.

Here are some simple ideas for baking foil exercises. Structure the group to suit the situation and the timings and the outcomes you'd like to prompt and discuss. Obviously not all individuals or teams need to be given the same task. You can determine who does what by any method that suits your aims and the preferences of the group. Some of these ideas are mainly for fun; others are more potent in terms of addressing and visualising people's own selves, and organisational challenges and solutions:

  • Make a baking foil horse (you can use the same method for making any four-legged animal)
  • Make an animal that represents yourself
  • Make a tree
  • Make a tree with fruit and things hanging from the branches that represent you as a person
  • Make a garden with plants and tools that represent your family or work-group
  • Build a set of farmyard animals
  • Build a farmyard
  • Build a farmyard that represents your family or your work-group, or the department or the organisation
  • Create a set of African safari animals
  • Build a famous bridge or building
  • Build a village
  • Build a village that represents the organisation, in whatever way the organisation is defined
  • Build models of vehicles, tools, company products, new product ideas
  • Build anything that represents you
  • Build the highest tower or strongest bridge (see the various newspaper construction exercises and tips on the other teambuilding page for more ideas)
  • Make a baking foil plane - one that flies for a few feet when you launch it from standing on a chair
  • Design a range of cars that represent the company car policy as it is and as it should be
  • Create a model to represent the organisation's communications system - how it is and how it should be
  • Design a new workplace layout model
  • Design a new reception area model
  • Design a new production layout
  • Create a model to represent the organisation - whatever parts of it that are relevant to the session
  • A model to represent the CRM process
  • A representation of a particular management concept, eg., Tuckman , Maslow , 'conscious-competence' , etc
  • An inter-departmental communications model
  • A (or your organisation's) management hierarchy model - how it is and/or what it could be
  • A global teams model
  • A virtual teams model
  • A cultural diversity model
  • A symbolic model representing the organisation and its values and aims - how it is and/or how it could or should be
  • A symbolic interpretation of a SWOT analysis or PEST analysis

Using a clean flexible new material like baking foil to express ideas is extremely liberating in today's world when people are so restricted and confined by PC's and computer screens. God help us all when flip-charts disappear, or when we have to work on tiny little hand-held devices to create and express new ideas and solutions.

The world is becoming more complex and more challenging. The concepts that people need to grasp and address are multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. It helps therefore to work sometimes with an exciting medium, daft as it sounds, like baking foil, to free-up people's thinking and imagination.

See also the organisational modelling exercise on the other team-building page for more ideas about using models to express ideas about organisational shape and structure and culture, etc.

Obstacles Exercise

Communications, giving or writing clear instructions, teamworking strategies

A team activity for groups of four to twenty people to promote team-building, communications and understanding about clarity of instructions. Much larger groups can be accommodated with suitable space, adaptation and planning. For indoors or outdoors. The exercise can be organised for a single team although normally it will be more effective and enjoyable for a number of teams competing against each other.

The activity is simple. Nominated members of teams must guide their blind-folded fellow team-members, using spoken instructions, through an obstacle course made with chairs or other items.

In preparing for this activity remember to source sufficient blindfolds for team members.

Alternatively instructions can be written, in which case team members (not blind-folded) must negotiate the obstacle course walking backwards (obviously so as not to see the obstacles but to be able to read hand-held instructions).

Where two or more teams compete against each other a nominated observer from each team acts as adjudicator, to count the number of times that the walkers make contact with obstacles, resulting in penalty points. Clear adjudication rules must be stipulated so that the integrity of the scoring is protected, for example, after completing the course each walker signs their name against the written score marked by the adjudicator. An example score sheet is shown at the end of this item.

The winning team is the one to complete the course as quickly as possible, after deduction of penalty points, for example ten seconds per obstacle contacted.

Given a group of just four or six people it is generally better to split this into two competing teams rather than run the exercise as a single group activity, unless you have a particular reason for running a single group exercise.

Room set-up is quickest achieved by simply asking the delegates to place their chairs somewhere in the 'playing area', which immediately creates the obstacle course. The facilitator can make any necessary adjustments in case any straight-line routes exist.

Teams then have five to ten minutes (at the facilitator's discretion, depending on time available, team size and complexity of the obstacle course) to plan and agree a start point and a finish point through the obstacles - in any direction - and to plan a strategy for guiding blind-folded members through the route planned, (or for the backwards-walking version of the exercise, to write instructions sheets for walkers to use).

So that everyone experiences being a guide and a walker you can stipulate that every team member must negotiate the course, which means that team members must swap roles (the guided become the guides having completed the course). This would also require adjudicators to swap roles with guides or walkers of their own teams.

This is a flexible exercise that allows the facilitator to decide how difficult to make the obstacle course, how specific to be regarding start and finish points (all teams starting at one side of the room, or leave it up to the teams to plan their routes in any direction from one side to the other), and the strategic complexity of the challenge (determined by team size and number of obstacles - large teams of more than four or five people will also require a strategy for who performs what role and when roles are exchanged).

Additionally the facilitator can decide to stipulate whether all instructions are spoken, (blind-folds), written (walking backwards), or a mixture of the two methods (for example stipulate how many team members must use either method).

Review points afterwards:

  • Why did the winning team win?
  • What were good strategies?
  • What were good instructions and what were unhelpful ones?
  • What were the unforeseen problems? (One unforeseen problem, especially where competing teams are permitted to decide their own start and finish points and therefore are likely to cross the routes of other teams, is the fact that walkers of other teams will become obstacles during the exercise)
  • What adjustments to strategies and instructions were made along the way?
  • Discuss the merits of practical trials before having to decide strategies and instructions.
  • And lots more points arising from the activities.

Here's a simple example of the adjudicator's score sheet:

Walker's name Obstacles
(by walker)

Kitchen Top Drawer

Introductions, children's activities

This exercise is a very simple quick activity for ice-breakers and introductions, and for expressing and revealing feelings of personality. Also for exploring team roles. For groups of any size although is best to split large groups into teams of a dozen or less, with appointed team-leaders to facilitate.

The task is simply for each team member to liken themselves to a utensil or piece of cutlery commonly found in a kitchen top drawer, and say why they think they are like the chosen item, ideally focusing on strengths and styles. Give delegates thirty seconds to think and decide before asking people to reveal their choices and reasoning in turn.

If it helps (especially for young people), start the exercise with a quick brainstorm session with a flipchart or wipeboard of all the sorts of items that people have in their kitchen top drawers at home, which should produce a long list of ideas.

For very large groups you can vary the exercise by asking people to think and decide and then circulate around the room finding other people who have chosen the same utensil to represent themselves, and to form into sub-groupings of the same types. Fun and noise can be injected - especially for young people or lively conferences - by asking people to identify themselves by shouting the name of their utensil, and/or by trying physically to look or act like the utensil.

Be prepared and on the look-out to instruct potentially large sub-groups of 'knives' into different types of knives, so that no category sub-grouping amounts to more than 20% of the whole group.

Extend the activity by asking each group to develop a proposition as to why their particular utensil is the best in the drawer - or 'top drawer' - which they can present in turn to the whole group.

Further extend the activity by asking teams or players to vote (secret ballot on slips of paper given to the facilitator) as to the utensil with most and least value to the kitchen, thereby being able to decide the 'winners', should the activity warrant it.

Alternatively, so as to emphasise the value of all team members and roles, ask each team to identify a particular typical 'project' (Sunday Roast dinner for instance) for the kitchen which demands the involvement (and in what way) of all of the selected utensils.

Add greater depth and interest to the activities by referring to the Johari Window and discussing mutual and self-awareness issues resulting; also refer to personality types and styles to discuss and explore comparisons between 'utensils' and people associating with them, and various personality types from whatever personality models are of interest and relevance to the group. For example, are knives most like Jung's and Myers Briggs 'thinking' types and why? Does the meat-thermometer or the egg-timer most equate to Belbin's 'monitor-evaluator'? What personality types might be represented by the whisk and why? Is it possible to identify a Belbin role with every utensil, and on what basis? Whish are the extravert utensils and which are the introvert ones and why, and what are their relative strengths? Etc, etc.

The exercises can of course be adapted for other types of tools instead of those found in the top drawer of the kitchen, for example the garden shed, or the tools associated with a particular industry, perhaps the industry in which the delegates operate. If you stay with the kitchen drawer theme it's probably best to avoid any reference to the 'sharpest knife in the drawer' expression so as not to sway attitudes in this direction - rest assured you will see plenty of people aspiring to be 'knives' as it is without encouraging any more...

'Holidays Are Brilliant' vs ''Holidays Are A Pain In The Arse'

Team debate activity, warm-up, ice-breaker, group presentations preparation and delivery

A simple warm up after the festive season or the holidays (whenever), for grown-ups or young people, for two teams, (or at a stretch three teams).

One team must prepare and present the motion: "Christmas is Brilliant" (or "Holidays are Brilliant" - whatever is appropriate).

The opposing team prepares and presents the case against the motion, which is logically: "Christmas is a Pain in the Arse" (or Holidays are a Pain in the Arse").

Begin the exercise by asking the group to organise itself into two separate teams according to their individual views: ie., "Christmas is Brilliant" or "Christmas is a Pain in the Arse" (or "Holidays") . Alternatively split the group into two teams and allot the motions by flipping a coin or similar random method.

Teams of five or six are fine provided full participation is stipulated. Teams of more than six will be fine provided team leaders are appointed and instructed to organise their teams into smaller work-groups to focus on different aspects of the presentation, which can be brought together at the end of the preparation time. For groups of more than about twenty you can introduce a third motion, "Christmas is both Brilliant and a Pain in the Arse, depending on your standpoint", and structure the activity for three teams.

Timings are flexible to suit the situation, as are use of materials, presentation devices, and number of speakers required from each team, etc.

For preparation, as a guide, allow 5 minutes minimum, or up to 15 minutes maximum if more sophisticated presentations are appropriate. Allow 5 minutes minimum for each presentation although you can extend this if warranted and worthwhile.

Optionally you can allow each team to ask a stipulated number of questions of the other team(s) at the end of the presentations.

The winning team can be decided at the end by a secret ballot, which will tend to produce a more satisfying conclusion (even if there's no outright winner) than a decision by the facilitator, who can vote or not, or have casting vote in the event of a tie - it's up to you.

The facilitator should advise the teams before commencing their preparation that the winning team will most likely be the one which prepares and presents the clearest and fullest and most appealing case, and if applicable asks the best questions and gives the best answers.

Obviously deciding the winner will not be a perfect science and if using the exercise as a development activity it's important to review structure, logical presentation, and other relevant aspects of learning as might be appropriate. In reviewing the presentations the facilitator can award a point for each logically presented item within the presentation, with a bonus point for any item that is supported by credible evidence or facts or statistics. Award bonus points for good questions and answers if applicable, and award bonus points for particularly innovative and striking aspects or ideas within the presentation. If using the activity as a learning and development exercise it's helpful to explain the review criteria to the teams at the start.

Encourage participants, particularly young people in large teams, to use their imagination to create interesting and memorable methods of making their points, for example play-acting scenarios, and injecting movement and lots of activity within their presentations.

For more sensitive groups or situations you can of course substitute the word 'nuisance' for 'pain in the arse'.

Obviously the activity can be used for any debate exercise - work-related or otherwise - and serves to get people working and cooperating in teams, developing skills in preparing and presenting arguments and propositions, and can also provide much revealing and helpful mutual awareness among team members, and useful insights for the facilitator/group manager.

Examples of other motions, which for group selection recruitment exercises can be extended far beyond normal work issues, examples of which appear later in the list below:

  • "The Smoking Policy is..."
  • Team Briefing is..."
  • "The Car-Parking Policy is..."
  • "The (XYZ) Initiative is..."
  • "The Monthly Meeting is..."
  • "The CEO is..."
  • "The Weather in our Country is..."
  • "The Sport of Football (Soccer) as a sustainable business model is..."
  • "Reality TV is..."
  • "The Monarchy is..."
  • "Supermarket Domination of the Retail Industry is..."
  • "Mobile Phones are..."
  • "The Internet is..."
  • "This Recruitment Process is.."
  • Etc

The exercise can also be used or adapted for a group selection recruitment activity, to provide useful indications of candidates' skills and capabilities in a variety of areas.

Rotating Line Introductions

Warm-ups, communications, communicating styles

This icebreaker or communications activity is for groups of six people or more. Ideal team size is ten or twelve. Larger groups can be split into teams of ten or a dozen people. For large groups where time is limited you can split the group into teams of less than ten, which obviously makes the exercise quicker. Split the (or each) team into two standing lines of people facing each other, two or three feet apart. For example:

1 1
2 2
3 3
4 4
5 5
6 6

Ask the team to introduce themselves to the person facing them, optionally (up to you) by asking and answering questions, such as:

  • Who are you and what do you do?
  • Tell me what interests you and why.
  • What special thing do you want to achieve (at the event, or in life generally - depending on the situation and group)

You can design other questions to suit the theme or purpose of the event.

You can provide strict instructions relating to questions and answers or (for a simple icebreaker) just ask the people to engage in general introductory conversation as they see fit.

You can stipulate that the facing pairs each have a turn at questioning and answering, or that one is the questioner and the other the answerer. Whatever, ensure that everyone has a chance to ask questions and to give answers. If appropriate nominate one line as the questioners and the other line as the answerers.

After a minute ask the lines to rotate as follows (one person from each line joins the other line and both lines shuffle to face the next person:

2 1
3 1
4 2
5 3
6 4
6 5

If using the exercise as a simple icebreaker continue the process using the same questions or general introductions. If you are using the activity develop communication skills you can increase the sophistication of the exercise by introducing new questions after the initial introductions, for example:

  • What worked well in the last conversation?
  • What could have been improved in the last conversation?
  • What type of questioning and listening works best in this exercise?

Continue rotating the line every minute until everyone has conversed (questioning or answering) with every other person. Logically this takes as many minutes as there are people in the team. Twelve people will take twelve minutes to complete the exercise.

If using the exercise to develop or demonstrate communications skills it's worth thinking more carefully before the exercise and explaining more about the questions and points to review. For example, points to review can include:

  • Aside from the words spoken what else was significant in these communications?
  • What aspects were most memorable and why?
  • What aspects or information were most impressive and why?
  • What happens to communications when time is limited?

Obviously where team members already know each other there is no need to needlessly go through name and position introductions, although check beforehand as to how well people know each other rather than make assumptions.

Where a team has an odd number of members, then you (the facilitator) can become one of the team members in the line.

Where the purpose includes developing mutual awareness it can be useful to refer to the Johari Window model .

(Ack C Mack)

Playing Card Bingo

Warm up, exercises to demonstrate competitive effects, team-working and cooperation - also a great way to teach numbers to small children

This is a bit of fun which can be used as a simple icebreaker or warm-up. The game also adapts to provide a simple yet novel team-working exercise. The game and games variations demonstrate the heightened concentration and focus which results from contest and competition, and as an adapted exercise it prompts teams to work together to approach a complex statistical challenge. For groups of any size.

Materials required are simply two packs of playing cards (or more packs, depending on group size).

Shuffle the packs keeping them separate. Retain one pack. Deal from one pack between three and ten cards to each team member. The more cards then the longer the exercise takes. If there are more team members than can be supplied from one pack then use additional packs. It is not necessary to remove the jokers, but be mindful of the effect of leaving them in the packs.

Team members must arrange the cards dealt to them face up on the table in front of them.

The dealer (facilitator) then 'calls' cards (like a bingo caller) one by one from the top of the dealer's own (shuffled) pack, at which the players match their own cards (by turning them over face down). The winner is the first to turn over all cards. Suits are irrelevant - only the numbers matter. Aces count as one. Picture cards as 11 (Jack), 12 (Queen), 13 (King), or simply call them by their normal picture names - again the suits are irrelevant. Jokers (optional) treat as jokers. Players can only turn over one card at a time, in other words, if a player has two 4's they must wait for two fours to be 'called'.

Interesting variations can be made to the game to add team-building and cooperation to the activity, for example:

Have people play in pairs or threes. Deal cards to each person as normal, but then teams can sort and swap cards between themselves so as to give the team of two or three the best chance of one (or two - it's up to the facilitator) of the sorted sets winning. (This is pure guesswork obviously, but it will test people's approach to the challenge of statistical anticipation.)

Have the group play in two or three teams (each team size ideally no bigger six people). Deal each team twenty cards and ask them to pick the fifteen that they wish to play with as a team. Again this is pure guesswork, but it will challenge the teams to think about statistics, and to agree the best tactical approach.

Other variations include prohibiting or enabling competing teams to see the other team's cards while they are deciding which to select.

To make the games last longer and to alter the statistical perspective you can require that suits are matched as well as numbers/picture cards.

Practise your ideas first if possible.

Starter Keys Activities

Warm-up exercises, introductions, getting people talking, potentially leading to deeper discussions

An easy and flexible exercise (using people's bunches of keys) for ice-breakers and introductions for groups of any size (very large groups need to be split into smaller teams with appointed team leaders). Also a quick fun method for deciding order (who goes first - for introductions, speaking, presenting, etc) and also for splitting a group into smaller teams, threes or pairs. The idea can also extend into various activities for self- and mutual awareness, story-telling, understanding life 'partitions', time management and prioritising, life balance, responsibility, even delegation and management. Keys are of course very personal items with significant personal connections and representations, and so provide opportunities to create lots of interesting, enjoyable and helpful activities around them.

Exercises examples:

  • For deciding order- 'Who goes first' - Ask each person to put their bunch of keys on the table in front of them. Order is decided according to most keys on the bunch. Tie-breaker(s) can be decided according to the key(s) with most notches.
  • For splitting group into teams or threes or pairs - Ask the group to sort themselves into the required number (which you would normally stipulate, unless your purpose allows/prefers them to sort into teams of their own choosing) of teams or threes or pairings according to shared features (in common with others) of their key bunches , for example number of keys on bunch; type of key-ring fobs (sensible, daft, tatty, glitzy, unmanageably large, uselessly small, broken, holiday mementoes, promotional giveaways, etc), size of keys, type of keys, colours of keys, purpose of keys.
  • For starting and framing personal introductions and profiles - Ask group members to put their keys on the table. Each person then takes turns (you can use the order-deciding method above) to introduce and describe themselves according to their keys, from the perspective of each key's purpose and the meaning in their life represented by what each key unlocks.
  • For addressing time management, life balance and personal change, etc - Split the group into threes and ask each person to discuss in turn, among their teams of three, what their own keys represent in terms of stuff they're happy with and stuff they'd like to change (where they live, what they drive, what they value, their responsibilities, their obligations, personal baggage and habits, etc).
  • For addressing personal responsibilities and delegation, from others and to others, and responsibilities people aspire to - Ask the group to split into pairs or threes, and as individuals, to discuss with their partners what they'd like their bunch of keys to be like instead of how it is at the moment - what responsibilities (keys) would they like to lose or change or give to others - what new keys would they like to add? How else would they like to change their bunch of keys? If anyone is entirely happy with their bunch of keys ask them to think ahead five years. If they're still happy with their keys ask them to help facilitate...

You will no doubt think of your own ideas and variations to these exercises. Let me know anything different and interesting that works for your team.

See also the 'letting go' de-cluttering exercise on the team building games page 1, which might give you more ideas for extending and varying these activities.

See also the Johari Window model , which helps explain to people the benefits of feedback and developing self- and mutual awareness.

Where In The World

Personal development, warm-up exercise, questions for recruitment group selection or interviews , student presentations

This exercise and the activities that can be developed around this idea provide very simple quick ice-breakers or presentation ideas for all sorts of situations. The activity is for any group size. (For large groups: split group into teams of 5-7 people and appoint team facilitators to ensure full participation by all. Presentations can be given within teams, not to whole group. Teams can then reconvene as a whole group to review the exercise and experience after completing the activities in teams.)

Ask the group as individuals to take a couple of minutes to close their eyes and imagine running their own ideal business or enterprise (not necessarily profit-making in a conventional business sense - it can be a service of any sort; some people for example seek to be carers, or writers, or gardeners, or cooks, to have a shop or a cafe, or to teach others. It is important to emphasise that everyone - not just entrepreneurs - can follow their dreams. Visualising and stating one's dreams helps greatly to make them happen).

Then ask the group as individuals to close their eyes and think where in the world would they locate their business/service activity and why? Give the team members or delegates anything between two and five minutes to think of their answers and to structure a brief explanation or presentation (again stipulate timing for their presentation or answer), depending on the purpose and depth of the activity.

N.B. Giving a presentation is not an essential part of this activity. It might be more appropriate for the participants and/or the situation for people to simply keep their thoughts to themselves, or to write them down privately, perhaps to refer to and consider in the future.

In explaining their choice of location team members will be encouraged to think about and express personal dreams and passions relating to their ideal business or service activity or enterprise (which involves exploring their fulfilment of personal potential and strengths), and also where in the world and why they would locate their enterprise or service activity, (which involves each person in considering the environment and context to which they see their dreams relating). Some people will not imagine locations very far away; others will imagine locations on the other side of the world. There are no right or wrong answers - the activity is an opportunity for people to think and imagine possibilities for themselves beyond the constraints that often limit us and our fulfilment .

The exercise relates also to Johari Window development, to goals, personal and self-development, and (if ideas are expressed or presented) also provides helpful insight for team leaders, facilitators, trainers, or recruitment selection observers in understanding more about the people performing the exercise.

One Word

Exploring deep values and purpose, and behaviour towards others, which relates to all sorts of development needs and opportunities

Again - this is a simple activity - which contributes to many and various positive outcomes. The exercise is for any group size, although if presentation is required split large groups into smaller teams which can self-facilitate to enable full participation and discussion. If splitting into teams you can reconvene as a whole group for review of the experiences after the team activities.

Ask people as individuals to clear their minds, close their eyes, and to think of one word - just one word - which they feel best describes or encapsulates living a good life. A one-word maxim for life.

The facilitator might be required to explain what is meant by 'living a good life'. Use your imagination so as to relate the concept to the situation and the participants. Think about: force for good; civilised society; leaving the world a better place than when you entered it.

Of course words mean different things to different people, and many people will find it quite difficult to pick just one word, but this is the point: One word concentrates the mind in a way that five or six words, or a longer sentence tends not to. For participants who find it impossible to decide on one word, encourage them to use as few words as possible - but still aiming to focus on the essence, or a central concept, rather than a catch-all or list. It's easy for people to think of a list - one word is a lot more thought-provoking.

Ask people to write down their chosen one word (or words if necessary), plus some brief explanation as to what they mean.

Then in turn ask people to tell or present their answers to the group or team.

It is interesting to hear people's ideas. They will be quite different to how people actually normally behave in organisations - to each other, to customers, to suppliers, etc. And quite different to how people behave in societies in local, national, religious and global communities. Why is this? Where does individual responsibility begin and end? Are we part of the problem - or part of the solution? Do we want to be part of the solution? What actually stops each of us trying to live and behave more often as we know to be right? Are the pressures and habits and expectations that distract us from more often following a right path really immovable and so strong that we cannot rise above them? What personal resolutions and changes might we want to make?

The exercise relates also to Johari Window development, to personal life philosophy and values, personal and self-development, and (if ideas are expressed or presented) also provides helpful insight for team leaders, facilitators, trainers, or recruitment selection observers in understanding more about the people performing the exercise.

Transactional Analysis and the blame model within the TA section can be a helpful reference to assist people in understanding more about the forces that cause us to behave differently to what we know to be right.

See also the articles section about Love and spirituality in organisations which helps explain about bringing compassion and humanity to teams and work.