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Team Building Games - Planning

This is a collection of team building games focused on improving planning skills.

One Small Change, One Big Effect

Time management change, commitment, productivity improvement, self-development, personal empowerment

Here's a really simple easy quick activity to use with any group.

The exercise is especially relevant for a group after a break, for example after holidays, or when a boost or intervention is required to help people shift habits or assumptions.

Our personal time management is usually greatly influenced by:

  • Routines
  • Habits
  • Assumptions

Time management is largely within our personal control, although our routines, habits and assumptions can make us feel/believe/behave otherwise.

This activity has two parts:

  1. Explore (perhaps discuss, given activity duration) preferably 'high yield' possibilities for changing individually how we manage our time. (As the group leader, see the time management tips and time management tools for ideas and theory - 'high yield' means a big result from a relatively small change.)
  2. Then each person should commit (optionally, publicly - to the group) to changing just one aspect of our time management.


  • Focus on 'high yield' changes: i.e., the small changes that will produce the biggest results. This will help avoid the discussion becoming distracted by the inevitable obstacles which make big changes difficult. Get people thinking about little things that are easy to change (like when to check emails, and understanding the difference between urgent and important).
  • Ask people to state some sort of measure and timescale by which they can check that their individual change has been implemented.
  • Ask people to check with each other that the change has been made.
  • Emphasize that this is about commitment, as much as it is about the change itself. Commitment is the key to overcoming obstacles.
  • Emphasize the need to communicate and explain the change to people affected by it.
  • Look at 'Nudge Theory' for additional ideas to make change easier.

Quick Plan Exercise

New year planning, aims, planning, change

A quick icebreaker and kick-start activity with a helpful underlying purpose. For groups of any size.

Introduction/scene-setting: The beginning of a new year prompts many of us to consider new aims and plans, or to renew a commitment towards a change or improvement of some sort. Commitments tend to succeed where there is a plan, especially for aims which contain steps leading towards the final result. Without a plan, little can change.

This process can help:

  1. Think of a commitment or change you want to make.
  2. Write it down - describe it as a clear, realistic and measurable outcome.
  3. Work backwards, identifying the steps necessary for achieving it, back to the starting point: i.e., now.
  4. Attach timescales and resources as necessary.

You now have a simple plan. Take it away and refine it as necessary.

Useful reference materials:

Goal planner process and templates

Project management/planning tools and process

Multiple intelligences theory and learning/thinking styles - including free self-assessment tests

SMART principles within task delegation - the rules apply to 'delegating' a task to yourself just as to delegating to another person.

Agree review/feedback expectations with the group before the activity , as appropriate for your situation. Note that review/feedback are not always necessary, especially if the activity seeks to help people to think about personal priorities and plans which they may prefer to keep private. In this situation, it is particularly helpful to clarify that people do not need to reveal or discuss their aims with the group unless they want to, since for some people this enables more relaxed and creative thinking.

Breakfast Project Plan

Project planning, task planning, preparation, structure and organisation, scheduling, budgeting

The activity is a simple introduction to project planning, and helps develop awareness of structure, scheduling, etc., and the basic process of organising and coordinating time, activities and resources, and optionally finances.

For groups of any size and any age. Split the group into pairs or teams appropriate for your situation.

The task is to produce a simple project plan for making a cooked breakfast. Issue pens, rulers and paper, or arrange other presentation media as you wish.

As the facilitator you may substitute or offer alternative tasks. Cooking a breakfast is merely an example; see other examples below. Specify a task/tasks which the group will find interesting, amusing, enjoyable, etc.

For variation you can issue each pair/team with a different task. You can optionally allow pairs/teams to choose a different task of their own liking, provided it is workable for the activity (i.e., it's reasonably simple, requires a schedule, and contains various inter-dependent activities and resources).

Using simple non-work-related tasks such as cooking a breakfast enables good focus on the project management method, and an enjoyable quick activity, rather than using real work issues, which can become overly detailed, distracting and/or tedious.

Introduce the group to a project management tool(s) as appropriate, for example a Gantt chart, critical path analysis flow chart, or a 'fishbone' diagram. Examples are on the project management page.

To extend the activity you can add the requirement that teams must indicate where training or preparation needs are most likely required for any of the process elements. Similar instruction can be given to indicate or comment on obvious needs for knowledge, experience, skills, which can be related to VAK learning styles and/or Bloom's Taxonomy perspectives.

Additionally you can introduce a financial element, so that plans must show a breakdown of costs, and a structure to monitor the budget for the project by each separate item. Note that this financial aspect can be a big extra challenge for some learners and is best excluded if the main development need is to learn the basic structure and process of building a project plan.

Examples of other tasks you can use for this activity:

  • Cook a roast dinner.
  • Change the wheel on a car.
  • Host a children's birthday party.
  • Teach someone to swim.
  • Grow tomatoes.
  • Set up a fish aquarium.
  • Create a personal page on a social networking website.

You can use any task that group members basically understand and relate to, and importantly which breaks down into a sequence of inter-dependent activities and/or parts whose timing and coordination are necessary to produce a successful result.

Project plans can be presented, discussed and reviewed according to your own situation and timings.

See project management for lots of supporting materials.

Brainstorming is a useful way to begin any planning task.

Delegation is a useful reference area because in many real work-based projects involve delegating responsibilities to others, for which clarity and effectiveness of plans are vital.

Other potentially useful reference materials, depending on the expertise and interests of the group are:

Business process modelling/improvement

Six Sigma

Balanced Scorecard

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.

Project Team

Graduate recruitment assessment and selection, internal promotion assessment centres, business development and project teams

This exercise can be used for any/all of the following:

  • Graduate recruitment assessment days
  • Internal promotion assessment centres
  • Development of business and commercial management skills
  • Identifying and developing new business initiatives

Activities and exercises for group selection days and assessment centres can be designed to stretch the participants more if the task is issued several days before the day of the assessment. This allows more preparation and team-working among the candidates, which in turn enables a fuller deeper test and demonstration of people's capabilities.

The exercise can be used if issued on the day of the assessment, but obviously due allowance must be made for the resulting time pressure in meeting such a big challenge. Accordingly the exercise is suited to training courses lasting two days or more when delegates can work evenings in their team on the activities.

Here broadly is the exercise, adapt it to suit your situation:

Teamwork Project

The project team must research, identify, develop and present a proposition for a new product/service/business to fit into the employer's organisation.

To include:

  1. Research the market, brainstorm options, and decide on a new product/service/business.
  2. Conceptualise new product/service/business.
  3. Design and specify key attributes of new business:
    • Description and executive summary
    • Philosophy/ethos
    • Specification and scale
    • Financials
    • Team/people
    • Marketing/positioning/branding/advertising/selling
    • Production/distribution
    • Quality/safety/legislative/environmental
    • SWOT and/or PEST analysis, or similar
  4. Create presentation (to sell proposition to the 'board of directors' or an investor - a part which can be played by the recruitment team).
  5. Deliver presentation (to include activities and experiences of the project group).
  6. An additional angle would be to enable/encourage teamworking on the project between team members prior to the assessment day, via a facebook group (or suitable VLE - virtual learning environment - or employer intranet forum). N.B. If using the exercise for external recruitment and teamworking among candidates prior to the assessment day you would need to ensure data-protection/permission is satisfied regarding the releasing of candidates' names and contact details to each other.

Alternative Christmas and New Year

Creative thinking, social values and true life priorities

An exercise for any group size.

Arrange appropriate timings and presentation or discussion of the ideas arising.

Here's the question. You can adapt various exercises from it to suit your situation and aims:

"Imagine you are leader of the western world. Everyone would prefer Christmas and New Year celebrations to more suitably address the needs and issues of the modern age. What changes would you make?"

You can add a context if you wish, for example, changes for business, changes for society, changes for kids, changes for the planet, changes for global cooperation, etc.

Email me suggestions and I'll publish the best ones on this page.

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.

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.

Political Qualification

Job skills, training, competence - and many other issues relating to competence and suitability

Appreciating fundamental issues of competence and job profiling necessary for determining suitability, training and qualifications is quite a dry subject.

It can be brought to life by applying the thinking to a different situation - different from normal work.

Here's the exercise (in pairs or threes, or a discussion group):

Imagine you are responsible for establishing a professional qualification or NVQ for a politician .

A parliamentary MP, or a government minister, or perhaps the prime minister.

Agree/nominate parliamentary role(s) as appropriate for the exercise.

  • What competencies would the job require?

If helpful structure your answer in terms of skills, knowledge, attitude/behaviour/personality style, experience.

  • How might these be defined, measured and tested?
  • How might a professional qualification be structured and accredited?

And a couple of bigger questions of a more philosophical nature if you have time for them:

  • Why in actual fact does the job of a politician escape all normal requirements of professional accreditation?
  • And might this explain why politicians are arguably so incompetent compared to their counterparts in industry?

The facilitator can adapt this basic idea for group size, timings, and the precise training aspects of job profiling and candidate selection, development, qualification, etc., as will fit the group's needs and interests.

(Incidentally, if anyone comes up with constructive and enlightened answers to the last two questions I'd love to see them..)

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.

Seasonal Discussion

Session warm-up, discussion-starter for virtually any work-related subject

For groups of between four and twenty people - minimum eight ideally.

Duration of activity is between five and fifteen minutes, although the exercise can be extended if further discussion is warranted, for example if exploring implications of issues arising.

Split the group into four teams.

Draw lots to allocate a season to each team: Spring, Summer, Autumn (Fall), Winter.

The task for each team to identify as many seasonal factors related to and influential upon work/business/sales/customer-service/HR/recruitment/training (or any other function relevant to the group, at the discretion of the facilitator) for their allocated season.

Give a time limit for the task - anything between a minute and five minutes will be okay. Of course you can give longer if you want to make the exercise more challenging and strategic, rather than seeking quick headline points as would apply for a speedy icebreaker.

Organise/facilitate presentations and discussion accordingly.

This extremely flexible exercise encourages and enables thinking and subsequent discussion about how situations, demands, needs, priorities, etc., change according to circumstances (predictable events, trends, etc).

Discussion can be extended to the implications of the identified effects and how to deal with them.

The principle - using seasonal perspectives - obviously focuses on seasonal factors, but can be used to emphasise the need for awareness and adaptability in management, planning, self-motivation and awareness, etc., in relation to all types of changes in causal and influential factors.

The more we think about what is likely to happen, then the easier we can plan, and the fewer surprises we have.

Sell A Region

Diversity awareness, presentations, research, understanding other cultures

For group sizes of nine and upwards ideally. A group of eight split into four pairs is probably the minimum. Whatever, split the group into the teams you'd like to work together. Team sizes can be between two and five people. Teams of three generally work well. For larger events bigger teams will work well, subject to finding roles for everyone. Consider the total presentation time available and the total group size to arrive at optimum size of teams.

For example - three teams of three would be fine for a small group event, or ten groups of five would be okay for a conference. For groups of more than 50 you can devise supporting roles (coordinator, props, equipment, MC, scheduler, creative, etc) within teams to enable bigger team sizes.

This activity requires that people are given time before the event to research and prepare. It is possible to run the exercise in a 'lite' version by offering research facilities at the event, but the benefits of the activity are much increased if people and teams have the opportunity to discover information.

The exercise can also be adapted for individuals to work alone, and could potentially be used in a group selection recruitment event, in which case group members people should be given time for research and preparation before the presentation day. A smaller group size, say four or five people, is viable for the exercise if based on individual presentations.

Having determined the teams, allocate a part of the world to each team (logically relating to the regions/countries that chiefly feature in your diversity issues) - or invite the the teams to choose their own countries/regions, subject to your guidelines and situation.

Each team's task is to prepare and then deliver a team presentation 'selling' their region to the group or conference, imagining the audience to be seeking a holiday home or the holiday of a lifetime.

Team members are responsible for researching and preparing the following aspects for their presentation. The number of aspects is variable and at the facilitator's discretion, and should ensure there is sufficient for each team member to be involved:

  • Leisure and sport
  • Entertainment
  • History and culture
  • Food and drink
  • Places to visit
  • Language and custom
  • Industry and commerce
  • Transport and travel
  • People and places
  • Connections with other parts of the world
  • Amazing facts you never knew about (the region/country)

During the presentations, for which you should issue appropriate timescales, the members of the conference or group vote on the best presentations according to pre-announced criteria (examples below), and as an additional incentive you can ask each team to buy a prize (representing their region up to a stipulated value, depending on your budget.

The winners of each category can choose their prize from the pool.

Awards categories examples:

  • Overall Wow! factor
  • Presentation style and quality
  • Star presenter
  • Specialist categories according to above presentation criteria, e.g., best historical item, best entertainment item, best amazing fact, etc.

The activity offers lots of flexibility for adaptation to suit your particular circumstances and development aims. It challenges people to discover new positive things about other parts of the world, to work in teams, and then to share their discoveries with the group.

A neat addition to the exercise, if the situation allows, is to appoint some team members as roving 'cultural advisors' to other teams if among the group you have people with background or knowledge in the allocated regions, and if you are very clever you could actually select and allocate the regions with this in mind. To achieve a competitive balance each team should be able both to offer an adviser and to benefit from the help of an advisor from another team.

This exercise can also be adapted to provide a more modern and meaningful interpretation of the desert island or plane crash stranded survival exercise , which essentially encourages group members to identify resources and to formulate a plan of action.

To do this, adapt the presentation instructions thus:

Purpose of the presentation: to identify a plan for surviving and thriving on a personal or business level (in your allocated region/country).

This obviously does not carry the aspect of desperation present in the traditional 'stranded' exercise - instead it gets people focusing on real issues of diversity and personal challenge in a more useful sense.

Causes and Solutions

Discussion or illustration of problem-solving, dispute resolution, crisis management and avoidance, solutions-focused thinking

Quick and easy to set up, and very adaptable for all sorts of training and development purposes, this exercise is based on the following simple principle:

Ask individuals or pairs or threes (or a larger team with guidance as to team for leadership) to identify an example in a newspaper of some sort of dispute or conflict, and then to analyse the causes and solutions.

Ask people to adopt the view of a mediator. Suggest or brainstorm some pointers to help people approach the task, for example:

  • What helpful facilitative questions could be asked of the parties involved to work towards a solution?
  • What might be changed in the methods or attitudes or structures of the situations in order to prevent a recurrence of the problems?
  • How does each side feel and what are their main complaints, feelings, needs and motivators?
  • To what extent could the problem have been averted or predicted, and if so how?
  • How can others learn from the situation?

Discussion and presentation format and timings are flexible and at the discretion of the facilitator.

Save time if needs be by highlighting suggested articles in the newspapers.

Refer delegates to relevant management or behavioural theories and models, and/or ask that delegates do this when they present/discuss their views/analysis.

Bricks In The Wall

Aims, goals, objectives, steps - for new years, new beginnings, changes and planning, making dreams into reality

This is a simple exercise for goal-setting and making changes. The ideas are relevant for calendar new years, new trading years, new roles, teams and projects, and for personal development.

The activity is based on the simple concept that even small aims actually comprise a series of elements which need to be identified, planned, and implemented in correct order.

Achieving aims, goals and changes is like building houses - they need to be understood and assembled bit by bit - like bricks in a wall.

You might start with a vision or dream or objective, but this cannot be achieved in one single move.

A house is not built from the top down or all at once. It starts with a plan - or maybe a vision if the type of house has never been built before - and is then constructed from the foundations upwards, section by section, brick by brick.

Like building a house, any aim or change or objective must be analysed and planned, and then built in a sensible order:

  • What will it look like? - Describe the vision or end-aim so we will recognise it and be sure it has been achieved correctly.
  • What are the components? - the causal factors and circumstances? - What needs to be put in place? - Physical resource, materials, and maybe people too. Think about intangibles like agreements, permissions, understanding, etc.
  • What is the process for assembling it all? - The steps, sequence, timings, etc.

Using this concept, ask the group, split into whatever teams or individuals that makes sense for your situation, to visualise and then map out - in very simple terms - one of their own main aims for the coming year/period, quarter/lifetime, whatever.

Keep it simple. Resist getting into a lot of detail. Merely seek to explain/reinforce the need for basic structure and sequence and the relationship between cause and effect. This is the extent of the exercise.

The framework is:

  1. Describe the end-aim - what does the completed change/objective/aim/dream look like? What will it/you be like, feel like, behave like, and what difference will the change make? Is the end aim worth the investment? Is the end aim actually a good and right one? How will you know when it's been achieved, and everyone else too?
  2. What are the components of this change? The physical things you can see and touch and put a cost to, and the other factors that are less easy to see and to measure? What are the cause-and-effect relationships - start at the end and work backwards - what needs to happen before this, and this, and this, etc.
  3. What is the sequence and timings of assembling the components, and for more complex changes, what is the inter-relatedness (and inter-dependence) of the components? Certain elements are part of sub-sets or sub-structures that need to be built at the same time alongside eachother, converging at a suitable point. Understanding these connections is very important where a project comprises a number of separate inter-dependent structures. (Imagine how long it would take to build a house if only one trade or activity could be on site at any one time, and imagine how chaotic things would be if these different activities were not planned and joined together at the right time.)
  4. Finally, having identified the above - in outline terms only - ask people to bring them together as a rough plan for their own particular aim/objective/change, in whatever format people find easiest. (Some people prefer to map out a flow diagram, others prefer a pictorial representation like a house; other people prefer a list; any format is fine as long as it's clear and structured.)

The purpose of this exercise is not to produce a heavily detailed project management plan - that can happen afterwards if required (see the notes on project management for examples of traditional planning formats) - the aim of this activity is to explain the importance of cause and effect, and compenents and process, in achieving aims.

Seasonal Discussions

Exercises and activities linked to christmas and other celebrations

These activities ideas are not only for Christmas. They'll adapt for other seasons and celebrations. Use these activities sensitively. If there's a risk of causing offence then adapt them or avoid them. The ideas are meant to be fun, underpinned by some useful questions and learning. Split the group however suits you (teams, pairs, or threes probably best). Arrange presentation, discussion, review, etc., to fit your situation. The Roman/Greek god theme below has absolutely nothing to do with the activities, but if it helps add an additional creative perspective by all means go with it.

  1. Christmas Community Party - You are a think-tank appointed by Bacchus, god of wine, merriment and debauchery. Bacchus has tasked you to devise a plan for staging a free local community Christmas party or event, to include ideas for the type of event, target audience and guests, funding, staffing, venue, marketing, publicity and ideally on-going benefit for the community, and reasons for the funders and event managers to stay involved and supportive. (Specify a community as appropriate, or leave the teams to decide this themselves.)
  2. Brussel Sprout Relaunch - You are marketing advisor to Saturn, not only Roman god of the sky, but also with a secondary portfolio responsibility for agriculture (never knew that did you..) Anyway Saturn is very concerned that one of the greatest vegetables ever - the brussel sprout - has struggled to achieve the popularity it deserves, especially among children, most of whom would apparently prefer to eat a bogie or a big mac instead of a good helping of brussels. Your task, should you decide to accept it, is to devise a product relaunch plan for the brussel sprout, including whatever you think would elevate the vegetable to its rightful place as king/queen of all vegetables. Consider the marketing staples: Product, Price, Promotion, Place, and anything else you can bring into play, e.g., endorsement by Ramsos and Olivos, the two-headed god of culinary evangualisation. The world is no longer your oyster, it's your sprout. (Incidentally sprouts smell bad when they are cooked for too long, so education is worth including in your ideas.)
  3. 2020 Retail Visioning - You sit on the advisory panel in the service of Argos, Asdos, Morros, Sainsbos, Tescos, and Waitros, the six musketeer gods of retailing, who have been assembled by Zeus and tasked to redefine the developed world's retail distribution model for the year 2020. Consider how, where, what, when and why consumers will be buying, and from whom. Your 2020 vision for retailing does not necessarily have to include the six musketeers, and in some ways it might be more fun if it does not. For instance, Co-opos, god of mutuality has some interesting ideas, as do Amazos, Ebos and Googlos, the gods of change and basically ripping up the rule book.
  4. Seasonal Rebrands - You are marketing assistant to Richus Bransos, the emperor of branding, and he's hungry for a sleeping giant of a product to rebrand and relaunch. Your task is to identify a product or service or a proposition of some sort - anything from a chocolate bar to a whole country - which can be rebranded and relaunched for the Christmas season (or any other season as appropriate) to generate bucketloads of wonga for the Bransos Empire and its shareholders. Consider product/service, price, promotion, place, uniqueness and differentiation, distribution, plenty of photo-opportunities for Richus Bransos to dress up as a banana or a silly girl. (Forget brussel sprouts because Saturn is already working on it, and forget ITV because that other lesser god of the sky Rupertos Murderos has already bollocksed that one up right good and proper).
  5. Christmas Diversity Project - You are doing a spot of work-experience for Gallupos, god of questioning. Zeus has raised the matter of the Christmas tree in the foyer and the 'Secret Santa' planned for next Friday lunchtime. Gallupos wants you to go forth into the local high street and canvass the populace (or look on the internet) to discover all the different ways that people celebrate Christmas around the world, and for those who don't celebrate Christmas find out what they do instead and when and how and why. Then (optionally) if you've time, try to roll them all together to conceptualise some sort of celebratory extravaganza for all of humanity that will please everyone, and that we might be able to fit into the foyer.
  6. Monetary Exchange project - You are special advisor to Soros, god of money, who has been tasked to devise an improved design of coinage and banknotes, which better reflects people's preferences and practical needs. Your responsibility is to suggest design, size, shape, material, monetary values, and any other innovative ideas for a new system of coins and banknotes.


Identifying unique personal potential, careers and direction, lifting limits

A simple exercise with deep meaning, for any group size subject to appointing discussion leaders if appropriate. Review is optional. Thoughts can be shared and discussed or kept private; the type of review and follow-up depends on the situation.

The purpose of the exercise is to encourage and enable people to think creatively and imaginatively about their direction and potential. As such it is particularly appropriate for people who are in a routine that is not of their choosing, or who lack confidence, or who need help visualising who they can be and what they can do.

Ask people to imagine they are 18 years old and have just received a great set of exam results that gives them a free choice to study for a degree or qualification at any university or college, anywhere in the world. They also have a grant which will pay for all their fees. No loans, no debts, no pre-conditions.

So the question is, given such a free choice, what would you study?

Put another way, what would you love to spend a year or two or three years becoming brilliant at?

For older people emphasise that they can keep all the benefit of all their accumulated knowledge and experience. They can even create their own degree course to fit exactly what they want to do.

The important thing is for people to visualise and consider what they would do if they have a free choice.

And then either during the review discussion and sharing of ideas or in closing the exercise, make the following point:

You have just visualised something that is hugely important to you.

You are (depending on your religious standpoint) only here on this earth once. You will not come back again and have another go.

So what's actually stopping you from pursuing your dreams?

In almost all cases the obstacles will be self-imposed.

Of course, it's not always easy to do the things we want to do. But most things are possible - and you don't need to go to university for three years to start to become who you want to be and to follow a new direction. It starts with a realisation that our future is in our own hands.

We ourselves - not anyone or anything else - determine whether we follow and achieve our passions and potential, or instead regret never trying.

(Additional stimulus and ideas can be provided for the group in the form of university and college course listings or examples, although people should be encouraged to imagine their own subjects. Anything is possible. See also the Fantasticat concept.)

World Cup Learning Parallels

Strategy skills and understanding global marketing, debating, presentation, and for ice-breakers and warm-up sessions

This sort of activity is handy following any major popular event, such as a sport tournament of entertainment. When people are preoccupied and discussing a popular news story of the moment, harness the interest for development ideas. 'Learning parallels' exist everywhere - use them for explaining and developing understanding about work and organisations.

For example, many people will probably be fed up with the World Cup by now, but for delegates at meetings and training sessions who still want to pick over the bones of what happened in Germany, and/or the wider effects of football on life in general, here are some suggested activities which might reap a few positive learning outcomes. There are many parallels between football and business, management, strategy, life, etc., after all football is arguably more of a business than a sport (which might be the subject of a team debate, aside from these other ideas):

Activity 1 - Split the group into pairs and give each pair five minutes to prepare a list of five strategic changes for the improvement of football as a sport and business, as if it were a product development or business development project. For example how about changing the rules, because they've essentially not been altered since the game was invented. What about increasing the size of the goal, or reducing the number of players on the pitch? You'll get no agreement of course, but it will get people talking.

Activity 2 - Split the group into teams of three and ask each team to prepare and present a critique of the management style and methods of the FA and head coach in the last four years, with suggestions as to how things might have been done differently and better by the FA and the head coach. What lessons of management and strategy might we draw from this?

Activity 3 - For an open debate or as a team presentation exercise, ask the question: What cultural/social/economic factors influence the success of a nation's football team, and what do these things tell us about fundamental trends of national economic and business performance on a global level?

Activity 4 - Split the group into two teams. One side must prepare and argue the motion for and the other the motion against. The facilitator must chair proceedings or appoint a responsible person. Each side has five minutes to prepare, and five minutes to present its case. Then allow five minutes for debate, and then have a vote. The motion is: "Football would be a better game and globally would be more sustainable and appealing if FIFA were run by women rather than men." (Alternative motion: "England would have done better at the World Cup if the FA was run by women rather than men.")

See also the football quiz questions and answers .

The concepts above are not restricted to football - they are transferable to any popular events that enthuse and interest people - it just takes a little imagination to translate the themes and names for the event concerned and relate them to 'learning parallels' found in work and organisations.

Newsdesk Broadcast

Global team building, inter-departmental development, cultural diversity and understanding, video conferencing

This is a simple activity for developing global teams. The activity requires video conferencing facilities. For groups of any size, and any number of teams, although the more teams, the less time should be allowed for broadcasts, so as to avoid people having to sit watching for long periods.

The exercise simply requires the teams to use the video conferencing equipment to create and 'broadcast' their own 'newsdesk report/magazine TV program, to be 'broadcast' to the other office(s). The teams' newsdesk broadcasts can be given to each other in rotation during the same session, or at different times, depending on staff availability and logistics issues.

Broadcasts can include guest interviews, update reports, personalities and highlights, plans and forecasts, profiles, etc, even adverts and sponsor slots - anything that might be included in a newsletter/company magazine.

Teams need to be given suitable time for planning and preparation and rehearsal. The teams' aims are to impress the other viewing departments or locations with the quality, content, professionalism and entertainment contained in the newsdesk broadcast. The them can be decided by the teams or facilitator(s) as appropriate. Timings for preparation and delivery are also flexible.

Each team can appoint presenters, producer, directors, make-up staff, technical staff (camera, props, etc), researchers, special correspondents, advertisers and sponsors, etc.

Broadcasts can also be recorded for other staff to enjoy at later times. Consideration can also be given to broadcasting to other staff via personal computers using more advanced communications technology if available.

In some respects this concept extends the traditional ideas of team-briefing , and can easily be tailored to incorporate team-briefing principles.

The 'Newsdesk Exercise' also adapts easily for conferences, particularly for international and global teams who seek to develop mutual understanding and awareness of each others issues, aims, personalities, etc.

Values-Led Team-Driven Change

Goal-setting, values, philosophy, planning and change management

This is a simple themed activity which can be adapted to suit your situation.

It concerns fundamental aims and values - making work more real and meaningful.

For groups any size although groups of more than ten or so will need to be sub-divided and facilitators/leaders appointed, and then a forum arranged to share and review ideas and actions afterwards.

The activity focuses on reconciling personal dreams/values/philosophies/passions with the organisational aims and methods .

Ask: What can we all do to change and improve how our organisation acts?

Pick the easy gains. Leave the tough ones for later/ever.

Refer people to the Serenity Prayer .

Refer (especially if the teams have idealistic compassionate roles/tendencies) to the 'zeitgeist' of our times: organisational ethics, 'Fairtrade', sustainability, corporate integrity, 'Triple Bottom Line' ('Profit People Planet'), etc., and have people visualise what successful organisations will be like in the future, given increasing awareness and expectations of employees, customers and general public opinion in relation to humanistic values.

How can the individuals and the team help to develop/influence/behave within the organisation so as to make it (the organisation) fit our personal perspectives and these modern values?

You'll need to provide strong support and follow-up afterwards, and ideally get some buy-in from the top. This is a brave initiative, although most organisations are now beginning to understand that the concepts are real and will eventually be irresistible.

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.