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free team building games - warm-ups, quick games and exercises, ice-breakers, exercises and activities
These free team building games and exercises generally last less than one hour, and can be adjusted to create longer team building activities, depending on team building, icebreaker, training development required. The development forum gameshow activity is an example of a sophisticated activity that ideally takes two hours or more, but can be adapted to fit into an hour if session time requires this. Ensure exercises are clearly explained, and where appropriate - mostly - that a review takes place afterwards. Review and discussion are often useful and helpful after exercises which have raised relationship issues, or changed people's perceptions. Plan and practise all unknown aspects of the activities before using them. Logistics, facilitation and especially how you split the group into the numbers of team members per team are factors which have a big effect on how the exercises work and the experience for all. See the team building activities guidelines for tips and techniques.
free games, exercises and activities (1) (more teambuilding games 2) questioning games ideas (demonstrating open and closed questions, developing questioning skills)
Use puzzles and fact-finding scenarios to show and practise the use of open and closed questions. See the questioning exercise on teambuilding games page 2.
diversity quiz game (teaching and developing diversity awareness, addressing local diversity issues)
Flexible exercise for groups of all sorts to focus on diversity in an entertaining and enjoyable way. See the diversity quiz game on team building games page 2.
causes and solutions exercises (discussion or illustration of problem-solving, dispute resolution, crisis management and avoidance, solutions-focused thinking)
Flexible activity - easy to set up - for discussion and teaching of problem-solving, crisismangement, solution-focused thinking. See the causes and solutions activity on the team building games page 2.
quiz public survey game (all and any aspects of communications, plus lots of other applications)
Imagine a cross between a quiz and a treasure hunt... this is it. See the public research quiz game on the team building games page 2.
bin toss game (ice-breakers, competition and motivation, fun)
You can probably guess... See the bin toss game on teambuilding games page 2.
bricks in the wall
An exercise for goals and objectives planning. The importance of components and process in realising aims and changes.
See the Bricks in the Wall exercise on the teambuilding games page 2.
the ampersand exercise
Quick easy idea for ice-breakers, with potential to adapt and develop for more complex learning. Good for explaining difference between knowledge and skill, and why skills and knowledge need developing differently. See the ampersand activity ideas on the teambuilding games page 2.
seasonal team games
See the Seasonal Team Activities Ideas on teambuilding games page 2.
See Quizballs 29 - twenty questions and answers for parties and team games.
cartoon and celebrity role-plays (quick character profiles and scenarios for role-playing)
Do you struggle sometimes to find or compile case-studies for role-playing activities? Easy quick ideas for enjoyable role-plays - for appraisals, interviews, counselling, discipline, coaching and more. See the cartoon role-play ideas on the teambuilding games page 2.
obituaries (personal destiny, life goals, getting control of direction and purpose)
For encouraging a deeper review of personal potential and life purpose. See the obituaries exercise on teambuilding games page 2.
telephone chatting activities (team-building for homebased staff, telephone skills exercises, remote teams relationships)
Home-based staff and remote teams miss out on the valuable social contact normally available to office-based teams. Personal interaction between staff (typically chatting and engaging in the canteen, elevator, lounge areas, etc) is crucial for developing relationships and mutual awareness among teams, so if teams do not meet frequently then the leader must devise ways to enable this personal interaction to happen. More background and some ideas in the chatting exercises on the teambuilding games page 2.
Ideas you can develop and have fun using. See the quickies on the teambuilding exercises page 2.
visualisation exercises (lifting limits, identifying personal potential, direction)
A simple activity for groups or teams of any size - individuals too - for visualising and imagining doing something different and special with our life. See the visulisation exercise on the other team exercises page 2.
stress reduction techniques (stress reduction ideas and understanding, for self or others, or teams)
The quick stress reduction techniques on the stress management page aren't teambuilding activities as such. However they can provide interesting ideas for dealing with stress and helping and teaching others about stress reduction. The ideas can also be used to reduce tension in certain types of teams and meetings, for ice-breakers or diversions, to demonstrate aspects of mind-body connection and its relevance to attitude, frame of mind, self-control, and also aspects of NLP, positive visualisation, lateral thinking, lifting limits, and no doubt lots more too. The chief effect of these very simple exercises is to change the environment and atmosphere, and thereby the 'mindset', which is a basis for all sorts of development, quite aside from the benefits of reducing someone's stress levels. The 'I am' page helps to illustrate and explain the power of positive visualisation and 'self-talking' which is a strong element within the second of the three stress reduction ideas.
team skipping (team-building and just about anything else)
Looking for something very different, lively and flexible? With lots of fun and team-work and interaction? See the team skipping activities ideas on the teambuilding games page 2.
isolation and intuition team exercises (relationships, bullying and harassment, diversity, intuitive demonstrations)
Two team exercises for groups of any size exploring intuition and isolation, which can be used to support learning about relationships and feelings. The isolation and intuition activities are on the other teambuilding games page 2. Both activities are highly flexible and can be adapted for local circumstances.
age diversity exercises for teams (age discrimination training, ageism awareness, diversity development)
With the introduction of Age Discrimination legislation, (UK October 2006, and consistent with European law), there is an increased need to raise awareness and to teach people about ageism and age discrimination. Ideas for activities and exercises to highlight Age Discrimination and Diversity issues are on the other team-building games page (2). We all, irrespective of age, race, religion, gender, disability, etc., have our own special capabilities and strengths, and it is these capabilities and strengths that good organisations must seek to identify, assess, encourage and utilise, regardless of age or other potentially discriminatory factors.
shot at dawn discussion (morality, leadership integrity, etc)
An emotional subject which enables a variety of discussions about morality, ethics and integrity in institutions, the pressures on people in authority which cloud decisions, and the need for us all to take an interest in the humanitarian and ethical conduct of leaders. See the 'Shot At Dawn' lessons discussion and ideas on the other team-building activities page 2.
corporate globalization debate activity (exercise and warm-up ideas for exploring corporate globalisation issues)
An entertaining and stimulating way to start any meeting or session involving or relating to corporate globalisation and/or the influence of the modern digital age and the worldwide web. Corporate Globalization Debate Exercise and Ideas are on the other teambuilding games page 2.
speeches exercises (warm-ups and ice-breakers, presentation skills and public speaking, motivation, inspiration and leadership)
A very flexible activity to develop understanding and confidence for speaking to groups, which can be adapted for many different situations. See the speech exercises on the other team-building games page (2).
corporate life-cycle exercises (organisational understanding for selling, management, ownorganisation awareness)
Simple quick exercises ideas for explaining and developing understanding of how organisations develop and change. See the Corporate Life-Cycle Exercise on the other team-building page. Based on the Adizes model.
world cup/major event exercises (debating, presentation, understanding strategy, management, etc)
If delegates want to discuss the state of football and England's performance, or the aftermath of any major sporting or entertainment event, here are a few quick easy ideas for directing team members' enthusiasms towards useful outcomes for learning, development and team-building, etc. See the World Cup Antidote Exercises on the other team-building activities page. See also the Football quiz questions and answers.
baking foil construction exercises
See the ideas for working with this simulating material in the baking foil games on the other team building page.
Look also below at the newspaper construction games which provide other ideas for using baking foil.
triple bottom line exercise (understanding and developing ethical organisations)
See this empowering profit-people-planet activity on the other team-building page. This activity can also be used in development workshops. It is a very flexible exercise and will help bring to life the increasing rhetoric (at last) about ethical organisations, 'Fairtrade', sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and well-being. It sounds great, but how do you make it happen? Start by understanding what it all means.
This idea is so good that it deserves a section all of its own. See the Fantasticat page.
development forum 'gameshow' activity (beyond teambuilding games - alignment and development of people and organisation - powerful change enabler)
This might be the most powerful activity for people in organisations on this page. Perhaps ever. Try it and see. It contains some radical and innovative organisational development principles. These ideas will be too much for many organisations to handle, not to mention certain CEO's who will pooh their pants at the very thought of it all. It goes way beyond team-building games and pure team-building activities. See what you think: The activity is particularly ideal for conference or auditorium situations. Big company gatherings to 'motivate' everyone. You know the sort of thing... The CEO says to the HR department, "Guys, we've got this conference coming up. All the staff will be there. I'm going to open it up and give everyone a great big bollocking, I mean pep-talk. Yes, Peptalk. Get everyone motivated and focused on the new challenges ahead. The need for everyone to learn new skills, to be more customer focused, more joined-up, to be more committed and to adapt to all the changes that we need to make, including the everincreasing risk of redundancy (so that I can float this baby in a couple of years and make a bloody fortune/so that headquarters/central government can meet its efficiency gains and targets)..."
"Go on.." says the HR team, (thinking, "Is he in the real world?...") And predictably the CEO continues: "So, after I've warmed them up - an hour or so should do it - it's over to you guys to put together some activities which will get everyone involved and focused on the changes they need to make, so they can all improve their skills, increase service levels, save time and money, take the burden off their managers, and generally come up with some ideas for becoming more effective. Empowerment they call it don't they? I want to empower them all to be more productive. And to stop all the whingeing and moaning. That would be good too. Oh, and by the way we've got no money to spend on it; the hotel is costing us a bleeding fortune as it is." And then it's over to you. And here's what you do: First resist the temptation to leave the company. The people need you. And you like a challenge. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, remember. Second, think about using this activity and then discuss it with your CEO. If he/she likes the idea you've half a chance that they'll allow you to go through with it:
the development forum 'gameshow' activity
It's for a large group - especially at a conference or corporate presentation - group size between about 50 up to 250 people as an ideal maximum, although double this is possible with some organisational and logistical tweaks. Eight teams of fifteen people, ie, 120 people is an example of a workable team structure. Other team sizes and combinations are perfectly possible. The activity can take between two and four hours, although less or more than this is possible with careful facilitation and structuring. The object of this activity is to engage the participants in:
thinking deeply about their own development and how to optimise it, and working together to suggest how the organisation can improve.
The activity, and the planning leading up to it, will hopefully help the CEO and senior managers to understand more about their responsibilities for their people and their organisation, and perhaps to reappraise their leadership philosophy and purpose. Important outcomes of this activity will be that:
• • •
people begin to align more closely with the organisation, and crucially: viceversa people start to think differently about the organisation - "it can be more than a job if you want it to be.." the organisation gets to hear and see what its people are truly capable of
the organisation hears how its people can and want to help improve themselves and the organisation the organisation (and particularly the CEO) commits to supporting its people in doing the above
Make no mistake - this is not for the faint-hearted - this is not for CEO's and organisations who say one thing and then do another. This is not for organisations and CEO's who want to line their own pockets and don't give a shite about their people. This activity is more than a game - it's a philosophy. Split the group into teams of function or job type. Between four and a dozen teams, up to about twenty people per team. If you have more than twenty in a single team split the team into two, for example, 'customer service north' and 'customer service south'. Organise the seating so that team members are sitting together - either around their own team table, or in blocks if the seating is fixed in a theatre or auditorium. Imagine the BBC 'Test the Nation' studio format if you've seen it. Each team contains people of a similar responsibility/role/function, playing together as a team. Teams need to appoint a team leader, and this responsibility can rotate so a number of team members experience the responsibility. Team leaders are responsible for ensuring that everyone in the team has the opportunity to contribute. Setting up sub-teams within teams is perfectly okay if it ensures everyone has greater input. This can be at each team leader's discretion. An optional exercise at this point is to ask each team to design and make their own team flag, representing the strengths/values/philosophy/challenges of their team. Materials and timings at the discretion of the facilitator depending on the event. This is an optional quick introductory exercise - no need to spend ages on it. Don't do it if the people want to get on with the business at hand, which will very commonly be the case. The facilitator (a sort of quiz-master or compere role) must prepare suitable questions in advance, and it is essential to involve the CEO in doing this because there are big implications that need buy-in and support from the top. Failure to do this will expose the facilitator/organiser and disappoint the people when nothing happens afterwards. A central aim for this activity is that outputs must be followed up. The questions must be carefully designed and powerful, to get people thinking about:
their own personal strengths, passions, (including hobbies and pastimes), dreams, ambitions, and how these relate (because they do - believe me) to their effectiveness, happiness, maturity, tolerance, creativity, resilience, adaptability, and value etc., as people at work, and their ideas and suggestions for how the organisation - in any and every way can be improved; from personal development relating to job skills and whole-person development, to customer service and quality of delivery,
management, communications and IT, health and safety, ethics and corporate social responsibility - the whole shebang. The basic format of the activity is: The whole gathering is asked a question. Teams confer amongst themselves, and appointed spokes-people give the answers for their own team in turn. All the answers for a question are reviewed, and then voted on to identify which answer(s) are considered best by all teams, or a 1-2-3 ranking of the three best liked answers. Then the facilitator moves on to the next question. Allowing 30 minutes per question (this will vary according to type of question, number of teams, etc), you can see that a two hour event will allow four questions at most, so plan carefully. Careful design of questions is very important. Here's an example of a question: What does each team consider to be its three greatest personal passions, outside work? And how might each of these passions, if developed further, benefit the person at work, the organisation and the customers and suppliers of the organisation? (Obviously a team of fifteen or twenty people will represent more than three 'passions' - in which case guide the teams towards discussing and selecting the best three from within their own team.) Before teams begin to consider the question, the facilitator will need at this point to help people understand and believe the extent to which each person's passion (each person's special capabilities, loves, and they dreams they pursue, typically outside work) relates to their development as individuals, their personal fulfilment, and how valuable and transferable these skills, knowledge, behaviour and experiences are to the organisation and their work. (You will probably need to explain this to the CEO before planning this event as well, and if he doesn't see it then proceed with caution unless you're lucky enough to have a CEO who is blessed in the 'blind faith' department.) The teams are then given a few minutes to confer and consider their answers. To an extent you need to be flexible in how long you allow - there's no point in cutting useful discussion short if you can adjust the schedule accordingly. After an agreed/suitable time period, each team's spokes-person gives their team's answers in turn, which are recorded by the facilitator on stage or at the front of the auditorium, on a suitable viewing system (flip-chart sheets and blu-tack are perfectly okay if you like to use them) so all teams can see every other team's answers. Review and invite questions and comments from the participants. Then ask the teams to cast votes for each of the other team's answers, by which the facilitator then allocates scores for each team. The scoring system for the activity is flexible at the discretion of the facilitator, but must obviously be consistent and fair. For
example ask each team to confer and award three votes for the best answer, two points for 2nd best, and one point for 3rd best. (You have the option to award prizes for teams and individuals during and certainly at the end of the activity. Be creative and think about these prizes - think about some awards which relate to people's personal passions and interests - not just bottles of booze.) Example of next question: Choosing one passion from your team's suggestions, or from another team's suggestions, which relates to significant and valuable personal development and organisational benefit, suggest a way which the organisation can help people to develop that passion, with all the skills, experiences and learning involved. (The organisation must, after the event, consider all of these ideas, and try to help make them happen where possible - so people should try to come up with ideas that are practicable and realistic - and which demonstrate a good result and benefit for people and the organisation, relative to the efforts and costs involved.) You get the idea? It's serious stuff. It extends development way beyond job skills into life skills - develop the whole person - and the organisation must see that this is important too. Follow this format using other carefully designed powerful questions. Here are examples of questions relating to organisational development: Consider and suggest three ways that the organisation can improve its communications and cooperation between departments. Consider and suggest three ways that the organisation could involve its people earlier in responding to the need for organisational change. If you were the CEO how would you treat people differently compared to current practices? In what ways could the organisation reshape its aims so that people find it easier to support and align with them? Provide three examples of obvious daft management practice that need sorting out desperately, preferably with some suggested remedial actions. What's wrong with this organisation that even a ten-year-old child could see in a day of being here? How can the organisation provide more personal meaning and relevance to you in your work?
At the completion of the activity you will have received a vast amount of well-considered suggestions, ideas, feedback and information about your people and their capabilities. You will see how different functional teams view each other and the organisation. You will receive and give people the opportunity to contribute significant ideas and suggestions for improving the organisation's weaknesses and failings, in any aspect that you wish to expose (you are asking the questions, remember). If you focus on personal development, you will understand and appreciate, and help your people to understand and appreciate, that the most important characteristics, skills, and experiences are those which people can develop for life, not just to meet the needs of a job skills analysis, or a flaky appraisal process that just goes through the motions. Certain roles offer more obvious opportunities to overlap development for life and development for work - ie, to develop job performance and capability through developing the whole person. Other jobs might initially seem to offer no overlap at all, but be assured, all jobs offer plenty of potential overlap between the person's life development and job/organisational benefit. Truck drivers have dreams too. So do shop-workers. So do labourers, cleaners and soldiers. We all have dreams and passions that we want to follow and related capabilities that we want to develop, many of which are extremely and directly transferable to work performance. In fact I'd challenge anyone to think of a job role that would not gain from developing the job-holder's whole-life passion or dream or true potential. Try me, send me any suggestions where you think no overlap exists and I'll show you where it does and publish the examples here. Aside from transferable capabilities, there is also the effect on a person's general state of well-being and feeling of self-worth. When people develop as people they become more mature and tolerant. They become more peaceful and contented with themselves. They become more self-managing, self-reliant, self-determining, confident, helpful, considerate - you name it, they become better people. Isn't that what we want in organisations grown-up self-sufficient people who largely manage, motivate and look after themselves? Even the CEO who doesn't give a tuppenny-haypenny shite about the people - he still wants these qualities in his people, doesn't he? X-Theory directors everywhere - wake up and smell the bleeding coffee - help your people develop as people, in the ways they want to, and your organisation will fly. One day all organisations will achieve sustainable success when they align themselves with their people's whole-person whole-life needs, and when they do everything possible to help people develop as people for life, not just for work. This activity framework will provide a useful and stimulating introduction to that philosophy; for the leaders - even the X-Theory dinosaurs - and the people. Be a pioneer. Make a difference. If you want any help, please ask.
simple train the trainer exercises (training people how to train and coach, writing a simple training plan)
This is a very simple exercise to help people learn how to write training plans, and to learn how to train and coach others. The activity is groups of any size, subject to splitting large groups into teams of 6-12 people. Rotate roles of trainer, trainee(s) and observers. Ask delegates to each write down on a slip of paper a simple task that takes 1-2 minutes to perform, and which can be performed using materials or items available at the session for example making a paper aeroplane to a specific design, or sending text message simple things. Delegates must then fold their slips of paper and place in the middle of the table. Then ask delegates to pick (blind) a task, for which they must then write a training, and then (picked at random) use the plan to train one or a number of delegates how to perform the task. Observers and trainees give feedback after the task, as to how well the training plan worked and was delivered. Points to cover in the review are: communication style, listening, clarity of instruction, checking understanding, encouragement, accentuating the positive, giving constructive criticism, transferability of training plan to another trainer who is less familiar with the task, etc. Refer to any or all of these theories and models, depending on the depth and complexity of activity required. Bloom's Taxonomy, and training and developing others theory. Extend the exercise by referring to Kolb's Learning Styles, Gardner's Multiple Intelligences and VAK Learning Model, and to training evaluation and Kirkpatrick's evaluation model.
'maps' activities (team-building games, ice-breakers, warm-ups, planning and organising, geography, international business, exporting)
This is a simple activity with lots of variations, to suit many games requirements. For groups of any size, split the group into teams of up to five people per team. This also works as an individual exercise and for pairs and teams of three, although obviously the team-building benefit increases with the size of the teams. Issue each team with a sheet of flip-chart paper, a pencil and a marker pen, and give them five minutes to draw a map of a part of the world, for example, Europe, Africa, South America, the states of the USA, Asia, the counties of England, Scotland, Wales, etc. Anywhere that might relate to the group and its responsibilities or territory. It's a challenging exercise which is a lot of fun when teams display and compare their maps. Increase the degree of difficulty by asking for capital cities or county/state capital towns to be added, or populations estimates, etc. Reduce the level of difficulty by providing a list of countries or states or counties, towns, statistics, etc., which people can then work from. Orientate the exercise to your own organisation or business by asking for information to be mapped relating to your key customers, branches, markets, etc., - anything that's relevant to your purposes. As the facilitator all you need is a copy of the correct version to issue to groups afterwards. The exercise is good for people of all ages, including youngsters.
exercises and ice-breakers for subject-specific training (for example, first aid training, health and safety, customer service, etc)
It is easy to devise exercises, activities, ice-breakers and games for specific subject training, such as first aid, trade-skills, driving, health and safety, etc., by adapting other generic exercises, and particularly the two examples below. Look at generic exercises and insert your particular subject or theme. Simply alter the instructions so that delegates are limited to the subject concerned, be it customer service, safety, or in these examples, first aid: A simple ice-breaker idea for group or team introductions: 1. Ask people to think of two personal first aid (or customer service, health and safety, etc, etc) experiences from their past - one good and one bad. Then ask each person to describe their experiences briefly in turn to the group. Note the key points on a flip chart. Another ice-breaker and participation activity: 2. Put as many different items of first aid (or other items relevant to specific training subject) as there are delegates, into the middle of the table. In turn each delegate must close their eyes and reach out to touch an item. The one they touch they must then briefly describe a personal incident or witnessed incident featuring the item. Note the key points on a flip chart. In both of these exercises decide before-hand how to review the experiences and examples given, for example, start a brainstorm session with the group, have a group discussion, summarise the key learning points, summarise the key areas of interest among people, discuss the difference between feelings and apparent problem/success/outcome. The simple exercises above will adapt to suit virtually any theme or subject that you wish to teach or train.
statements exercises (ice-breakers, recruitment group selection activities, team-building, identifying coaching needs, attitude and motivational development)
A very flexible activity. For groups of any size. Split the group into teams of four to five members. For larger groups the split teams can self-facilitate provided you explain the
exercise and keep an eye on things. If the group size is no more than four or five obviously you facilitate. Prepare a number of 'statement cards' (or pieces of paper) each containing a different statement, (statements to suit your purposes - examples below). Team members then pick (blind) a statement and complete it by adding their own words aloud to the team. Each team member does this for each statement in turn. Then a different team member picks a new statement and the process continues. Encourage the team to discuss briefly the important points arising of opportunity, threat, and consensus (agreement) for each statement, and to 'park' these points on a flip-chart or sheet of paper for review later when all teams reconvene as a whole group. Statements examples:
Statements for a session on personal feelings and social views (warm-up icebreaker only - no need for significant review):
Statements for a session on general work attitudes and opportunities:
Statements for a session about improving service levels:
Statements for a session about developing and using people's potential:
Statements for a session about ideas for improving morale:
• • I most enjoy about work.... I least enjoy about work.... I hate it when my boss... Working in my current team... The biggest opportun ity...
• • •
Customers would be happier... Customers cancel... Customers argue... Meetings with customers .... We could improve...
My unde rused pote ntial ... Staff can help ... I coul d inste ad... If man ager s let/h elp us we coul
Information about the company... People leave... Staff would be more committed.. . People would attend/want training... A career here....
My favourite food... I like it when... My favourite place... Holidays... Family and friends...
d... To be mor e effe ctive I'd...
You get the idea... Preparation for this activity takes just a couple of minutes: to think of a suitable subject area and purpose, to think of suitable statement beginnings (the less words the better because it enables people more interpretation freedom) and then to type or write them onto a sheet, and cut into separate cards or slips of paper - one statement per card/slip. A variation on the exercise, and even easier to prepare, is to invite the team members to write their own statement beginnings onto a slip of paper each, fold the paper and put into the middle of the table with other people's statements, and have the team pick and speak about each one in turn. When creating (or instructing the team to create) statements, try to accentuate the positive rather than inviting people to be negative, although if there are serious negatives you are best knowing about them than not. (Developed from a suggestion by F Kelly)
'personality tree' exercise (self-awareness, mutual awareness, Johari development, team-building and bonding)
For any group size. This interesting activity will take 30-60 minutes. Split the group into teams of three to five people. Explain first that there is not necessarily any psychological correlation between what you are about to ask the group to do, and the personalities of the group (probably.... it's a bit of fun). The purpose of the activity is to develop personal self-awareness, to develop mutual awareness among the teams' members, to stimulate feedback from other team members, and generally to assist team-building and bonding through getting to know each other better. The activity helps Johari Window development, which is a useful reference model for the teams. The exercise is simple: Issue each team of 3-5 people with coloured pens, markers, or crayons, and a sheet of paper per team member (A4 is fine, bigger sheets are great if there's enough room and some big marker pens or paints and brushes).
Each team member's task is to draw or paint a tree on their sheet. The tree must include root system, trunk, branches, leaves, buds, fruit, flowers and thorns. After (or before - the choice is yours) the trees are drawn use this 'key' to ask the participants to think about their trees in terms of their:
• • • • • • • •
roots = their life influences and beliefs trunk = life structure and particularly aspects that are quite firm and fixed branches = relationships and connections, directions, interests, how they spend time leaves = information and knowledge - and sources thereof buds = their ideas and hopes for the future, and their potential fruit = their achievements flowers = what makes them special, their strengths thorns = challenges, threats and difficulties
Ask team members to share and discuss their trees and interpretations with each other within their teams. Emphasise the usefulness of empathic listening and non-judgemental feedback. The duration of the exercise is flexible depending on the type of people, and the need, benefit and willingness for sharing personal feelings. Adapt the key above to suit the areas of discussion you seek to encourage, for example you could add birds and bees to the situation to represent temporary 'partnerships' or travel or holidays; or you could add windfall dead branches and leaves to represent discarded 'baggage'; or change 'leaves' to mean 'skills', 'buds' to mean opportunities, etc. You can remove items altogether if they are not relevant to the situation. (Ack F Kelly)
the 'dalai lama' personality test (ice-breaker, bit of nonsense, light relief for boring meetings, etc)
The famous 'Dali Lama' personality test seems to have started as a chain letter and email around the year 2000. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Dalai Lama, and as a psychometrics instrument it has no standing at all, other than being top of the personality testing category loosely referred to as 'a load of bollocks'. The test appears in many varying presentational formats, which commonly promise lifelong happiness, wealth, avoidance of plague and pestilence, plenty of sex, yachts, etc., but the essential 'test' elements are consistent. It's a bit of fun and no more. If you know of any research that says otherwise please send it to me. Meanwhile use it with a pinch of salt and a firm disclaimer..
Question 1. Write down the following five animals in the order of your preference: Cow Tiger Sheep Horse Pig Question 2. Write a word to describe each one of the following (preferably write five different describing words): Dog Cat Rat Coffee Sea Question 3. Write down the name of a different person whom you associate with each of these five colours (each person must be known to you and important to you): Yellow Orange Red White Green Question 4. (In the typical 'Dalai Lama chain letter email, question 4 asks for the person's favourite number and favourite day of the week, and subsequently links the answers to respectively: the number of friends to forward the email/letter to, and the day of the week on which the person's wish will come true, so it's as well to exclude question 4, unless you position it purely as a bit of nonsense.) (At this point the chain letter normally suggests, for extra gravitas..."Be sure that your answers are what you really feel..." and then invites the respondent to make a wish.. world peace, meeting this month's target, a modest win on the lottery, Torquay United to avoid relegtion...) After people have written down and thought about their answers, you can reveal the interpretations.... Question 1 interpretation (Write down the following five animals in the order of your preference: Cow Tiger Sheep Horse Pig):
• • • • •
Cow = CAREER Tiger = PRIDE Sheep = LOVE Horse = FAMILY Pig = MONEY
Question 2 interpretation (Write a word that describes each one of the following: Dog Cat Rat Coffee Sea). The descriptive words are supposedly how you see or feel about:
• • • • •
Dog = your own personality Cat = your partner Rat = your enemy or enemies Coffee = sex Sea = your life
Question 3 interpretation (Write down the name of a different person whom you associate with each of these five colours: Yellow Orange Red White Green). The people whom you identify with each colour are supposedly:
• • • • •
Yellow = a person you will never forget Orange = a true friend Red = a person you really love White = your twin soul or soul-mate Green = a person you will remember for the rest of your life (this is the usual interpretation of the Green person, although observant readers will notice that it is effectively the same as the Yellow person, so for added interest, here is an alternative more interesting Green): Green = someone who can teach you a lot about yourself
Just for interest only, the chain email/letter version added additional incentive for continuing the chain with the promise that by forwarding the message (or 'mantra') to specifed numbers of people "...your life will improve..." according to the following scale:
• • • •
0-4 persons = slightly (steady now..) 5-9 persons = to your liking 9-14 persons = you will have at least 5 surprises in the next three weeks (presumably nice surprises..) 15 or more persons = your life will improve drastically and "all that you have always dreamed will take shape.." (or words to that effect)
And the chain letter typically ends with a final sign-off: "If someone does not smile at you, be generous and offer your own smile. Nobody needs more a smile than the one that cannot smile to others..." (which in itself is no bad thing to advocate - see Smile). For the more mischievous among you, and especially for an audience who might already have encountered the Dalai Lama test and think they know it all, here is an alternative Dalai Lama personality test and and answer interpretations, which is an even bigger load of bollocks than the one above.
autograph collecting exercise (introductions, teambuilding, ice-breakers, self-expression and creativity)
A simple activity for groups of any size. Eight to twelve is ideal. Groups of more then fifteen should be split, for instance a group of fifty could be split into five groups of ten. The bigger the teams the longer the exercise takes. Issue to each team member a sheet of paper and a different coloured pen or pencil (number of different colours is a factor affective teams sizes - different colours are helpful, but not absolutely essential). Ask each person to draw a matchstick person about two inches high (representing themselves) on their sheet (landscape way around), and to write their name or autograph (legibly) beneath it. Then ask the team members to move around the room among their team, asking other team members to add their matchstick images and autographs, so as to collect matchstick images and signatures. While collecting images and autographs
encourage teams to discuss their interests and backgrounds, and to focus on people's names and characteristics, so as to reinforce retention of names. The exercise is complete when all teams have completed their collections of other teams members. See the variation to this exercise below:
'personal logos' exercise variation
To increase the creative and expressive aspects of the above activity, the exercise can be altered by asking first, (instead of using matchstick people images), that team members should devise a personal logo or symbol to represent themselves (something simple, quick, recognisable), which they should use instead of the matchstick person. In all other respects the exercise can be played out unchanged. This adapted version does not necessarily require coloured pens. The activity is for people and teams of any job-roles and ages. Young people will especially enjoy it. The adapted exercise can be extended by discussing the mix of strengths and capabilities in each of the teams or the group as a whole.. Again the Johari Window is a useful reference model. (Adapted from a suggestion by F Kelly)
getting to know you exercise (introductions and icebreakers, team-building)
An activity for any group size. This simple exercise takes 5-15 minutes and encourages people to get to know each other, and to feel relaxed and involved in group situations. The activity also helps team-building where teams have worked with each other for some while but perhaps do not know each other well. Split the group into teams of threes or fours. Ask them to get to know each other within each team, by giving their names, and to discover a common interest among the members of their team. At the end of the discussion period, say 5 minutes, the facilitator has the option to extend the exercise by asking the teams to each nominate a spokes-person who must then explain briefly the nature and benefit of their own team's common interest. The Johari Window is a useful reference model. Where group members know each other and the emphasis is on teambuilding, then more emphasis should be put on the requirement to present a common interest in which all team members agree a common benefit. (Ack Fionnghuala Kelly)
toilet roll ice-breaker (for amusing warm-ups, group introductions, icebreakers)
This is a really quick and simple ice-breaker, especially for enabling people in a group to know each other in a fun way. For groups of four to around dozen people; split larger groups into smaller teams (the exercise works just as well), in which case apply these instructions for each of the teams. Pass or toss a toilet roll to one of the group members. Ask the person to tear off as many sheets as they want and then pass or toss the roll to another member of the group to do the same, and then on to another member to include the whole group. (Tossing the roll at random is more fun as it increases fun and expectation). Do not explain the purpose yet. Some will take two or three sheets, some will take more. This, and the interpretations made, will generate a lot of amusement and comment. Be sure to have a spare roll on hand, and obviously if splitting the group into teams ensure sufficient supplies for each team. You then reveal the purpose: each individual must give as many facts about themselves according to how many pieces of toilet roll they have. Those with the most modest requirements will therefore need to say least; those tearing off a couple of dozen sheets will be under a little more pressure... This quick exercise can also be used for deciding sequence, for example the order in which people give presentations (in which case adjust the rule so that each person can tear off a number of sheets within a range equating to the number of people in the team, and not the same number as any other team member). The activity can be used for any situation where people are required to perform a number of actions or focus on a number of subjects. The activity can also be extended to create team building games, for example: After each person has removed their chosen number of sheets, split the group into the "have's" and "have-less's", and give each side three minutes to prepare a 60 second statement justifying the merits of 'ambition' and 'modesty' respectively. Or for three teams (the "have's" the "have-somes and the "have-littles") to prepare and present respectively on 'adventure', 'pragmatism' and 'caution'. (Ice-breaker idea courtesy Pam Cook, adapted from an original exercise featured in The Encyclopedia of Ice-Breakers by Sue Forbess Green)
personal possessions listening exercises (listening skills, interpreting feelings, telephone listening skills)
A simple quick exercise or warm-up activity for listening skills, particularly for telephone, call-centre and customer service staff. For groups of any size. Ask the group to
each think of and select a personal possession which holds some meaning for them individually, which they currently have with them on them - a purse, wallet, piece of jewellery, watch, pen, mobile phone, set of keys, etc. Each person should write down their object and name on piece of paper, fold it up, and place it in the middle of the table. Then the facilitator should ask one of the delegates to pick at random one of the pieces of folded paper. This person named on the paper should then place their selected object in front of them on the table and describe it briefly to the group, and explain what and why it means to them (briefly). The group should be instructed to listen to the person's feelings about the object, so as to comment and discuss their interpretations after the person has spoken. The person and the facilitator can give feedback to the group about how well the group has interpreted what was said and the feelings behind it. Ask the group particularly to listen and interpret what the object means to the owner. Certain objects will be very meaningful; others less so. There are no 'best' objects - all objects will provide useful examples of different feelings and meanings - whether important, personal, functional, disposable, sentimental, priceless or whatever. After the first round of discussion pick another piece of paper and repeat the exercise, progressively exploring how feelings are conveyed, and how to interpret them, with each person's object. Vary the exercise, increase the challenge, and simulate telephone conversations by having people listen 'blind' with eyes closed, so that people cannot see the object or see the speaker's face. For larger groups, split the group into teams of smaller numbers and appoint team facilitators, so that everyone can have their turn at describing their own personal possession, in which case organise team sizes to suit the time available.
'joining instructions' ice-breaker (warm-ups, teamworking, cooperation, virtual team-building, 'joined up' teams)
A really simple activity for ice-breakers and team introductions, and great for demonstrating the need for communications and team-working when developing virtual teams and a 'joined up' approach. For any group size and any ages and level of ability and seniority. Split the group into teams of equal numbers between three and ten people. Ask the teams to stand and form into clusters. The exercise is a test of cooperation, coordination and communication. No materials are required. The facilitator calls out (and displays on a flip-chart) an instruction by which each team's members should join with each other, for example: twelve fingers, three thumbs, two elbows, one shoulder and two knees. Each team must then work out as quickly as possible how to achieve the 'joining instructions'. When properly joined the team can shout out 'joined' for the facilitator to check they've won the round. Scores can be kept and the game played over several rounds. Obviously, different joining instructions will create different pressures on the teams to think and adapt. The facilitator should think about joining instructions to use, mindful of the likely group and team sizes. Ensure the joining instructions given are physically possible, and enable all team members to be involved (which is generally ensured by including lots of fingers in the instructions). It's preferable to state that joined
solutions should involve all team members. Other examples of joining instructions, depending on team sizes:
• • • • • • •
Six knees and twenty five fingers. Four elbows, three ears, ten fingers one thumb. Three hands, three wrists, ten fingers and two ankles. Twenty three fingers, three shoulders, three noses and a chair. Three toes, a thigh, a forehead, thirty fingers, a wall and a table. Ten fingers, ten thumbs, two elbows, two knees, and three credit cards. Six fingers, six thumbs, two ankles, a mobile phone and a calculator.
For the avoidance of (additional) confusion, a hand is just a hand, and cannot also be counted as four fingers and a thumb. Inclusion of inanimate objects is absolutely fine, in which case it's best to confirm that body parts connected to inanimate objects count towards the solution. Extra points for creative solutions can be awarded at the facilitator's discretion. Stipulation of bare skin contact is also at the facilitator's discretion but if in doubt do not insist on this or even offer the option (we live in a litigious world). And unless using the activity for very intimate gatherings it's advisable to exclude tongues...
confessors and critics (emotional intelligence, EQ, positive emotional responses, relationships, communications, team-working and team-building)
For groups of any size, all ages and all levels of experience. Explain to the group (briefly is okay) the basic principles of emotional intelligence (EQ). Particularly emphasise that negative emotional responses (to all sorts of stimuli, ie., 'emotional triggers') are the things that most commonly prevent and interrupt constructive adult communications, necessary for team-working, relationships (work and life, social and romantic), mutual cooperation, and healthy organizations. Explain the exercise: the aim is to demonstrate that we are able to improve our awareness and control of our own emotional responses, and we can improve our awareness of and control over the extent to which we produce emotional responses in others. "Suffering is optional" (ack Anita Mountain). Causing other people to suffer is optional. We simply need to think about and make a commitment to develop our emotional maturity (which is the essence of adulthood and wisdom). Split the group into pairs. Ask each person to think of a real personal weakness that they possess - for example being prone to behaviours such as: being short-tempered, domineering, too yielding, late, unreliable, disorganised, blaming others, obstructive, not eating properly, smoking, drinking, not taking exercise, sulking, etc, etc. The weakness should be real and significant enough to have some emotional feelings attached to it for the person, but not so serious as would open a can of worms and give rise to the need for
several sessions of psychotherapy. One person of each pairing (for the purposes of this explanation let's call him/her the 'confessor') should then explain their weakness to their partner, like an admission and a bit of an explanation or guess as to the cause, for example: "I can be obstructive at times when I could be more helpful - perhaps it's when I'm feeling low and that people don't show me any respect," or "I come in late sometimes because I think 'why should I bother about doing a good job when I should be paid more' ". The other person in the pairing (let's call him/her the 'critic') must then demonstrate giving the 'confessor' a negative critical reaction to their admission (don't go mad - we don't want any tears please). Just a few sentences of blame, judgement, and uncaring reaction (imagine the worst teacher you had at school and how they used to treat kids who'd messed up or misbehaved, or imagine a a bullying boss you've known). Each pair must then take a moment to think and write down how they feel, especially: the 'confessor' should think how they feel - write down a few key words. The 'critic' should try to think about the role you've just played - where did it come from in you? Can you hear yourself being like that, even to a small extent, in other situations, real situations? How does it affect the other person? If people wish they can briefly explain their feelings to their partner, but not too much because the exercise is not complete: Then the 'critic' should demonstrate giving a positive, understanding, caring, sympathetic reaction to the 'confessor'. Not agreeing with the weakness, but understanding it and listening with your eyes to how the other person feels, and the fact that they've made this admission, which for many people requires a lot of courage. Offer to listen some more, without judgement, try to imagine how they feel, if the 'confessor' wishes to then discuss the behaviour (do not discuss the person unless the person wants to, in which case listen without judgement - it's how the other person feels that matters, not the 'critic's opinions). Then each pause for a moment and think how you feel. What was helpful and what was not? (It's not always easy to be understanding and say the right things). Can we think of real instances where this kind of emotionally sympathetic response would have been more appropriate than the one actually displayed. How can we increase our awareness of other people's feelings and emotional sensitivities? How can we control better what we say to others? How can we control better how we feel when others fail to give us a positive emotional response? Does receiving a negative emotional response change who we are, just because another person is not able to give a positive emotional response? Do we blame others for not giving a positive emotional response? Is blame a helpful emotional response? Imagine how much more effective a team or orgnization is when people's emotional responses are positive, tolerant, understanding ('giving' in other words), rather than negative, blaming, self-indulgent, disinterested ('taking' in other words). If you can make more time for this activity, reverse the roles and re-run the exercise to begin developing greater understanding and abilities in giving positive emotional responses.
It is helpful also to look at the Johari Window model, the Transactional Analysis early ideas, and recent TA models especially aspects of 'blame' - the mindset should be: "It's no-one's fault, blame isn't the issue - what matters is how we go forward, improve and develop." Finally it's worth reinforcing the fact that all experiences are opportunities for learning. Failures, weaknesses, problems and mistakes: they enable us to learn and grow wise.
birds, bees, lions and trees activity (the best of all icebreakers and warm-ups for very large groups?..)
An exercise that is great fun, physical, and full of activity. The exercise for large groups over 100 people - adults or children. Ask everyone to think for a minute carefully and decide what animal (or extend to living creatures, plants, sea creatures, etc) that they each most associate themselves with (other than a human), but not to tell anyone. ("If you were an animal/living thing other than a human what would you be?...") Then ask people to write their choice on a small piece of paper, and keep it in their pocket. (This is a way of ensuring people do not change their minds later when they see what creatures other people have chosen.) Then ask everyone to think of a behaviour/action/sound they can perform that will represent their chosen creature/living thing (in other words, "Now, act like your chosen creature..."). Encourage people to move around the room, assuming their chosen creature is mobile of course. People choosing to be sea creatures will face extra challenge, as will anyone choosing to be a tree, or a mushroom, and this is all part of the fun. Encourage everyone to practise their action/noise (chaos and fun of course). Again encourage movement around the room (or swaying in the wind for all the beautiful trees and flowers...). Then ask everyone (while still acting out their creature/living thing actions/noises) to look for other group members in the room who are the same as they are, and go and join them to form a group/flock/pride, etc. Suggest to people that eventual group sizes should be no more than 10-12, although if as the facilitator you consider that other purposes will be served by allowing bigger groups sizes than this then feel free to do so. If using the activity for very large groups, for example over 200 people, it is likely that some species groups will be quite large, for example, elephants, lions, bulls, dolphins,
dogs, cats - in which case ensure you should ask people when choosing and writing down their species to think about not only their species, but also one or two other characteristics, eg, male/female, young/adult/old, sub-species (eg, Persian cat, farm cat, alley cat, or etc). The facilitator then has the option later if required (ie., if large groups appear to be forming) to ask people to use these detailed characteristics to subdivide large groups of say more than a dozen people, in which case these more detailed characteristics can only be discussed once the main species groups have been formed, and when the facilitator has given the instruction for a formed group to confer and to subdivide. Then when everyone is formed into groups of the same/very similar species ask each group then to elect a spokesperson (who must not be the most senior person in the group, unless it is the CEO in a pride of male lions, in which case feel free to put him on the spot..). Each spokesperson must then explain (the consensus view of the species group) as to why their particular species members all chose to be that particular creature, what makes them special, and then relate/translate this to the special qualities that they as people bring to the organisation and to their work and colleagues. For a bit of added interest you could refer to or ask the species groups if they know the collective noun for a group of their own particular species (if so it's as well that the facilitator has the answers to the more difficult ones). And if you wish and have time, and if it suits your purposes, you can extend the activity by running a team quiz competition between the species groups (you might need to join/split certain species groups to create teams with similar team numbers) - and obviously questions about species collective noun names are an appropriate source of material for a list of quiz questions (here are some unusual ones). A final couple of points of note about this activity: Before any reorganising team numbers for possible subsequent team quiz contest, the facilitator should use the option to join together any single or very small groups of species if the people concerned might be feeling uncomfortable or isolated and worried about having to explain to the whole group why they chose to be a termite, or a lemming, or a Hoffman's two-toed sloth. But use your judgement, because on the other hand, people finding themselves the single species member of a group of one, will likely have a very interesting perspective, and might quite enjoy telling all the lions and dogs and cats etc., why it's good and special to be different to the crowd, or herd, so to speak. The facilitator of course retains the right to keep isolated in a team of one, the company practical joker who announces that he/she (it will be a he not a she..) is a common cold virus, for the duration of the quiz and for the remainder of the conference.
skills and attitudes exercise (management and leadership training, encouraging self-development, developing confidence and lifting limits)
People commonly believe that skills are the most important attributes and the biggest training priorities. Often they are not. Usually lifting beliefs and changing attitudes have a far greater impact on individual performance and organisational effectiveness. This simple exercise helps to explain the differences between skills and attitude, and why attitude is so much more important than skill. The activity is for groups of any size, although you can split large groups into smaller teams with appointed team leaders to run the exercise in syndicates, and then review the different teams' findings afterwards as a whole group. First, using a flip chart, brainstorm with the team their ideas of great managers and leaders - can be real and fictional - famous, celebrity, local business personalities whatever. Allow a few minutes to collect a selection of names. Tack this sheet to the wall. Then ask the team to call out what they think are the attributes most associated with the various names on the list, that make them good at what they do. In any order, doesn't matter. Write these attributes on the flip chart. Then ask one of the more dominant delegates to come to the front and circle all the 'skills' on the sheet, with the help of the team, and the facilitator if necessary. There will be hardly any. Next ask a quiet team member to come to the front and circle all the 'attitudes' on the sheet. It will be most of them. The point for discussion is that while a certain skill level is necessary to do a job, the fact is that attitude determines whether the job is done well, and whether the job holder makes a real difference to their organisation, colleagues and environment.
leading or managing exercise (management and leadership development, team development, virtual teams, supervisory development)
Many people confuse or merge the different attributes of management and leadership. This exercise enables people to understand the differences. Anyone can lead, inspire, motivate others. Leadership is not the exclusive responsibility of the CEO, directors and senior managers. Encourage staff at all levels to aspire to and apply the principles of good leadership, and the whole organization will benefit. Everyone, in their own way, can be a leader. In fact organizations which have poor leadership at the top actually provide a great opportunity for ordinary staff and junior managers take responsibility for leading, inspiring and helping to develop others. Don't wait to be led - be a leader yourself! Here is a list of many things that managers and leaders do. Either issue the list, or preferably make (or ask the team to make) separate cards or post-it notes for each word/phrase, which can be given to a group or team. Then ask the participants to identify the items that are associated with managing, and those that are associated with leading. Groups of over five people can be spilt into teams of three, to enable fuller participation and a variety of answers for review and discussion. Each team must have their own space
to organise their answers. Different teams can be given different items to work with or a whole set for each team. Manage the quantities and scale according to the situation and time. NB To shorten and simplify the exercise remove items for which similar terms exist, and combine other similar items, for example reporting and monitoring. If shortening the list ensure you keep a balance between management and leadership items.
implementing tactics reporting monitoring budgeting decision-making
measuring applying rules and policies disciplining people being honest with people developing strategy consulting with team giving responsibility to others determining direction explaining decisions assessing performance defining aims and objectives doing the right thing taking people with you developing successors inspiring others running meetings interviewing organising resources
mentoring negotiating keeping promises working alongside team members sharing a vision with team members motivating others giving praise thanking people being determined communicating instructions making painful decisions appraising people recruiting counselling coaching problem-solving selling and persuading doing things right using systems getting people to do things
resolving conflict giving constructive feedback accepting criticism and suggestions allowing the team to make mistakes taking responsibility for others' mistakes formal team briefing responding to emails planning schedules delegating reacting to requests reviewing performance time management nurturing and growing people team-building taking responsibility identifying the need for action having courage acting with integrity listening
If using post-it notes or another method enabling items to be stuck to a wall (for example cards and 'blu-tack' putty), you can suggest that items be placed on either side of a vertical line or string (attach headings 'leadership' or 'management' to each side), in which case the strength of association that each item has with either heading can be indicated by how close each item is positioned in relation to the dividing line (items that are felt to be both managing and leading can be stuck on the dividing line). The significance and importance of each item can be indicated by how high up the wall it is positioned. This creates a highly visual of 'map' of management and leadership competencies. The review discussion should investigate reasons and examples for why items are positioned, which
can entail items being moved around to each team's or whole group's satisfaction and agreement. Here's the list sorted into suggested categories for the facilitator to use when reviewing the activity. The answers are not absolute as context and style can affect category. There is certainly a justification for some of the 'managing' activities to appear in the 'leading' category if the style of performing them is explained as such, for instance 'reporting the performance of the team in a way that attributes praise and credit to the team' would be an activity associated with leadership, whereas 'reporting' is a basic management duty. You can add tasks, duties, responsibilities and behaviours to the list, and/or invite team members to add to the list with ideas or specific examples, before the exercise. To shorten and simplify the exercise remove items for which similar terms exist, and combine other similar items, for example reporting and monitoring.
reporting monitoring budgeting
measuring applying rules and policies discipline running meetings interviewing recruiting counselling coaching problem-solving decision-making mentoring negotiating selling and persuading doing things right using systems communicating instructions assessing performance appraising people getting people to do things formal team briefing responding to emails planning schedules delegating reacting to requests
taking responsibility identifying the need for action having courage consulting with team giving responsibility to others determining direction explaining decisions making painful decisions defining aims and objectives being honest with people developing strategy keeping promises working alongside team members sharing a vision with team members motivating others doing the right thing taking people with you developing successors inspiring others resolving conflict allowing the team to make mistakes taking responsibility for mistakes nurturing and growing people
reviewing performance time management organising resources implementing tactics
giving praise thanking people giving constructive feedback accepting criticism and suggestions being determined acting with integrity listening
(Developed from a suggestion by Sheila Caldwell)
telephone roleplay exercises (communications, customer service, call-centre training, telephone call-handling skills, sharing best practice ideas)
These exercises will provide experiential telephone-skills learning as well as encourage people to work in a team and sharing ideas about real communications improvement and skills development. The activities also enable the facilitator or trainer to assess delegates' abilities in handling telephone calls. The activities are primarily for incoming telephone calls, although the exercises can easily be adapted for outgoing calls scenarios, and can be adapted for face-to-face customer service desk staff. The activities are for any group size, and are ideal exercises for training course syndicates. First brainstorm with the group all the different types of calls can be received (and/or calls made outgoing if appropriate). When you've collected the main call type examples (on a flip chart or wipeboard), number them. Next, ask the delegates to each write down a different type of call example from the list. You can either allocate a number to each delegates or let them choose. Each person should then write clearly on the piece of paper a brief scenario for their chosen or allocated call type. Each person should then fold their piece of paper and put it into the centre of the table, at which each delegate must then pick one of the scenarios, which they will then role-play as a call-handler. Split large groups into teams of three, which means you can run several role-plays at the same time (when and if you think people are ready, since this will create extra noise and distraction, similar to a call centre environment, which puts extra pressure on the teams). Each team of three comprises a call-maker (who must act out the scenario), the call handler, and an observer. Call-makers and call-handlers should sit back-to-back, which is important to replicate voice-only communications. The observer in each three should begin the exercise by saying the word 'ring' (or by demonstrating their own mobile phone's ring-tone - for extra distraction and pressure, and a bit of fun), at which the call-handler makes their response, and the call-maker acts out the scenario, to which the call-handler must respond. After a short time (do not let role-plays go on for more than a couple of minutes - there is no need, and it helps keep people focused if you can keep things moving at good pace),
review the experiences with the whole group, inviting the views of the observers and the call-makers and call-handlers. Review after each role-play so that people can remember and share ideas and are able to put them into practice. Then get on with the next roleplays. Rotate the roles so that each delegate gets the chance to deal with their own scenario. If delegates prefer, let them choose a scenario if they feel they'd get particular benefit from role-playing it. Definitely allow and encourage delegates try a particular role-play again if they want to. Be assured that people will adjust to role-plays if you give them time to get over the giggles or initial nerves. Laughter is a perfectly natural defence against nerves which you should allow to run its course. Stick with it, keep things moving, up-beat, and playful, and people will settle down and enjoy and get a lot out of the experience. This activity is a flexible format - adapt it to suit your own situation and the needs of the group. Adapt the role-plays for outgoing calls or for face-to-face discussions if appropriate. You should additionally explain and reinforce the correct procedures and techniques according to your own practices. Obviously use your own communications training and procedural reference points in the reviews, but try to let people experience and learn through experience and feedback rather than spoon-feeding them all the answers. Discovery through experience greatly improves learning, understanding and retention - people feel the experience, which they cannot do if they are simply told things. If helpful also brainstorm ideas about the points to be reviewed with the group (for example, style, intonation, clarity, process, policy, initiative, taking responsibility, building rapport, diffusing conflict, tolerating abuse, calming upset, using empathy, active listening, facilitative techniques, etc). Refer also to the theory and instructions for role-playing exercises. If appropriate (and if the group is comfortable with the idea) you can record the role-plays and replay the discussions to the group, in which case only one role-play can be performed at a time, which implies having a relatively small group size. For larger group sizes recording is not likely to be feasible, and you should use teams of three as described.
ring tones ice-breaker activity (ice-breaker or johari window awareness exercise)
This is a simple warm-up ice-breaker activity, or can be used as an exercise to provoke discussion about self-image and mutual perceptions within teams. As an ice-breaker the activity adds variety and interest to the normal personal introductions at the start of a training course or session. When introducing themselves in turn to the group, participants must demonstrate their mobile phone ring tones, and (here's the important bit) must explain the reason for their choice of ring tone (or lack of interest in a 'personal' ring tone), and offer some comment as to what this might suggest about their personality and style. The extent to which discussion and feedback among the group is encouraged is at the discretion of the facilitator, depending on the group composition and whether the activity is used simply as an ice-breaker, or for more involved discussion, which could
easily be linked with the Johari Window and developing mutual awareness. Ring tones are for many people an expression and extension of personality, as is handwriting, which is also interesting to compare when discussing personality.
observation and awareness exercise (ice-breaker, warmup, observation, awareness, personal change)
An activity or ice-breaker for teams and groups of any size, even large conferences and seminars. This simple short exercise is adaptable for a wide variety of situations, and illustrates how we tend to go through our lives in a routine manner, not noticing things around us, when we should all be more alive to our surroundings (and our own selves). Awareness is a pre-requisite for response and action - especially effective communications. Self-awareness is essential for personal effectiveness and change. This activity demonstrates that we can all improve in these areas. The facilitator should prepare a list of 5-20 questions (depending on the duration of activity required) about details of the particular work or meeting environment, (and optionally about the participants' own selves) for example:
• • • • • • • • • •
what colour are the floor tiles in reception? what was the name of the lady who served you coffee on arrival (it was on her name-badge)? according to the the plaque by the entrance door, who opened the building and in what year? what is featured in the big landscape picture that hangs in the reception? where is the fire extinguisher in the hallway outside this room? what products are featured in the pictures in the elevator? what was the colour of the receptionist's jacket/hair/blouse? what is printed on your room key fob aside from the number? how many plastic cards are in your purse/wallet? and so on..
To give the activity an extra edge you can make it competitive, in which case ask team members to exchange their answer sheets for scoring while the facilitator calls out the answers. You can also award a prize for the most amusing wrong answer. The observation/awareness emphasis of the exercise is slightly different if the situation is a one-off conference venue, compared with the group's normal working environment. Try to make the questions fair for all, especially if participants have quite different familiarity with the location. Select questions, and adjust the positioning of the purpose and review accordingly. Whatever - the exercise is an enjoyable and different way to illustrate the opportunities that we all have for improving our awareness, and therefore responsiveness. As a point of interest you can refer participants to the 'First Law Of Cybernetics', also known as the 'The Law of Requisite Variety', which is: "The unit within the system with
the most behavioural responses available to it controls the system." The point being that you need maximum awareness in order to enable maximum responses. Also point out that awareness features in at least three of Gardner's inventory of multiple intelligences, notably spatial/visual, interpersonal, and self-awareness. (Adapted from a suggestion by Laura Feerer.)
the 'hellespont swim' motivation case study and team exercise (motivational theory, performance, achievement and self-development)
Use the Hellespont Swim story as a motivational case study and exercise. Print and issue copies to team members in pairs, syndicates of three, or small teams, and ask the team members to consider the case study in the context of motivational theory, plus other aspects of self-motivation and performance management. There are very many interesting points of reference within the story that relate to motivation and performance - how many points of interest can teams identify? Refer team members to the various motivational and personal development theories, for example, Maslow, Bloom, McGregor, McClelland, Handy, Adams, Johari, etc., and encourage teams also to identify examples of performance and project management within the story. Teams should present their findings to the group after being given a suitable time period for discussion. The presentations and ensuing discussions provide an innovative basis for assessing knowledge levels and developing understanding of motivational theory. Facilitators tip: keep a record of all the suggestions and ideas arising from using the exercise, which you can build into a list of points to help review future activities involving this case study.
'animal kingdoms' metaphors exercises (team-building, understanding and development of team dynamics, organisational structures and cultures)
This exercise is very flexible, and will help teams and leaders to develop understanding of team and organisational structures, dynamics, politics, communications, responsibilities, perceptions, relationships, etc. The exercise is for groups of any size, subject to creating syndicate teams of upwards of three people to no more than seven or eight people at most. (Large syndicate teams make it more difficult to ensure full participation by all team members.) Issue each team with a large sheet of paper (for teams of four and over join two sheets of flip-chart paper together to create a big workspace) and some coloured marker pens. The aim of the exercise is for each team create a representation or metaphor of a particular work team, or department, or organisation as if it were an 'animal kingdom' or animal society of some sort. The team(s) can use any
living creatures to create their metaphor, for example insects, birds, fish, dinosaurs. The facilitator should stipulate the part of the organisation that is to be represented, ie., translated into a metaphor society of animals and living creatures. The team(s) can choose any form of representation and layout to create their animal kingdom metaphors for example, names of animals in a hierarchical structure, or drawings of animals, such as a plan view of a jungle, or a section view of a beehive or ants nest. Really, anything goes. The teams then present their metaphors to the group, and discuss the meanings and feelings about the animal kingdom they've created, which will obviously reflect feelings and attitudes about the real work situation that the metaphor represents. The situation to be represented can also be extended to include customers and suppliers. This exercise will be helpful for inter-connected teams to develop mutual understanding, and will also reveal to facilitators and managers the attitudes and opportunities for improving and clarifying relationships, expectations, responsibilities, politics and organisational culture. Using metaphors, especially those which enable the expression of strong characteristics (such as animals and wildlife), are an excellent way for people to consider, express and discuss views about structure, relationships, behaviours, etc., which otherwise tend not to surface. The Johari Window is a useful reference model for the post-activity review.
negotiation teams scenario exercises (negotiation skills training, team building, teamwork and communications, negotiation planning)
In planning and designing negotiation skills training facilitators and trainers commonly seek ready-made case-studies or off-the-shelf scenarios, to provide a basis for a negotiation exercise or role-plays. Finding suitable and relevant case-studies is difficult however. They are rarely free, and even the case-study exercises which come at a price tend to require some adjustment for the actual training situation. So here's a different approach to finding negotiation case-studies, that will fit every situation: have the group themselves design the scenario as part of the negotiation training session, which they will then use for the negotiation role-play in teams. First facilitate a brainstorm session with the group to create the scenario, with as many variables (tradables) as possible for each side. This is a very helpful exercise in itself since staff and managers needing to learn and practise negotiating rarely appreciate all the issues and opportunities for negotiation that exists in any particular situation. Having the group construct the scenario also gives the trainer or facilitator the chance to guide the development of the scenario, so that it is workable, and to identify the development needs of the team that warrant most attention later as the session unfolds. Use a template as a guide for the group for the scenario design brainstorm session. Here's an example of a template for a negotiation scenario:
• • • • •
people involved on each side, their level of influence, their personal and corporate aims, and comment about personality and negotiating styles variables (tradables) for each side with values or notional priority ranking for each side (because each side will place a different value on each variable) alternative options for each side (competitor offers with pros and cons, and comment on opportunity for either side to simply walk-away) external pressures and time-sensitive factors (for example seasonal or contractual aspects) plus anything else of bearing to either side
Having constructed the scenario you can then run the negotiation role-play in any way you choose. The negotiation activity can be organised for individuals or teams, with stages and responsibilities built in to increase the complexity and challenge. Or simply run the activity with two teams facing each other across a table, with a suitable time limit to achieve a creative win-win (collaborative) outcome. A flip chart is an essential tool for this exercise, because it allows ideas and criteria for the negotiation to be clearly agreed and shown at all times. As the negotiation role-play unfolds it is likely that questions will arise which require the facilitator's arbitration, so expect to have to manage and control the activities closely and pragmatically. In this respect there is some similarity with real negotiations, which rarely proceed as anticipated. The aim of the exercise and the role-play negotiation is not to create a confrontation, or a winner-takes-all result. The aim - which should be reinforced frequently with the team members - is for the delegates to seek and develop new ways of arriving at better collaborative outcomes, by thinking creatively and in collaboration with the other side, ideally based on a realistic (perhaps historical) work negotiation situation. As such you can facilitate an enormous amount of learning and ideas with this format, in the way that the scenarios are developed and discussed, and especially in the way that the negotiating teams can be encouraged to take a creative and cooperative approach to finding better solutions than might first appear possible or have historically been achieved. Every negotiation, when viewed creatively, entrepreneurially and collaboratively, provides an excellent opportunity to develop and improve synergies between and benefiting both sides, within the negotiated outcome. You and the trainees might find it useful to refer to Sharon Drew Morgen's concepts regarding collaborative facilitation, which although developed primarily for front-end of the selling process, are also extremely useful for cooperative negotiating. Each side is uniquely positioned to see how the other side can more effectively contribute to the combined solution - it can be a strange concept to appreciate initially, but is extremely powerful in any situation where two people or sides seek to reach agreement to work together, which is essentially what negotiation is all about. See also the negotiation techniques material.
language, grammar communications styles training activities (english language, grammar, communications styles, for customer service and rapport-building)
This is a simple idea for training and developing language and conversational speech skills (English language - although the format can very easily be applied to other countries and languages) for staff of all types, including overseas customer services and call centres, and for sales and communications training. Effective communications require language and style that is appropriate for the listener - normally a similar language style to the listener. Good communicators can adjust their language style to help the listener understand the communication quickly and easily. Using appropriate 'matching' language and style also helps to build rapport with other people. These language skills are helpful to all staff, not just people in overseas call centres. The activity is simply to issue different daily newspapers and/or lifestyle magazines to the group - some tabloids, 'red-tops', broadsheets, for example (in the UK) The Sun, The Mirror, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, the Times, The Telegraph, The Financial Times. Or use magazines, representing a broad social mix. Split the group into three or four individuals or pairs or teams of three (depending on group size and time available), and give each a different newspaper or magazine, so that each is quite different from the others used in the exercise. The team members then have 20-30 minutes to create an informal presentation and perhaps a simple communications role-play, which demonstrates important aspects of the language and communications styles for their given newspaper or magazine. Involve the group after each presentation, and again after all presentations, in discussion about the key aspects of the styles they have observed, and the differences in style, language and words between the different readership/social class styles. Other discussion points can be extended to include:
• • • •
the motives and aspirations of the different types of people, their lifestyles and concerns, and purchasing drivers language and style they'd respond to, and be less likely to respond to - typical words, grammar and vocabulary the sort of products and services they buy (the adverts in the publications can be helpful in developing this understanding) refer to demographics and social classifications details, and also to the readership profiles of the publications (which are often easy to obtain from the publications themselves) you can even extend the activity to showing and discussing examples of TV shows for a given type of audience, and exploring demographics information which is available to potential advertisers
refer also to non-verbal communications and the tone of voice, since meaning and feeling extends beyond words alone refer also to the communications and language aspects within the theories of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), and Transactional Analysis
object sculpture team exercise (understanding team dynamics, team-building, team communications, mutual awareness)
This innovative group activity can be used for exploring the dynamics of a team, and developing mutual awareness. The exercise can be used with teams of four, up to a maximum of twenty, although such a large group size increases the time required. Larger groups can be split into teams (ideally work teams) of 4-10 team members. Each person must be tasked before the activity session to bring along three objects or items that have some personal meaning and which also relate to the team. (This is an interesting exercise in itself if the items are shown and their personal and team significance discussed by the team). Next, use a suitably-sized table or a piece of cloth on the floor to act as the base for the sculpture. Team members must then, in their own time, place their objects either all at once or one at a time onto the base. Team members should be instructed to place and adjust the position of their objects in meaningful relation to other team members' objects, and at any time any person can move any objects on the base provided none is removed altogether. Participants should be encouraged to move around the sculpture as it is evolving. This is all done in silence for a period stated before-hand or decided during the activity according to the situation by the facilitator, which will typically be 20-40 minutes. The sculpture is complete at the end of the fixed time period when team members have finished moving the objects and are satisfied with the sculpture. (Alternatively participants can be permitted to discuss the positioning of the objects, which on one hand encourages active team-working during the exercise, but on the other hand will reduce the effect of interference and 'violation', which is obviously a potentially interesting discussion area for afterwards, so choose what you think will be most helpful for the team concerned, or even ask the team whether they'd prefer the sculpture build to be silent or openly discussed.) The facilitator then encourages the team to view the sculpture from different angles and discuss the meaning of the finished work, and how it symbolises the team (dynamics, personality, strengths, weaknesses, style, relationships, mix, opportunities, threats, etc). Then the facilitator encourages the participants to talk about the process - the significance of their personal objects and how they felt about them being moved around. A significant aspect of this fascinating exercise is to reveal hidden personal values and needs, plus the risks of unintentional violation, and the opportunities for nurturing through each person's own needs and desires. This exercise can be used for fun and creative activity, and certainly to promote increased mutual awareness and support. Teams which are able to use their imagination, and able to extract meaning from what is quite an abstract process, should be able to gain substantial insight into the team's
dynamics from this activity. (Ack John Leary-Joyce) See and use the Johari Window model to help team members understand and get the best out of this activity.
team islands exercise (team-building, team-working, planning, negotiation inter-personal skills, creativity, problem-solving and more)
This is a version of the clay islands exercise below (refer to that game for ideas, facilitating, team sizes, etc). Clay is great but is messy and more difficult to manage than this version which uses drawing instead. Gather the team around a large sheet of paper the bigger the group the bigger the paper - four sheets of flip-chart paper joined together makes a good work area for a team of four to ten people. Participants can play as individuals or in pairs. Using felt tip marker pens team members begin by drawing their own section of coastline for one whole team island, with whatever features are desired, so that sections are connected with those of adjacent colleagues to create one big island. Next, team members can mark out the territory working inland from their own sections of coastline with whatever features are desired - residential, industrial, transport, geographical and countryside features - try to agree a suitable scale before this commences, although the facilitator can deliberately leave this vague so as to demonstrate the challenges of scaling, interpretation and compatibility as the activity unfolds. As team members begin to meet the intentions and drawn features of neighbours they will encounter a variety of issues and situations that need discussing, negotiating, agreeing, etc., just like those of any growing community or organisation. These will commonly involve issues about boundaries, roads, communications, resources, culture, environment, cooperation , dispute, factions and decision-making. Many parallels will be observed - between the game and the actual team's work issues and dynamics - and life. This exercise can be used as a sand-alone activity, or at the beginning of a long programme and then repeated at the end to identify the change in communication and understanding that has occurred as a result of the programme or session concerned. For larger groups the activity can be extended to involve the development of a number of islands - one per team - which when completed can then begin to engage - visit, trade, explore, learn from, attack, build alliances, etc - with the other teams' islands. Again refer to the clay islands instructions below for more ideas. This is an excellent exercise for adults in work or training, and also for young people and children. (Ack John LearyJoyce)
positive statements exercises (personal change, attitude development, confidence and assertiveness, emotional maturity, emotional intelligence, personal development)
This activity can be varied to suit the situation. It is a simple and yet potent exercise to encourage and help team members (or children, young adults, anyone really) to think about and hopefully commit to personal change and development, especially if linked to a commitment to take action after the exercise. The exercise will also encourage selfanalysis and goal-setting. The sharing of ideas among team members (if the activity is run so that people discuss their ideas - it can be run 'secretly', so that people keep their thoughts to themselves) also helps to open 'Johari Window' aspects of mutual awareness, which is good for team building and effectiveness. First the facilitator or team leader should refer to the page about relaxation and positive statements or 'scripts' as a method of identifying and achieving personal change. This will give you and the delegates useful background for the session, and also for the ongoing implementation of whatever actions people wish to take forward following the activities. The exercise is then to ask the team members to think about one, two or three aspects of their own personal character (how many is up to the facilitator) that they would like to develop, change, or improve. For example, this might be to develop greater confidence; to manage their time better; to deal with stress better; to be more creative; to be more accurate; to finish tasks on time; to take more exercise; to spend more time with their children; to achieve a qualification; or anything about themselves and their lives, at home or work, that it is reasonable to want to change. Depending on the group, you can give extra guidance as to particular areas to focus on or avoid. Be mindful of the group's comfort zone and keep within it in terms of the personal nature of weaknesses and sensitivities that you expect people to think about, and if appropriate, to divulge to others. If you wish to ask the team members to think of more than one aspect for change, you can guide them to select different types of change, for example, one for work and one for home; or one for now, one for the next month and one for the next three months. Use your imagination and refine your instructions to fit the situation. Bear in mind that certain changes that people seek to make will contain more than one element, which is relevant to the next stage of the exercise. When people have thought and decided on their aspect(s) for change, you can ask them to discuss their ideas and feelings in pairs, so as to validate, confirm, reassess their thoughts. Alternatively you can ask people to keep their thoughts to themselves. It depends on the group as to whether you make the exercise 'open' or 'secret'. Next, ask the team members to translate each desired change into a specific positive statement, which (in keeping with the technique), should be in the present tense. If a desired personal change contains more than one behaviour then it can help to break it down into two more more statements. Broadly, the more ambitious and complex the desired change then the more likely it will need breaking down into separate statements, which could be different behaviours or steps. The facilitator should decide and agree with the delegates whether they wish to share their aims and statements with others. It is helpful to share, because people can then work in pairs to to give and receive feedback as to the changes and positive statements which represent the changes desired. People can also then read out their statements to the group,
as a first step towards using the statements in the way described on the relaxation and positive statements page. There are various ways to review the exercise, the process, feelings and the outputs, and various ways to agree follow-up actions and commitments if appropriate, all of which depend on the group and the situation, and especially the wishes of the individuals involved.
the big word game (understanding and defining aims, purpose, culture, etc)
A very simple game for groups of all sizes, and people of all ages and levels of seniority. People can work as individuals, pairs, or teams of three or more, depending on the situation and outcomes and development required. Playing the game with individuals will limit team discussion and cooperation but will produce individual expression; working in teams will prompt team discussion and generate collective expression. The object of the exercise is for the team members to embellish or decorate a big word on a sheet of flip-chart paper. The word can be the same for each person/team or can be different, and can be chosen by the delegates or the facilitator, depending on the outcomes and particular focus required. Short words work better than long words. The word can be pre-prepared - ie., enlarged and printed in a plain font such as arial, 3-6 inches high, preferably in outline, so as to optimise the opportunity for decoration - and then the printed sheet stuck to the flip-chart sheet, landscape (sideways). Alternatively agree the word with the delegates/team and instruct them to draw it as a simple black outline on the flip-chart sheet. The word should be plain and simple - it's the decoration that matters, and which can be very revealing. Participants must use materials provided, for example, pens, paints, crayons, glitter, glue, textiles - anything, use your imagination - to decorate and embellish the word so as to emphasise what the word means to them, in whatever context the facilitator suggests. The context can be anything that pertains to the session, for example; the organisation's values and positioning, the delegate's personal philosophy (if working as individuals), management culture, customer service effectiveness - any theme will work. This exercise is also ideal for very young people, as well as people at work. The exercise gives delegates the opportunity to express their feelings about the given context, in the way that they choose to decorate the word. Examples of themes/contexts: the organisation, customers, customer service, interdepartmental communications, career opportunities, the school, training and development.
Examples of words for decoration: team, boss, staff, teacher, student, school, service, talk, hear, ideas, change, me, us, work. The results of the exercise can easily be displayed, reviewed and discussed, leading to opportunities for actions, which the facilitator can follow through. See also the flags and maxims exercises below.
different perspectives exercise (developing mutual understanding between job roles, departments, locations, offices; improving cohesion; defining roles; building virtual teams)
This activity is designed to improve team members' understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities, and can produce some exciting output actions. It can also be used in team building workshops and trouble-shooting meetings, also to define roles and responsibilities, develop virtual teams, and to develop inexperienced people's presentations skills and confidence. The exercise can be used at inter-departmental meetings, international conferences where delegates break out into syndicate groups, or in any situation involving people representing different roles or responsibilities who will benefit from learning more about other roles or departments in the organisation, and from the process of building relationships and empathy with other roles (which are represented in the group). This very flexible activity is therefore particularly suited to situations where people need to increase their understanding, appreciation and awareness of other supporting functions. The format is also good for building virtual teams (ie., people who are brought together for a particular project from a variety of functions.) Here are the instructions for the delegates: Each person (or can be a pair) representing a job role (or department or location) should prepare a short presentation of their role (or department, office, region, sector, etc), which they will give to the group, in turn. The presentations can be informal (flip-chart or discussion style) or more formal (powerpoint), depending on the judgement of the facilitator, which is based on the capability and confidence of the delegates, and time available for preparation and delivery. Presenting in pairs is a useful less-threatening way to introduce novice presenters to the experience. A presentation template guide can be issued as follows, which you can adjust to suit your situation:
• • • •
Here's what we do/can do (including personal introductions) Here's why the function is important to our organisation and our customers/the project Our challenges (for example, inter-departmental, strategic, project aims issues) How you can help us (especially looking at connecting and dependent functions)
Allow two minutes after each presentation for initial questions and feedback and to quickly identify any actions or opportunities for follow-up. The facilitator should 'park' major issues or questions for later review rather than interrupt the flow of the presentations. For more senior people you can increase the time allowed for preparation (which implies that this be given as a pre-session instruction and prepared by the delegates prior to the session or meeting), and also a longer period can be allowed for the presentations themselves. In any event, calculate and control carefully the time permitted for presentations, questions and discussion, so that the whole activity fits into the available time-slot. For light-hearted situations, to add extra perspective/colour/fun to the role explanation, you can suggest that the presenters should reference a fictional or real character, for example, from sport, entertainment, cartoons, politics, history; anyone who they feel symbolises the role. The character reference can be incorporated into the presentation style and format to whatever extent the presenter wishes. Depending on the situation and complexity, the facilitator can ask that the preparation be done prior to the session, in which case use these guidelines to create a pre-session preparation instruction sheet. If preparation is to be prior the session, presenters should be encouraged to consult with their departmental/function colleagues if appropriate. Involving people in this way and 'giving them a voice' encourages presenters to think about the issues, and improve connections and understanding. The session is particularly useful in communicating a wide range of perspectives, to a group, up to date, from the horses' mouths so to speak. The exercise also gives inexperienced presenters a useful introduction to presenting and speaking to a group since they are talking about a subject they know well, to a group of peers who will each have to give their own presentations, which ensures good audience support. Finally it is essential that the facilitator enables and ensures that all important issues, questions and actions rising from the session are properly followed up. If the session is required for project-related reasons (especially involving the formation of a new team) then it is important to conclude the presentations activities with a group review discussion and some agreement on an overall action plan. See also the guidelines on running workshops, running meetings, and creating and giving presentations.
pass-the-ball exercise (warm-ups, brainstorming ideas, collecting examples)
This very simple activity format can be used for a wide variety of purposes, for adults in teams or groups in business and organisations, and also for children. The activity is useful where a team of people needs encouraging to suggest examples, brainstorm ideas, or think of words, methods, experiences, etc., and to help people memorise prior learning. As the exercise is physical as well as mental it is also a great warm-up, and a method of enabling people to work together and cooperate very quickly, in an enjoyable way. Simply organise the group or team into a circle, which can be around a table. Ask them to stand up. Throw a ball - any type of ball - to one of the group members, and explain that the ball should be thrown to another team member - in no particular order - upon which the receiving person must call out his or her suggestion, according to whatever theme has been nominated by the facilitator at the start of the exercise. The facilitator should write the suggestions on a flip-chart to review them at the end of the activity. Participants should throw the ball to the next team member, a random, after calling out their idea or suggestion. The exercise can also be used to reinforce prior learning, when participants can be asked to repeat examples or details of what they have learned in a previous session. This includes calling out stages in a particular process or repeating a set of rules or instructions. Possible exercise themes and categories for ideas, examples, suggestions:
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
reasons why customers contact suppliers causes of stress at work ideas for this year's Christmas party things that motivate us/me/staff ideas for a publicity photo-opportunity benefits of a given product or service management challenges that we face (for managers) ways to ask someone to do something for you factors that influence profit ideas to save cost ways to improve quality ways to delight customers outside of their normal expectations positive inspirational words we can use to help others time management tips and ideas examples of using positive words rather than the negative (for example, opportunity versus problem)
Ideal group size is six to ten people. For larger groups split the people into two or more groups and nominate facilitators for each group to record the team's suggestions and ideas.
letting go exercise (illustrating the need to look ahead, to de-clutter, to let go of useless baggage)
Ask the team members each to put their own brief-case or personal organiser on the table in front of them. Then ask each to think about the obsolete material in it that they've been too lazy to throw away (or delete, in the case of a PDA). Then ask them to actually remove the useless items, to screw them up and to put them into a pile in the middle of the table along with everyone else's. Where individual team members are reluctant to admit to keeping hold of any obsolete useless material, ask them to identify the three oldest pieces of material they are still keeping, and to justify their retention to the group. If they succeed then they should be running the session... The act of throwing everyone's collective junk into a bin can be used to symbolise the 'look-ahead' theme, and to reinforce a commitment to de-clutter, to welcome and make the most of change, and not to dwell on the past, to complain about past issues, or regret past mistakes. You can extend or change the exercise to by asking people to produce and scrutinise their own bunch of keys, or contents of handbags (be mindful of sensitivities), or wallets, or even the address books of mobile phones, to illustrate how we all keep unnecessary baggage, which holds us back, weighs us down, and hinders our ability to stay fresh and welcome change. Almost everyone keeps old material - baggage - which weighs us down and clutters our lives. Getting rid of clutter is a vital aspect of staying fresh, looking forward and positively embracing change. Control the baggage from your past, and you control your future. You can if appropriate refer people to the Transactional Analysis model, which provides a useful perspective on how, if we let it, the past can condition our future thinking and behaviour. More importantly, the model shows us that we have a choice either to let our past control us, or to take control of our past, and thereby find freedom in the future. Look also at the personal change page, which provides theory, method and sample script for extending the 'letting go' exercise.
mnemonics exercises (developing the brain; learning, reinforcing and memorising key facts and data)
The word mnemonic (pronounced 'nemonic' )is from Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory. This is a simple and very flexible activity to help a team of people (or children) to learn and remember key facts and information - about anything, and certainly relating
to the particular theme or subject of the team meeting or training session. The exercise is based on the method of memorising through association. Examples of mnemonics using association are:
• • • •
Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain (the initial letters match those of the colours of the rainbow, Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet) The word 'stalagmites' contains an 'M' for mountain (which points up, as opposed to stalactites, which point down) The word 'stationery' (relating to paper) contains an 'er', as does 'paper' (as opposed to the word stationary = 'not moving') Numbers can be remembered by association with similarly shaped images, for example: 1 = wand, 2 = swan, 3 = flying bird, 4 = yacht, 5 = hook, 6 = elephant (trunk), 7 = cliff, 8 = spectacles, 9 = balloon on a stick, 0 = beachball, 10 = stick and a hoop. There are many other alternatives. This memory method enables long numbers to be remembered by creating a story linking the respective images.
The exercise itself is simply to ask team members, individually or in pairs, to create their own mnemonic for a given piece of important information, facts or figures. The information could be related to the theme of the meeting or not, depending on the situation. Examples of types of information that are useful to support with mnemonics are: a process, a theory or model, a formula, technical data, product range, codes and numbers, procedures and policies, document references, etc. Mnemonics should then be presented back to the group and discussed as to their effectiveness. Sharing ideas for memorising key data helps teams on a number of levels: it improves retention of the particular subject matter used in the exercise; it teaches people how to improve their memory, and it gets people working together in creative way. There is also always the likelihood that some particularly good ideas will come out of the exercise, which can then be conveyed and used to reinforce key information across the wider organisation. (Thanks M Caroselli for the prompt)
strengths and goals exercise (personal direction, personal strengths, goal steps, goals, measures)
This exercise helps team members (and individuals) to identify their personal strengths, direction, aims and goal steps, either in their personal life or for their work-related development, or for both combined. First ask participants to draw a line on a sheet of paper, (a large sheet is easier than small one, and a vertical line on a sheet portrait-ways up is probably easier if you are asked, although it's not critical). Ask them then to map onto it, (either or both, depending on the purpose and focus of the activity), up to five major life events and/or the work achievements they have experienced. Then ask them to list the qualities, skills and attributes that they used, and what experience, skills, and values they gained as a result, alongside each event or achievement. When the participants have completed this, ask the individuals to form into pairs or threes, and to
discuss in turn - using the other team members as a sounding board - possible future direction and aims (career, self-development, or both) that their strengths and experiences would enable and help them to achieve. (Ack Fionnghuala Kelly)
career review and planning exercise (personal direction, career path, career counselling)
The purpose of this exercise is to provide participants with an opportunity to reflect on previous employment, focusing on aspects that satisfied and motivated, or dissatisfied and demotivated them, so as to assist deciding about future direction and career choice. The exercise can be given to individuals on a one-to-one basis, or the activity can be run for a group, in which case you should agree with the delegates before-hand (having explained the exercise) whether or not they wish to carry out the exercise privately individually, or to work in pairs, giving and receiving feedback when wanted. Giving and receiving feedback is very useful, provided people are comfortable. First ask the group (or individual) to list their past jobs - each on a separate sheet of paper. If any participant has had more than six jobs ask them to pick their favourite six jobs involving long-stay employment. Next, for each job, ask the participants to identify and list on the respective sheets the aspects of each job that satisfied and motivated them, and in a second column for each job, to list the aspects of the job that dissatisfied and demotivated them. Explain to the participants that their judgement as to what 'satisfied' or 'motivated' them can relate to as many different aspects of their lives that they feel are relevant and important. Encourage people to use their own measures, not ones that have been imposed or received. Criteria can include things such as culture of the organisation, the location of the company, duties and responsibilities, tasks, relationships, rewards, etc. (It can be helpful before the exercise to discuss Maslow, McGregor, Herzberg, Kolb, etc., with the group, to aid their understanding of motivation, fulfilment, and personal style. Next ask participants to refer to their individual job sheet lists, and using these reference points to compile an overall summary two-column list of 'good aspects of previous employment' and 'negative aspects of previous employment'. The final stage of the exercise is to ask the participants to use these good and bad criteria to identify (first in broad terms, and then more specifically) the type of future job, work, career, etc, which is likely to meet the needs that the 'good and bad' summary list represents. Logically people should be identifying future direction and choices which include as many good points as possible, and exclude as many bad points as possible. (Ack FK) Related materials include: Sharon Drew Morgen's Decision Facilitation Process. Susan Piver's 'Hard Questions'. Johari Window (especially where people have a lot to learn about themselves).
memory games - remembering names and faces
Remembering people's names and faces is a very useful ability to develop, and a central part of the technique can form the basis for a simple team exercise. While the full methodology for remembering names and faces include mental approach, repetition, visualisation techniques, it is the technique of association that mnemonics (memory devices) are chiefly based on, and which underpins most memory methods, such as linking (for remembering lots of objects or items). For example: Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain is a mnemonic for remembering the colours of the rainbow (initial letters are associated with those of the colours, red orange yellow etc.) Association works best when the mental image is exaggerated or unusual (it makes the association more memorable), and the same technique can be applied to names an faces, for example: To remember a person called Graham Smith, you could imagine the person as a blacksmith, holding a grey joint of ham. Many names can immediately associated with readily recognisable things, for example, jobs (turner, wheeler, gardener), places (names of towns, counties, etc), geographical features (hill, cliff, dyke, brook, etc), colours (brown, green, etc). Foreign names often produce an image based on their phonetic impression (how they sound), and in any event it always helps you to remember a name if you ask the person how to spell it, and particularly for foreign names, to ask for their origins and meanings, which all help repetition, reinforcement, and the ease by which an association can be created visually and mentally. Virtually all names readily translate into an image of one sort or another if you think about them creatively. Practising the technique increases the speed at which these associations can be created. Weird impossible images and constructions are often more memorable than logical ones, which makes it even easier to create a memorable association for anyone. When using this as a team activity, explain the principles to the group and then have them take a few minutes to come up with their own visual associations for all the other group members' names. The presentation of these ideas is fun and can be revealing (sometimes needing sensitive facilitation), since, if you wish, it leads to discussion between team members about perceptions, as in the Johari Window model, which helps develop mutual understanding and awareness. An excellent reference book on the subject of developing memory techniques is Tony Buzan's 'Use Your Memory' (now BBC Books), which contains 20 pages of techniques for remembering people's names and faces.
playing cards sorting exercise - leadership, teambuilding, problem-solving, communications
This simple team exercise requires two decks of cards with different distinctive coloured backs for each team. Remove the three of spades from one of the decks of each team and store them in an envelope ahead of the exercise. Shuffle the two decks for each team in advance of the activity and place them face up on a different table for each team. (Ensure the teams do not see that the backs are different styles.) Split group into teams of between four and seven people in each team. Do not allow teams to go near the tables at this point. Ask one member from each team to step out of the room. The facilitator then explains to these individuals that their responsibility is to pass on the instructions for the exercise to their teams. Do not mention leadership or that they are leaders in any way. Instructions: The purpose of the task is as follows. Your team has two separate decks of cards which I want you to sort into suits and display 'ace-high', ie., aces facing up on the top of the piles followed by king, queen, etc., down to the two, which should be at the bottom of each pile. You should have eight piles at the end of the activity. You need to tell me that the task is correct and complete when you are finished. Are there any questions? Return to the room and inform groups not to talk until told. Allow the individuals to re-join their teams. Look at your watch, pause and say 'start now'. Wander between the groups and keep looking at the watch which should be in your hand rather than on the wrist. Observations guide for facilitator - points to review after the activity:
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Use of physical resources - Were the teams able to gather around the table and if not did they reposition it? Human resources - How well were team members involved in the task? Did each have a role to play, and if not why not? Time - There was no time limit given. Did they feel there was one? Was this due to body language? Did anyone ask about time? Competition - Did the the teams feel it was a competition between teams and if so why? What about collaboration? If the teams did not know that the exercise was a competition then why did the first team to finish not help the remaining teams to complete the activity? Was the missing card identified? Was the information shared with all members of the team? Did teams inform you at the end of the exercise? Cards - Were the decks separated first by turning them over so the backs were visible or were the decks mixed up? If so why? Passing on of information and seeking clarification - Did the initially selected representatives assume the role of leaders? Did an expert leader emerge because for example they play cards or did leadership rotate. Type of leadership - What type of leadership was exhibited? Facilitative, autocratic, democratic, etc., encourage the teams to discuss this.
You will see other aspects to review, depending on your situation and what happens during the activity. While this team exercise is quick to play, the discussion and review can take longer. There are very many aspects of team-working, collaboration, assumptions, communications, leadership, etc., to explore. You can also encourage the teams to discuss their experiences in their teams and relate what happened to what happens in the workplace when working in teams. (With thanks to Fionnghuala Kelly, psychologist and author of the excellent 'Talking The Talk' book on workplace communications.)
Simple and easy and great for team building, a quiz gets people thinking, is ideal for warm-ups, and encourages people from different teams and work-groups to appreciate each other's strengths, and to co-operate. Here's an example of a quick team trivia quiz, with questions and answers (from the puzzles and games page) in MSWord, ready to play. See the Quizballs quizzes for a growing library of quiz questions and answers for tivia, general knowledge, and specialist subjects, notably the management and business quiz.
the logo game - activity for developing and illustrating team understanding, team values and purpose
A simple quick exercise for teams of all sorts and abilities - even very young children, up to main board directors. Split the group into pairs or teams of three. Teams of more than three will require some guidance about appointing a leader, so as to ensure full participation and reach agreement. Teams of three are ideal. Issue each team with a flip chart sheet of paper and some coloured marker pens or paints. For added texture and fun you can issue additional decorating materials, for example, glitter, sand, glue, bits and pieces of any sort, again anything that fits the context and allows people to express themselves in ways that might normally not come to the surface. Alternatively issue clear acetate sheets and acetate coloured pens (which will require an overhead projector to view the work). The exercise is in three stages: Each team has to discuss and agree a single word that represents the team's (or teams') values, purpose and style. This instruction could alternatively be to decide on a single word to represent the mission, positioning, and/or aims of the team or teams (or of the department, company or school, etc) involved in the activity. The 'theming' of the activity is very flexible and can relate to departments, school classes, whole organizations, new services, anything for which establishing an agreed platform, purpose and philosophy is
important. The facilitator can decide whether to allow hyphenated words. Allowing phrases or short maxims is not recommended because this changes the emphasis and focus of the activity - see the 'maxims' exercise below. Devising maxims is a different activity.) The word must then be drawn by each team or pair very large on the sheet of paper, in such a style, and decorated using whatever design and embellishment the team decides appropriate, so as to represent visually the values, purpose and style of the team or organisation in question. The final stage is for each pair or team to present their decorated logo, and to explain the reasoning behind their designs, which will inevitably provide a basis for much discussion, comment, questioning and mutual clarification. Flip chart sheets are normally better materials for this sort of exercise because they can be subsequently stuck on the walls for all to see, which of course an OHP format doesn't allow. This activity is a great way to start a workshop or small conference, because it immediately opens people's minds, encourages free expression, and enables a rapid increase in mutual appreciation and understanding.
maxims exercise - another activity for developing and illustrating team understanding, team values and purpose
Like the 'logo game' above this is an easily organised exercise for teams of all types and abilities: from young children to grumpy old directors. Split the group into pairs or teams of three, depending on the team-building effect you seek to achieve. Teams of more than three need guidance to appoint a leader, unless you are assessing, illustrating or developing behaviour in the absence of leadership. Issue each team with a flip chart sheet of paper and marker pen. Filp chart sheets can be stuck on the walls to reinforce themes and remind team members of purpose and aims, etc. Alternatively issue clear acetate sheets and acetate pens (which will require an overhead projector to view the work). The exercise is in two stages: Each team has to discuss and agree a maxim or motto (a short catch-phrase) that represents the values, purpose, style mission, positioning, aims, (whatever is appropriate to the session) of the team, department, company, school, etc. The maxim should be written by each team on their sheet of paper or acetate and then presented and explained to the group by each team in turn, with suitable discussion by the whole group.
As with the logo game above, the team's ideas about the team's (or department's, etc) purpose is opened up and made transparent to the group and facilitator, which promotes discussion and increases mutual appreciation and understanding. See also the 'flags' exercise for other variations on these exercise ideas.
'the teams-sorter' - activity ideas for warm up games and energizers
A flexible and physical conference warm-up and energizer for big groups - group sizes of 30 up to 300 or more. Also a great activity for quick introductions and mixing different teams. If you have a large group want a lot of running about and people mixing and meeting, these ideas might help you. You will need plenty of space. If necessary ask the delegates to move all the chairs to the side of the room (they can easily move them back again, which also helps the warm-up process). Ask the group to sort itself into teams according to a set of categories that you call out. A simple example is for people to sort themselves into teams according to the month of the year they were born. This would obviously create twelve teams, assume the group is large enough to produce representatives from each month. If the group size is smaller, choose a category set with fewer divisions, for example, the number of creases on the middle knuckle of their dominant hand (which causes people to think in an unusual and fun way, and is therefore enjoyable and interesting - it's a great 'leveller' too). When formed, give the teams a competitive task or tasks, eg: decide a motto which reflects them as people, which they then shout as a war cry at the other groups (creative and energizing). Or ask the teams must find a 'champion' or 'expert' - someone in their team who excels at something or is remarkable in a particular field, outside of their working life. Each team then announces their 'champion' in turn, at which everyone can applaud and cheer the champion's (hitherto unknown) achievements (great for recognition, etc). You can devise all sorts of other team challenges, perhaps even quick contests or quizzes between teams. (Here's an example of a quick team quiz, ready to play.) It creates more purpose if you can award winners 'tokens' or chitties - these could be anything suitable - paper slips, counters, play money, wrapped sweets, whatever is easy to obtain or produce for the facilitator. You can give people tight timescales for each team-sorting activity and team challenges and tasks, to focus them on quick team-working, decision-making, communications, etc. The exercises can be used also illustrate many aspects of team-building, chaos, forming and working in virtual teams, working under pressure, team-working, risk-taking (especially on the part of non-elected team leaders, champions putting themselves
forward, etc), anticipation, decisiveness, taking responsibility, communications, especially if you are less than precise about some of the category descriptions, eg., eye colour (ie., if you don't tell the group whether green = hazel or is a different colour, then they have to decide for themselves....) It's important to have a strong facilitator who can see (ideally from a good vantage point, on top of a table for example, what's going on, and who can make quick arbitrary decisions (in the style of 'the judge's decision is final and absolute...') You could offer tokens to the winning teams each round according to speed, motto, champion etc (decide by quick cheer-based votes from all teams), and then see which individuals accumulate the most tokens at the end of all the exercises to identify overall winners. You can take tokens away from people or teams who are indecisive, or who fail to help stragglers and waverers, or who generally could do with being taken down a peg or two, especially the CEO and Finance Director... Ideas for team categories into which the group should sort itself (each one is a separate activity, with our without a time limit - you decide):
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• • •
month of birth (obviously would create up to 12 teams depending on total group size) creases on a given knuckle of a finger, or number of rings on all fingers favourite colour (depends on category description, if given - you could leave it up to the group to interpret and decide) sweet, sour, bitter, salt (four teams - the way they interpret this is interesting, ie., description of the person or their taste in food) signs of the zodiac eye colour hair colour think what is and do what is, think what could be do what is, think what is and do what could be, think what could be and do what could be (an interpretation of the four temperaments - very interesting exercise in its own right) favourite food days a week that exercise is taken car colours
For a short energiser exercise you can use just one category. Extend and make the activity more challenging and sophisticated by using several team-sorting sessions, plus team challenges. As a facilitator you'll have a lot of fun just thinking of other categories, and you could certainly include some work-related categories too, although non-work related are often more interesting and create better mixing of teams. The extent to which you stipulate and
describe the categories is up to you - you can be very specific, or leave it to the whole group to interpret and decide. If you are leaving it to the group to decide you can tell them this, or not - it depends how much freedom, chaos and responsibility you seek to create and assess. The type of category you nominate by which teams should sort themselves should obviously relate to the total group size, number of teams, and team member numbers, that you might wish to create for any particular team activity. Think about how many teams a particular category is likely to produce, and ensure it fits your purpose. It's not essential to ask teams to undertake a task each time they sort themselves; the sorting is an activity in its own right - it all depends on your time available and aims of the exercise. Many of the team building activity ideas below can be used as challenges or team competitions to be given to the formed teams. Select exercises that relate to your theme or purpose of the conference or training event. This type of activity would also integrate well with the 'pick a potato' game, where at the start of the session everyone is given a potato (or apple, orange etc) to memorise as their own, and then puts them all into a big box. At the end of the session tip all the potatoes onto the floor, after which the delegates teams must go and find their own potatoes (against a time limit ideally) and then (optionally) form into teams of some appropriate category, (for example, favourite potato dish: fries, roasted, baked, boiled, mashed, etc.) Any delegates unable to agree/find their potatoes must join the potato-heads group and lose a token (I bet there'll be none). This is a very flexible game format - use your imagination.
monopoly® variations games (financial understanding, business and commercial skills, negotiating, team building, etc)
Using the classic Monopoly® board game, especially if you adapt the rules for your own training and development purposes, is an exciting and stimulating way to identify, teach and develop various commercial, financial and business skills. The game features many business and financial aspects and so provides a fun way to observe, illustrate and develop lots of skills and techniques that traditional training finds quite challenging. Financial training can be a dry subject - bring it to life with a game of monopoly - for individual contestants or people playing in pairs or teams.
Here are examples of Monopoly board game adaptations:
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Owning 1/2/3 properties gives a right to buy the remainder of the available set at normal value/stipulated discounted value. Negotiation to buy property from opponents is allowed at any time/stipulated 'open-market' times/when it's your turn to roll the dice. Time limit per 'turn'. Increase money allocated at game start, and/or when passing 'Go'. Allow individuals to 'partner' and pool resources. Place a time limit on the game - winner(s) decided according to money/total assets accumulated. Allow games to run from one meeting or training session to another (obviously record the players' or teams' position when play is suspended). Allow loans to be taken out from the bank at stipulated rates. Allow contestants to act as banker for a stipulated number of 'turns' during which time the can loan money to other players at their own terms, and keep profits (or losses, for example any bad debts) arising during their tenure. Encourage/stipulate players to employ zero-risk/high-risk/low-risk/suicidal-risk/ strategies according to personality type or preference, or against personality type or preference. Structure teams using service or project teams from the organisation, for whom cooperation and team-work helps performance. Structure teams to represent different departments, for example Sales versus Accounts, versus HR, etc., - observe and highlight the different styles and strategies (pairs versus pairs is fine; three is maximum/optimum per team - four and over per team can create 'passengers' who get left out). Require teams to write a strategy before they start play, and to be able to change strategy only by re-writing it and submitting to the facilitator for approval.
You'll be able to devise your own variations. Make sure you clarify the rules and ensure any reviews cover relevant and appropriate learning points. You can buy Monopoly online - a decent second-hand game is perfectly adequate for business training and team building purposes. If the businessballs Amazon link is out of stock, try Ebay or another online games seller. (Thanks for prompt J Ludbrook)
coaching role-play game (teach and practise coaching techniques, promote individual strengths and values in teams)
This activity is an easy fun role-playing exercise for developing coaching skills and demonstrating coaching techniques. The key coaching skills are:
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active (empathic, interpretive) listening to understand the person's abilities, purpose, measures of success and/or attainment of a new capability, and the person's best learning style and method helping the other person to see and understand the nature of their learning need themselves helping the other person to identify and commit to sensible achievable learning actions and objectives being non-judgemental, and not imposing the coach's own methods unless absolutely welcome and appropriate
So a coaching role-play should logically enable participants to practise and demonstrate these capabilities. This requires role-playing the coaching of something that the coach understands, and can perform, and which the 'coachee' does not. For example:
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using a computer programme or programme function performing a physical or mental task, not necessarily work-related any other special ability that the coach has which the coachee does not, such as performing a card trick, or telling a joke well, juggling some fruit (fruit is much more fun than tennis balls), or playing a musical instrument (subject to availability of the instruments - in any group of ten the chances are that at least one will ba able to play a guitar or recorder), etc.
Participants can be given a couple of minutes to decide their capability to use to coach someone (everyone is particularly good at something), write it down, then instruct the 'coachees' to pick their coach and task - blind or open choice, whatever will work best. Group observation and review is a very valuable part of the activity, and should discuss how well the coaching has performed in the four key coaching areas. The exercise is also useful for developing a team's knowledge and respect for team members' otherwise hidden capabilities and talents, which helps the process of team building, mutual understanding, and thereby communcations and relationships. For more guidance about organising role-playing activities look at the role-playing games section.
Dr KRS Murthy's advanced method of intensive brainstorming develops deep team understanding and team-building, as well as generates extensive creative outputs, and helps reveal Johari Window hidden areas of knowledge of self, others and what others think of oneself. If you want a team-building activity to really get your team thinking in depth, and developing enormous mutual understanding see the Kaleidoscope Brainstorming techniques article.
lessons in chaos game (team building, warm-ups, illustrating chaos and chaotic systems and their effects, communications and team member roles, and lots more)
This activity uses or is based on the PIT card game or home-made game materials for a card-collecting and energetic trading game using a similar principle to the PIT game. You can find the actual PIT card game on the web either new or second-hand. It's a great game of chaos and confusion with lots of different training, learning and team building uses. The PIT card game is available via Amazon, on the gifts and prizes ideas page. The usual object of the game is, after shuffling and dealing out the cards, for teams or individual players to collect a full set of the same suit/type by 'blind' trading/swapping cards with opponents, by shouting and holding aloft the number of cards for trade, without revealing what the cards actually are. See the note about shuffling and dealing at the end of this game item. The winning team is the first to collect a set of all the same cards, which they should claim by shouting (whatever - their team name for example). You can introduce two or three 'rogue' cards (in the PIT game there is a bull and a bear) which attract penalty points for teams left holding these when another team wins. Rogue cards can be exchanged singly or amongst any number of other cards of the same suit. A winning team either ignores possession of a rogue card, or you could give a bonus for this, as in the actual PIT game, which tests the nerve somewhat of retaining one. Using rogue cards means that when cards are initially shuffled and dealt, some teams will have a card more than others, and will possess an extra odd card or rogue card when and if they win by collecting a full set of one suit, which is allowable. Strictly speaking a player may only swap cards of the same suit, not a mixed batch, but people often cheat without encouragement at all, which makes the gam ideal for chaotic demonstrations and learning examples. The PIT game or especially home-made versions using a similar theme works well with very big groups, and the atmosphere is enhanced if you offer a suitably appealing prize to the winners, to bring out the most competitive behaviours in people. Alternatively/additionally you can threaten the losers with a 'forfeit' or other light-hearted booby prize. For more chaos use two sets of PIT, make more cards of each collectible 'suit' - (the standard PIT game has nine cards in each suit). For bigger teams and groups 12-15 or
even 20 cards enable a bigger game to be played. For still more chaos encourage/permit cheating, shouting, standing on tables, etc. You can also introduce special rules to heighten chaos, eg.,
• • •
ring a bell half-way through requiring players to swap a specified number of team members between teams (and the cards they hold) causing confusion to team goals and team communications. instruction for teams to exchange assembled collections with other teams (undoing good work to date and threatening sense of purpose and achievement) announce a period by which cards can only be traded using foreign language. announce trading is only allowed in 3 or 4 or 6 card-lots (whatever number takes your fancy - this wrecks team trading strategy and later in a round hampers any team which gets down to its last three or fewer cards required, because they'd then have to reverse and trade back already collected cards in order to meet the 3/45 or 6 card rule). announce at the start of the game a 100 point (or other suitable value) bonus for loudest trader award each round (judge's decision is final), and/or a 100 point bonus for most animated trader per round. Etc...
Use your imagination. The game provides a great fun basis for illustrating all sorts of organizational and team-working dynamics, problems and experiences. You can use the activity with quite big groups, for example, 40-50 people can be split into teams of say five, six, or seven people - generally the more people per team the more chaos. Normally to develop organization and management experience you would suggest teams elect traders/collectors who go out into the melee to swap cards, and one or two collector/coordinator/compiler/organizers who give the instructions to the traders as to what cards to collect. Therefore to maximise chaos and chaotic systems examples don't give them this advice and start the game giving the teams very little preparation time to organize team tactics (another lesson: poor preparation = more chaos). Strictly speaking you should play the game with the same number of collectible 'suits' (card types) as the number of teams, but for added chaos, and a potentially unwinnable game have one set less card 'suits' than the number of teams, which dramatically reduces the chances of any team managing to collect an entire set. The actual PIT game has seven suits of nine cards each, which is adequate for up to seven teams of threes, but for larger teams and added interest you could use two PIT game cards, or make your own larger sets of cards - or simply pieces of paper - with 'suit' symbols or words on them to reflect the players' business or environment. Teams of three naturally self-organise and self-manage very well, so to demonstrate chaos use teams of four or more.
As a guide try to allow at least 3 cards per team member, therefore, for example, if working with six teams of teams five team members make six sets of at least 15 cards. This way there's plenty to do for each team member. After the game, or each round, or even during a round, involve all the teams in the review of the points of note and the experiences and lessons that you want to highlight. An example of a useful review technique is to ask individuals and teams to talk about or present their reactions and feelings while subject to chaos and disorganization. You can also involve the teams in suggesting ways to change the rules to increase or reduce chaos, or indeed to demonstrate any other aspect of organizational systems. If you are a team leader, facilitator or trainer seeking to use this sort of exercise for a big group, the best way to plan the activity - whether for chaos or management experience is to get hold of a PIT game or to make your own set of cards, and play a game with a few friends or colleagues - this will help you to decide how best to use it, and to decide how to flex the structure and game design to produce the desired effects. Some other PIT game adaptation pointers: The more on a team, the more chaos is experienced. However, the bigger the team the more 'passengers' (team members with nothing to do) there'll be towards the end of the game/round when the final few cards are being sought. If you can't avoid having very large teams then issue an extra instruction as to how 'passengers' should assist cardholding traders towards the end of the game/each round. If you don't know how many people will be in the total group until the day, you can decide on the day how to structure teams and suits etc. If in doubt make more cards per suit than you think you'll need, say 20 or 30 cards per suit, just in case you end up with very big teams (up to 15 or so) - so that you'll have plenty of team-structure options and ensure even big teams have plenty to do - It's important to avoid having passengers, which would result from having too few cards. Remember: More teams = more chaos, so try to have as many teams as possible (the lesson is that more teams and relationships need more organizing and communications). Also: Minimal guidance and organizational advice to the teams = more chaos (another lesson). There will be more chaos (resulting from from difficult communications) if the cardcollector(s)/holder(s)/coordinator(s) are in a different place/room to the trading area this will require people to run back and forth and will be very physical as well as chaotic. Alternatively the trading area can be in the middle of a large area, surrounded by the collectors/coordinators for each of the teams. You can also run the exercise in two different ways during the same activity (firstly traders and collectors all in the same room, and then the second round put the traders in a
different room to the collector/coordinators). This will emphasise the effect of communications logistics upon chaos. You could also have a have a contingency to change it half way through a round of the game (ie remove the collector/coordinators to a different room to the traders, which suddenly introduce a big difficulty to the exercise - the lesson is that a change in the structure requires reorganisation of communications and process). By separating traders from their team's collectors, the exercise then takes on some of the communications aspects of the 'communications corridor' exercise, which is more physical because of the running around, especially if the rooms are on different floors. The complexities you add depend on how much variety and logistical challenge you want to include (which of course increase the facilitation burden and risk of course, so 'if in doubt, leave it out'). If during play things threaten to become too 'well managed' you can intervene and disallow any practices that are enabling smooth activity, for example ban 'runners' communicating and taking cards between teams's collectors and traders, and insist that traders need to 'run', or vice versa. On which point you could/should inform teams of your right to do this (ie., the facilitator's right to move the goalposts) during the activity. This highlights another lesson: failure to agree sound ground-rules, goalposts moving = chaos. If you have time available the activity is best played with a number of rounds - this enables you to increase the team competition element - you can keep a score on a blackboard or flip chart. You can award points for 2nd and 3rd if you want - the scoring is very flexible - however you think it will work best. You can stop the round when a winner wins and then identify 2nd 3rd 4th etc based on which teams have collected most cards. Even when you've run the exact exercise before it is difficult to anticipate length of a round because the game is so chaotic. Sometimes a team will win quickly, other times it goes on for ages or gets blocked because a team decides to collect mischievously some of each suit (another lesson in chaos factors which you can introduce or suggest). 5 minutes is a reasonable maximum to impose per round. If there is no winner in the time allotted, the winning team is the one with most cards (or points of same, if you are ascribing points values to the different suits) collected of their chosen suit or set. As a final pointer, give yourself the right to intervene as the facilitator - this will enable you to flex the activity while it's happening - you can of course justify this because intervention and disruption is a perfectly valid factor in chaos, and so it can be in it's demonstration. A note about shuffling and dealing before and during the game: Shuffling and dealing large numbers of home-made cards or pieces of paper can be time-consuming, especially
given last minute decisions about how many sets and cards to use. If so then think about using a alternative method of distributing the cards - you don't necessarily have to shuffle and deal per se, provided each team starts with a randon combination of card types. For example you could place the cards in piles face down on tables and have each team member or leader go and take blind a certain number equating to the team's allocation. This could be done between rounds also, when time and facilitation pressures make shuffling and dealing difficult. Alternatively find a way to involve all teams returning their collected card sets in a suitable grouping or piles on a table, the act of which effectively shuffles the cards, ready for the next round. (Thanks for prompt KW)
turn the tables exercise (warm ups, ice-breakers, team rotation games)
This is an enjoyable way to introduce a large group of delegates to each other, and also a way of planning and organising team groupings or syndicate break-out sessions on a rotating basis to ensure that every person meets, and plays games or completes exercises, with everyone else. This way of organising teams is a great alternative to simply asking every person to stand up and introduce themselves individually. Give each person in the group a letter of the alphabet as per the matrix below, which provides a basis for organising and rotating the membership for teams of five, for a whole group of up to twenty-five people. The model is contributed by Christopher Barrat, based on maths by the Bernie Batmann, and this contribution is gratefully acknowledged. Issue the matrix to all team members and explain that it provides the plan for changing teams and meeting new people, or playing whatever games or exercises have been arranged. The matrix below has a,b,c,d,e only moving tables once. If you want them to move tables more than this then alter the table/team numbers in the second column for each round. table/team 1 table/team 2 round 1 table/team 3 table/team 4 table/team 5 round 2 table/team 1 table/team 2 a f k p u a b b g l q v f g c h m r w k l d i n s x p q e j o t y u v
table/team 3 table/team 4 table/team 5 table/team 1 table/team 2 round 3 table/team 3 table/team 4 table/team 5 table/team 1 table/team 2 round 4 table/team 3 table/team 4 table/team 5 table/team 1 table/team 2 round 5 table/team 3 table/team 4 table/team 5 table/team 1 table/team 2 round 6 table/team 3 table/team 4 table/team 5
c d e a b c d e a b c d e a b c d e a b c d e
h i j g h i j f h i j f g i j f g h j f g h i
m n o m n o k l o k l m n l m n o k n o k l m
r s t s t p q r q r s t p t p q r s r s t p q
w x y y u v w x x y u v w w x y u v v w x y u
exercise creation pointers (prompts for creating brainstorming, team building or learning exercises)
When you next want to create a session for brainstorming or teambuilding, try creating your own, or work with a team to do it. Creating your own exercises and activities just requires a little imagination. Here are some reference pointers to help the thought process: These elements can be selected and combined to act as a kind of formula to help with the creative process:
Choose sense(s)/media - sight, emotional feeling, touch, smell, taste, sound/hear, draw, write, act, imagine, discussion, etc. Choose a theme - communications, relationships, creativity, process, planning, experience, influences, barriers, leverages, opportunities, counselling, problemsolving, etc. Outputs: ideas, discovery, plans, actions, learning, questions, relationships, understanding, solutions. People and logistics (how the exercise works, is briefed and followed up): teams, pairs, threes, leaders, scenarios, context, materials, rooms, groups, timings, review, feedback, action commitments, etc.
paper planes and aims game (goal-setting, visualising success, creativity, team building, motivation, building belief and commitment)
This exercise is appropriate for any open-minded group and would be especially beneficial for young people, even children. The activity encourages the team members to think about and set personal aims, and commit to them in a memorable and meaningful way. The exercise also enables positive encouragement and mutual support among the team towards meeting each person's aims. First, ask everyone in the group to set themselves a personal achievable short term goal. The aims can be to do with higher performance, quality standards, problem solving or any other challenges in their work or life. Supply the team some colored paper, marker-pens, glitter, scissors, stickers and (optionally) directions/instructions for paper airplane models. When all team members have decided on their goals short term goal(s), ask them to choose a paper airplane design and make the plane. Ask them to write their goal, with a few points or steps as to how they will achieve it, on the inside of the paper plane (which enables people to keep their goals private). Then you, as the facilitator, tutor or team leader, write a positive encouraging comment on the outside of every person's plane - the emphasis should be on encouraging comments, for example 'I believe you can do this', or 'I know this is something you can achieve', etc. Optionally you can involve the group as well in writing
positive inspiring comments on the outside of each other's planes. Allow the group to continue finishing the decoration of the outside of their planes. The exercise enables each team member to take pleasure in visualising their own aims, and to give and receive lots of positive encouragement. Finally, the activity provides the opportunity to go outside as a team and fly the planes, and maybe to award a few prizes; longest flight, best design, best trick, etc. Thanks Laura Feerer for contributing this activity idea for building belief, commitment and teams. She suggests you can add some additional inspiration by referring to the song, 'I Believe I Can Fly', which would be appropriate I'm sure for certain groups, and a relevant quote from which is as follows: I believe I can fly I believe I can touch the sky I think about it every night and day Spread my wings and fly away I believe I can soar I see me running through that open door I believe I can fly.
life-raft (group selection recruitment game, negotiation and presentation, relationships, appreciating other people's strengths, team-working and decision-making)
A simple but sophisticated game for a team of six to ten people. The scenario is that the team is stranded in a life-raft which is too small to hold everyone without sinking. Someone (or you could say two or three people - it's flexible) must to be thrown overboard (or eaten, if you prefer the really macabre version) - the group must decide who is/are to be the unfortunate victim(s). First delegates have the opportunity to present their reasons why they should stay (the facilitator can decide what media is to be used, but watch out for the time - this part needs to be reasonably brief). Delegates can be directed either to base their presentations on their own real selves, or if a less emotive approach is required, to adopt the personality of a character from history, or a TV soap, etc. The facilitator must decide how best to instruct the team on this aspect. After presenting their own cases, the group then debates people's relative values and strengths. Within this debate individuals can continue to argue their own cases if they wish, after which the group makes its decision. Set a time limit for each presentation, the debate and the decision, for example 2 mins per presentation; 20-30 mins for the debate; 5 mins for the decision or vote. The facilitator can guide the group as to the decision method, for example secret ballot, show of hands, or preferably to leave the group to decide the decision process, as this highlights other interesting behaviours and capabilities within the team. This is also an interesting exercise to use in group selection recruitment as an interaction game. Points to review if used in other than a group selection context:
• • • • • • •
Quality and effect of individual presentations How individuals behave and respond to threat and possible rejection. How different personality types within the group react in different ways to the debating and decision process. How the group organised itself to manage the difficult discussion process. The different perceptions among the team of relative strengths, weaknesses, values, etc. The way the group decided on how to make the decision (unless told how by the facilitator). The reaction of the team members and colleagues of the victim(s) after the vote balance between relief and sympathy.
Other points to observe, especially if using this as an interactive group selection recruitment game:
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Individual behaviour and style. Participation levels. Constructive, supportive input ("How can we best approach this...?") versus negative contributions ("This is a stupid game...") Natural leaders. Natural process checkers. Results driven players. Compassion and empathy. Presentation skills. Negotiation skills. Awareness of process and consensus principles. Logical and objective assessment of relative values and capabilities. Integrity. Awareness of need to preserve mix of team abilities. Bullying, ganging-up, and defence and reaction to these. Sexism, racism, prejudice, and defence and reaction to these.
johari window exercise (self-awareness, selfdevelopment, relationships, team understanding, team building)
For any size group, any age, any role, provided people know or work with each other. Put the group into pairs or threes. Each person takes turns to find out from their partner(s) something in the hidden area, known to others but not known to self. Explain the Johari Window concept first - show and issue the diagram - and explain why it's positive to open the hidden areas, so that as much as possible can be known to self and to others. Explain no-go areas such as intimate personal things, things that could be hurtful or destructive, and subjective judgements. Encourage people to be objective and non-
judgemental, forgiving, and tolerant in the way they approach the exercise, and in their own self development and in helping others. Review by having people tell the whole group what they've learned about themselves, and how this might give opportunity for positive change in the future. You will need to be on hand move among the teams, keep a watchful eye, to facilitate, interpret and reassure hurt feelings where necessary. You can extend the exercise by having people tell their partner(s) something that is known to self (about oneself) and hidden to others (which is also an alternative and less emotive exercise than opening the unknown to self part of the window). Take care - Johari is a powerful instrument.
j'accuse (conflict management, johari window development, developing relationships, mutual understanding) use this activity with care!
Use this activity only if you are confident you can control it. Refer to the Johari Window - it provides a the basis for interpreting and gaining positive development from this exercise. Ask people to tell each other in pairs, (or two-on-one, three-on-one, if you wish to create more pressure) about their (the other person's) weaknesses, failings, dislikable traits, wrong past actions or decisions, etc., (again adjust the brief according to sensitivities). Arranging the groups beforehand is essential. Having participants and observers makes the activity more controllable and less likely to result in a free-for-all. You must plan to make this exercise ultimately positive, in which people get to learn more about what's in the 'known to others, and unknown to self' Johari quadrant (which isn't all necessarily bad, but you can ask for only negatives to be pointed out for the sake of demonstrating conflict). Delegates should also be encouraged to think about what causes conflict and emotional upset, and how to avoid, avert and diffuse it. During the exercise the 'victims' can be encouraged to be defensive (rather than tolerant and absorbent), and the 'accusers' to be aggressive and confrontational, if you want to create more 'conflict' for people to deal with. Beware of ending up upsetting people - use a bell or whistle to bring people back to sensible rational adults (and to inject some timely humour) if things threaten to get too heated. If you wish to de-personalise the activity ask people to role-play the accusations and defensive reactions. Showing and explaining the Johari model after rather than before the activity increases the likelihood of emotional and natural reactions during the exercise (ie., the more you explain and prepare, the more objective people will be). Afterwards (or before) you could also refer people to the Emotional Intelligence and Transactional Analysis concepts to demonstrate how objectivity helps avert conflict. Please don't hold me responsible for the cost of cleaning the blood off the walls.......
je t'adore (johari window development, team-building, relationships, emotional intelligence development)
A positive alternative or supporting exercise for the 'conflict' activity above. Again refer to the Johari Window model. Ask people in pairs to tell each other something good about the other person that the other person will not know themselves. It's basically an activity in which genuine compliments or feedback is given about a person's traits, past actions, behaviours, etc., - the positive feedback can be about anything. This widens the Johari quadrant: 'known to others and unknown to self'. The act of giving and receiving genuine positive feedback is also hugely enriching and motivational. You can review afterwards how people felt when giving and receiving praise, and contrast this with the negative effect of giving insensitive criticism. This exercise can be used in conjunction with the negative feedback activity above to further emphasise the contrast between praise and blame. Useful reference models are also Transactional Analysis and Emotional Intelligence.
there ought to be a law.. (creative thinking, recruitment selection activity, ethics and morality discussions)
A simple exercise for individuals, pairs, threes or a whole group exercise: the aim of the activity is to suggest a new law, with reasons for it. The game can be extended into a clear-communications and writing exercise, by asking the delegates to write the new law in clear terms that explain it absolutely clearly, with minimum leeway for misunderstanding or misinterpretation. The clarity of the writing can be tested by group questions and review. This exercise is particularly relevant for people who will benefit from improved awareness of communicating, delegating and briefing skills. Also helpful for people with responsibility for writing instructions and manuals. Also a good personality and attitudinal indicator exercise when used as an activity for individual candidates in recruitment group selections.
mottos (warm-ups, ice-breakers, creativity, selfexpression, johari window development)
For teams, whole groups or individuals. Ask the team(s), individuals or work-group to decide on a motto or maxim that reflects their values and purpose, etc. Individuals or teams then present their motto to the group, and discussion can take place as necessary. You can be specific about precisely what the motto must represent, or leave the brief more open, depending on the session aims. Timings are flexible, to suit the situation. This is a very flexible activity. As an extension of the exercise, from one session to the next in
a week or a month's time you can ask the individuals or teams to find the Latin translation.... For inspiration you could show some examples:
• • • • •
"E Pluribus Unum" - the original motto of the United States meaning "One from many" or "One from many parts" "Search, Solve and Succeed" - Pioneer Primary School, Singapore. "Per Ardua Ad Astra" meaning "Through Adversity to the Stars" - the British Royal Air Force "Per Veritatem Vis" meaning "Strength Through Truth" - Washington University "Securior Quo Paratior" meaning "The Better Prepared, The More Secure" Somerset Rossiter family
flags exercise (creativity, self expression, warm-ups, inter-team or inter-departmental relationships)
Lots of flexibility in this activity. It can be used for individuals or teams of any sorts. The object of the exercise is simply to design a flag that symbolises the person or the team (or group or department, etc). Materials required are just some flip chart sheets and colouring pens or paints. The exercise can be used as a quick warm up or ice-breaker, say five minutes to create the flags, and a couple of minutes each to present and review; or a longer team or group activity, requiring 10-15 minutes discussion, development of ideas, creating the flag design, and then as much time as is necessary to present and discuss the reasons and reactions. When invited to express themselves in a completely new and different medium, people find it easier to really think about their qualities. The exercise is particularly useful to begin inter-departmental workshops. Teams have to think about what they stand for, how they wish to be seen, and other teams have a chance to see and understand colleagues or other departments in a different way. As an exercise for work groups this is a good prompt for debate within the team, and then afterwards between teams when flag designs are presented and reviewed. This exercise is also excellent as an individual activity for children and young people of all ages. It can also be used for pairs or threes of friends, boys groups, and girls groups; the possibilities really are endless. As an alternative to flags, a coat of arms could be given as the design task. Obviously encourage participants to include symbols and image icons, as well as colours and shapes.
partnership flags (partnership, cooperation, merging, integrating teams)
If you want to focus still further on cooperation and partnership development, you can extend the above 'Flags' exercise to require teams or individuals to work together (in pairs
or threes or more - however many parties you want to integrate) to combine their designs, ie., to produce a 'partnership flag' based on and preserving the essential themes of the original individual designs of the partnership members.
commitment to change (making things happen, personal change, etc)
A simple exercise for any size group, and a great warm-up or ice-breaker too. Split group into pairs. Task each individual to agree with their partner something about themselves that they would like to change - probably something that they have known to be in need of improvement or change for some time. Each individual clarifies understanding of the change action with their partner, with suitable measure and timescale (use the SMARTER rules as a reference - it's on the acronyms and delegation sections), and then each person makes a personal commitment to the partner to make the change. Each partner is responsible for following up this commitment and checking that the change action has been completed (which happens after the training course, meeting, gathering, etc). The point of the exercise is to demonstrate the importance of specifics, accountability and commitment, being the ingredients of any successful change. Refer to SMARTER again in the review of change actions committed, so as to confirm the viability of each action committed.
best practice development forum
This exercise builds teams and produces good organizational outputs. The activity can also be run as a virtual team building game for staff in different locations using a team conference call or video conferencing. Ideally participants will perform similar roles or at least perform roles with common aspects (if not participants should have good facilitative skills). The aims of the exercise is to share and develop best practice, ideas, and/or solutions to common problems. This provides a useful and collectively enjoyable experience, with some good outputs for the organization when best practice is identified or developed, and can then be implemented. Split large groups into teams of three or four. Over four per team makes full involvement unlikely. For example, if the total group size is twelve, run four exercises concurrently in four teams of three. At the end of the exercise each team leader presents results of their discussions and ideas or solutions development to the whole group. You could then look at implementing most viable suggestions, create project groups and then pilot groups. Establish an emphasis on working together to identify and implement constructive change, through the sharing of ideas and experience. The activity can become a regular development forum; a place where challenges, opportunities, local problems, etc., can be brought along and collective ability used to find and apply solutions. Teams can be changed for each team building session. It's important to clarify the precise aims of each exercise before it begins. Teams
can take a few minutes to do this prior to commencing the activity. Take special care with explaining and clarifying if people of different nationalities are involved. Ensure also that team members explain and understand each other's situations and processes (which in itself is another helpful output from the exercise). Ensure adequate support for all initiatives taken forward to implementation stage, so that participants see that their work is resulting in some positive effect. Securing support from up-line management prior to the process will help this, as will obtaining commitment from up-line management where possible for initiatives considered worthy of implementation. See also the notes on workshops, brainstorming, and project management, which can be relevant to various stages of this activity.
Here's a very simple and effective game for team-building, team-working, building cooperation, problem solving, leadership, and decision-making skills. Also great for an ice-breaker and warm-up activity. The game can be used with with a group of 10 or more, and requires only a deck of cards. Explain these simple rules of the exercise: One card will be handed out face down to each delegate. Players must not look at their cards until the game starts. The aim of the exercise is for each person to put together the best threecard hand by joining with two other delegates. Where total group size is not exactly divisible by three, players need not be exclusive to one group of three, ie., any player is permitted to be part of more than one three-card hand. When the total group is exactly divisible by three this rule is optional, to be decided by the facilitator. A requirement for exclusive sets of three will tend to increase the competitive aspect of the exercise. Card hands are best ranked according to poker rules, which are open to different interpretation so it's essential to agree the ranked order of possible hands before the game starts, to avoid any doubt as to the winners. For three cards, a suggested example ranking according to statistical odds (thanks DB), which you should circulated or write on a flipchart, is, lowest to highest: highest card, a pair, flush (three cards same suit), straight or run (eg., 8,9,10), three of a kind (eg., three kings), top hand being a straight or running flush (eg., 5,6,7 of hearts). Also clarify highest suits, (eg., lowest to highest: diamonds, clubs, hearts, spades). The best hand possible would therefore be king, queen, ace of spades. Set a time limit, by which all delegates must be grouped in threes, each group representing a three-card hand. A minute creates a pressurised activity; three minutes less so - generally the larger the total group size the longer the exercise needs, subject to a five minute maximum for very large groups. Variations can be used, which makes it more interesting if you want to repeat the exercise later with the same group, eg:
• • •
Each delegate receives two cards, requiring three players to create a six card hand (clarify rules accordingly). Instruct the group to find three or four other players, making four- or five-card hands. Allow each player to change their card once with a card from the top of the remainder of the deck, face down of course (exchanged cards go to the bottom of the deck). Upturn the card at the top of the remainder of the deck and stipulate that each hand must include that card (in which case three players will create four-card hands). For very large groups use two decks, and stipulate teams of five, (this is a great conference warm-up - you could stick a card underneath each delegate's seat, before delegates arrive.) Plus any other variations of your own you wish to try.
Facilitator and delegates can review various behaviours after the activity - eg., leadership, teamwork, negotiating, and decision making under pressure. This simple game will break the ice, and get people out of their seats with minimal input from the facilitator. Follow up with a group discussion about aspects of the exercise relevant to the main session or purpose. (Adapted from an idea submitted by S Enter) For additional interest you can also refer to the fascinating origins of playing cards and court cards, for example, did you know that the name and symbol of the English spades card (contrary to most people's assumption that the word simply relates to a spade or shovel tool) instead developed from the French pike weapon (ie., the shape is based on the business-end of the spear-like pike), and the name for the Spanish version of the card, which was 'espados' meaning 'swords'.
newspaper bridge the gap team exercise (planning, team-working, team building, etc)
Newspaper construction exercises are always reliable, flexible and inexpensive activities for team building (and planning, leadership, team-working, etc) - see the main newspaper construction exercises and tips below, and they are very transferable when you want games activities ideas to cascade or spread usage through organizations or departments. If your aim is to build teams and relationships, especially inter-departmental, mix up the groups, so team members don't already know each other. For an extra twist to the usual towers or bridges exercises below, and ideal for large groups, work with teams of 6. Split each team in half. The team task is for each half-team of three (or can be pairs) to build their half of a newspaper bridge so that it connects and can be joined to the other half of their team's construction, to meet in the middle between two tables. Preferably (this is at the facilitators discretion) sticky tape must not be used to fix each end of the bridge to the table - ie., bridges must be self-supporting. The winning team can be quickest or
strongest supporting structure - it's up to the facilitator - you can add the requirement for the bridge to support an object - a lemon or a chocolate bar for example. (The secret is to build up and out so that each side of the bridge supports the other - two horizontal halves generally collapse unless each is extremely strong. Tightly rolled struts make stronger constructions. Establish game rules that prevent both halves of the teams simply making a single bridge fixed to each table with sticky tape, which would defeat the challenge of the exercise. Control the level of difficulty of the game by the distance between the tables and the number of sheets issued.) And in similar vein the next activity:
newspaper domes big group exercise (team building and team working, leadership, creativity and design)
For one great big group team building exercise, split the whole group into pairs or threes, the task being to build a dome or roof structure/frame and cover it with newspaper and sticky tape, between as many tables as there are pairs/threes. This is not a contest between the teams, it's a task for the whole group to cooperate and work together. For example, for a whole group size of 12 people, there could be six tables and six pairs - or five tables and five teams of three - each pair/three building one strut of a six- or fivestrut dome frame; for a group of 9 people, there could be three teams of three, and three tables, each team of three building a strut for a three-strut roof frame. Each pair/three should build their strut up and out from the table, connecting in the centre space with the struts from each of the other pairs/threes. Struts can be fixed to the tables and joined in the centre-space with sticky tape. For large frames (which will be required of the tables are placed further away from each other), cross-struts can be used. The whole group can then cover the dome or roof frame with sheets of newspaper. Requires a lot of thought, team-working, communication, sharing best-practice, assessment and feedback along the way, and leadership at key decision stages. Control the level of difficulty by the distance between the tables and the number of newspaper sheets issued. (As with many of the newspaper team building activities, the secret is to agree first on a strut design - typically tightly-rolled sheets - which can then be used to construct whatever overall design is planned, but let the delegates work this out for themselves.) The most effective way to build a dome or covered 'roof' is to create a frame first, using tightly rolled sheets as struts. The simplest construction would use three tables and three struts, one from each table-top edge, joining together in the middle at the top to form a pyramid frame, which can then be covered using newspaper sheets. A round dome structure is more difficult, takes more time, needs more newspapers, and needs to have several struts from each table to create a curved shape, and then a number of lightly formed horizontal strut 'rings' around the the outside of the entire main frame to create a curved contour. This type of structure must be designed beforehand to have a good chance of succeeding, and it helps if the group contains someone with a bit of engineering talent or instinct. There are other ways of making a structure, for instance flat square frames on 'legs' (short newspaper struts), and if you do not stipulate a height then
people will often be creative (cheat) and simply make a big sheet and attach it to each table edge, which rather defeats the point. Hence you can clarify the aim of the exercise by stipulating that the roof must be capable of covering all or a given percentage of the group members, standing or sitting (at your discretion) depending on the frame height that you think is reasonable. If in doubt agree the frame height aim with the group, which means they effectively set their own target. This is a challenging and enjoyable team activity - encourage team members to enjoy it. For a simple pyramid allow at least 15 minutes for the 'build'. For bigger constructions and rounded domes allow at least 10 mins for the design stage and 30 mins for the build. And remember to provide plenty of plastic rubbish bags for the clear-up afterwards. It can be helpful for the post-activity review to brainstorm before the activity with the whole group the expected key performance elements, and for these to be used as the assessment criteria (see the Training elements/exercise review template assessment proforma sheet available on the free resources page).
paper-doily exercise (communications, instructions, interpretation, developing mutual understanding, active listening, clarifying questioning techniques)
This exercise can be carried out in pairs with several pairs playing the game at the same time, or one pair playing and the remainder of the group observing. Two people sit back to back. Each has a piece of paper (can be any sheet of paper provided it is rectangular not square - a large sheet of newspaper works well particular if the activity is being observed). One player (the instructor) folds and tears his/her sheet of paper at the same time reading pre-prepared instructions to the other person (the student) as to how the student is to fold and tear/cut their sheet of paper. For added interest issue each pair with a hole-punch and a pair of scissors (smaller sheets of paper are more likely to require scissors). Other than giving the instructions the delegates cannot discuss or explain anything else. Instructions must be read out exactly as they appear on the instructions sheet, which is created and supplied by the facilitator. Neither player must be able to see what the other is doing while the exercise is under way. After the instructions have been completed, the team members turn and face each other, unfold their sheets and compare their paper doilies, which will look quite different, even though each has been made from the same instructions. Here are examples of instructions for the instruction sheet (you can create your own variations or use these, or reduce them for a quicker simpler exercise do not include the bracketed points, which are facilitators notes and to help with the review): 1. Fold the paper in half horizontally (this depends on what way the sheet is held and could be interpreted to be folded along the landscape or portrait axis) 2. Fold in half again diagonally (again, this is open to interpretation - normally an asymmetrical fold corner-to-corner). 3. Fold in half again vertically (again, this is open to interpretation).
4. Fold the top right corner so that the point is at the centre of the folded sheet (the folded corner could be one of four). 5. Fold the longest point to the corner farthest away from it (can be open to interpretation). 6. Fold in half again or as close to two halves as possible (it may not possible to fold exactly into two symmetrical or even asymmetrical halves). 7. Tear or cut off 2cm of the sharpest corner with a straight cut or tear. 8. Tear of cut off 1cm of the opposite or farthest corner to the above corner with a curved cut or tear (curved what way? - again this is open to interpretation). 9. Punch three holes along the longest edge (where exactly along the edge is open to interpretation). 10. Punch two holes in the next-to-longest edge (where exactly along the edge is open to interpretation). 11. Cut a 0.5cm sharp 'V' two-thirds into the shortest edge (this is open to interpretation). 12. Unfold the paper and compare your doily with your partner's doily. Points for the debrief and review discussion: How many of you ended up with paper projects exactly the same? Why were you unable to end with exactly the same doilies? What instructions were the least helpful and why? How could these instructions have been made clearer? What clarifying questions would you have asked if permitted to clarify the instructions? What additional tools or devices would help the reliability of the instructions and fullness of understanding (the obvious ones are a ruler, and a diagram for each stage - the point here is that complex instructions often need tools, references, examples or other devices to enable proper clarity and accuracy, and the responsibility is with the writer to take the initiative to use and include these aspects if required - don't assume that words alone are sufficient, because they rarely are). As an extension of the exercise ask everyone (in pairs of as a group discussion or brainstorm exercise) to re-write the instructions so as to guarantee producing two identical doilies. NB If facilitating this exercise ensure you try out your instructions before using them in the activity. (Based on a suggestion from D Smith)
desert island menu
A quick, simple (and often revealing) warm-up, ice-breaker and introductory exercise for any group up to about a dozen people. (Group size can be larger if the 'show-and-tell' time per person is controlled tightly). Delegates have a couple of minutes to consider and decide three types of food that they would choose to live on for a year, if stranded on a desert island, with nothing else to eat or drink, other than water. After considering their
selection and reasons, each delegate then takes turns to tell the group what three foods they would chose and why. The facilitator can determine finer points of the rules, such as if there's anything to cook with, if there are any condiments, and "Does 'chicken tikka masala' count as one food type?", or "Can we choose processed ready-made meals as one food type?", etc. The point of the exercise is to get delegates thinking about something completely different, in a way that allows them to express their own personality, likes, dislikes, weaknesses, etc, to the group. For large groups put people into teams of three and have them come up with a selection of three foods that satisfy each member of their team. Other than obviously daft selections like 'whisky, lager, and magic mushrooms' or 'burgers, chips and eggs' there are no right or wrong answers - it's simply an exercise in personal preference.
newspaper models (team building, problem solving, creativity, leadership, planning and project management)
A variation on the newspaper construction exercises featured below. For bigger teams, especially comprising engineers and technical team members. Instead of making newspaper towers or newspaper bridges, the challenge is to make a more complex model, of a machine, or vehicle or building, again out of newspaper. If the model is to be a machine it could be a working model. the machine could be one from the particular work situation. Introduce additional materials as appropriate - string, pipe-cleaners, rubber bands, stapler, etc. The bigger the team then the more complex and challenging the task can be. For teams of 5 or more ask that each team appoints a leader, and state that each team leader is responsible for ensuring full participation of all team members. Refer to the tips and rules for newspaper construction exercises below.
the postbag exercise (for group selection recruitment, time management, planning and prioritising, and assessing strategic judgement and initiative, teamworking, organization and decision-making)
This exercise is good for group selection activities. The team exercise is to sort a big pile of your typical post. Team size 3-5, so if there are more than 5 delegates create more than one team, and ensure suitable space, materials, and facilitator for each team. If used as a group selection activity involving more than one team (it would be suitable for supervisors and clerical staff) observers can move between teams. You'll need to define the typical destinations/actions - give basic guidelines but not sufficient for all the answers, so that there's opportunity for teams and team members to use their own
initiative. Define the purpose of the exercise clearly in terms that reflect what you want the delegates to achieve and the hypothetical situation in which they'll be working. Also explain to the team(s) that they can ask facilitators about certain items if required, and include two or three oddball items that definitely need asking about. Observers will be able to see how the teams organize themselves, people's levels of initiative and judgement, experience, who has good and less good ideas, input, and how people work with others in a team situation. You could ask the teams to present their conclusions as to what should happen with the contents of their postbag. Review and discussion also will provide useful indicators. For added challenge you could throw in a couple of 'interruptions' such as phone calls or visitors introducing additional issues to be sorted, prioritised and actioned. This exercise can also be used for supervisory management development and assessment. If used with people who already work for the organization the exercise provides useful indication as to delegates strategic awareness and prioritisation capabilities and judgement.
SWOT analysis team building exercises (for team building, decision-making, change-management, strategy development, direction and motivation)
For a single team or any number of teams. For teams of three or four team members. Teams of five and over require a team leader. This is a really motivational and empowering activity that can deliver immediate organizational and business benefits. The exercise duration is from 30 minutes upwards, depending on the complexity of the SWOT subjects issued to or agreed with the teams. The SWOT exercise can take a whole day if the task is complex and big. First refer to the SWOT analysis notes and template examples on this site. Ensure all delegates are issued with SWOT analysis instructions, and confirm their understanding of the process, which makes an ideal initial group exercise. Identify before the session, or have the teams or team members do so at the start of the exercise, suitable subjects for SWOT analysis. Have the teams choose a subject each, and then work as a team to produce the SWOT analysis, which should then be presented back to the group for discussion and review. It's important that the teams want the particular subjects. Prior to the exercise it's important for the facilitator to clarify what will happen after the exercise to the teams' SWOT analysis findings, so that team members have an appropriate expectation for where their efforts and recommendations will lead. This SWOT exercise is very flexible - use it to suit the situation, the group, and what the organization needs. Examples of SWOT subject areas (have some specific propositions, opportunities or options handy in case you need them):
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organizational or departmental change options business development ideas team re-structuring problem-solving options customer service improvement ideas production/distribution/technical support efficiencies or improvements ideas
N.B. 1. The above headings are not SWOT subjects, they are areas within which you can identify SWOT subjects. 2. A SWOT analysis can only be used to assess a specific option, proposition, company, department or idea - a single SWOT analysis cannot be used to compare options or evaluate a number of options or propositions at once. 3. Avoid agreeing to SWOT subjects that are clearly beyond the remit of the teams (which creates expectations that cannot be met), unless the situation allows for the group to make recommendations. 4. A SWOT analysis measures a business unit, a proposition or idea; a PEST analysis measures a market.
PEST analysis team building exercise (for team building, motivation, direction, strategy development, gaining buy-in and consensus)
See the PEST analysis article and template. Structure the activity as with the use of SWOT analysis exercise above. Note that a SWOT analysis is based broadly on half internal and half external factors. A PEST analysis measures a market; a SWOT analysis measures a business unit, a proposition or idea. PEST is almost entirely based on external factors, so ensure at least some members of each team have knowledge of, or are able to consider, the PEST factors if you intend using this exercise. PEST is a good exercise for marketing people, and is good for encouraging a business developmant, market orientated outlook among all staff. If you want to use PEST with staff who are not naturally externally focused you can have them do some research and preparation in advance of the exercise. As with the SWOT exercise, it's important to clarify the subject of the/each analysis.
'my pet hate' exercise (for rapport-building, empathy, facilitative questioning, active reflective listening, interpretation, personal development)
An innovative and effective team building exercise for training and practising active and reflective listening skills, empathy, and facilitative questioning. Also a great team activity for personal development and personal problem solving. For groups of six or more in teams of three or pairs. Ask each delegate to think of a situation or person that they find extremely difficult or frustrating. The situation can be from work or home life, but nothing so personal as to cause discomfort when revealed to others. Guide delegates also to avoid criticism of other people who might be part of identified frustrations, whether these people are present or not. For teams of three, the first person is the interviewer, second person is as interviewee, and third is observer. The first person in each team has 5 minutes (facilitator can allow longer, depending on total exercise time available, group size and desired intensity) to question the second person about the second person's difficulty or frustration. The first person should use rapport-building and empathy, sensitive facilitative questioning, active listening, reflective listening, and interpretation skills, to encourage and enable the second person to explain how they feel, why they feel like it, what are the causes and what might be the remedies, plus any other points of relevance. The second person should try to respond naturally to the interviewer. The group then reconvenes and the first person from each team must then briefly (max 2-3 mins) describe, explain and summarise to the group the second person's difficult situation. The second person from each team then gives feedback to the group (including to their interviewer) as to the accuracy of the interpretation and the quality of the interviewing (rapport-building, facilitative questioning, active listening, reflection, interpretation and empathy) used by the first person. The third person observer of each team then provides a brief neutral overview comment, if required and helpful. When each team has completed these stages, rotate the roles and run the exercise again, so that each person plays the interviewer, interviewee and observer. This exercise can also be run in pairs, without the third-person observers, which is appropriate for small groups of 4-8 people, or if the time available for the exercise doesn't allow three rotations of the team roles. Use the review sheet to provide a break-it-down structure for feedback and review. For odd numbers of groups the facilitator can take part to make teams numbers equal, which is important so as to avoid creating 'passengers' (inactive team members) at any stage. Training and review elements of the exercise (optional use of training element review sheet): 1. 2. 3. 4. rapport building and empathy (intuitive sensitive style) facilitative questioning active/reflective listening accuracy of interpretation and description
Exercise duration and activity options typically:
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Facilitator's introduction and explanation, in use of training element review sheet - 5 mins Optional brainstorm of review elements - 5 mins First interviews in teams of three - 5 mins Summaries to group and feedback - number of teams x 3 mins Second interviews in teams of three - 5 mins Summaries to group and feedback - number of teams x 3 mins Third interviews in teams of three - 5 mins Summaries to group and feedback - number of teams x 3 mins Final group review of activities and experiences - 5-30 mins depending on exercise depth and intensity requirement Optional review of personal actions arising - 5 mins (defer major issues outside exercise session) Total exercise time nominally 30-45 mins plus 3 mins for each interview summary = total delegates x 3 mins, ie., a group size of fifteen in teams of three will take a total of 75-90 mins.
If the exercise is run in pairs without observers the third round of interviews and summaries is obviously not required.
smartie hunt game (team building, ice-breakers, warmups, leadership, delegation, fun)
A fun game for a team building ice-breaker or training warm-up, for leadership and team motivation, and a great party game for kids or adults. This activity is also a great leveller and funny to play and observe. For groups of ten to thirty or so people, dependent on the room size. Split the group into two or more teams - ideally 5-7 per team - and have each group appoint a leader, which can - if helpful - be the least confident, most junior member of each team (leadership in this game is fun, and should help build confidence and status of the leader). Before the session hide the contents of a tube of smarties sweets (or a box, depending on team numbers and game duration) around the room. Write down on separate pieces of paper the names of as many animals as there are team members (or children if its a kid's party). Animals should be those associated with recognizable noises, eg., pig, horse, cow, donkey, snake, duck, chicken, monkey, frog, etc., although for an adults party, for extra fun, you can include one or two animals for which no recognizable sound is commonly known, eg., platypus, armadillo, hamster, etc. (For very large groups you can double the number of available animals by prefacing each one 'little'/'large', or 'mummy'/'daddy', and stipulate that the noises should differ accordingly - high and low of course...) First have each team member take a piece of paper which shows the animal they are to play in the game. The object of the game is for team members to find the hidden smarties, and direct their leader to them by making their own animal noise (actions are entirely optional in this game, also great fun and virtually inevitable). The team leader who collects the most smarties wins the game for their team. Team leaders
are not permitted to look for smarties. Team leaders are not permitted to follow the sounds of animals belonging to other teams, but opposing team members are permitted to follow sounds of animals of other teams, and then to make their own noises on seeing the smarties. This great game requires leaders to remember which animals are in their teams, so a minute can be permitted for this before starting the game. You can also allow a couple of minutes for teams to prepare game tactics, although this is not essential. Give a time limit - 5-10 minutes is fine - as smartie hunts are tricky to predict. The use of smarties provides a good link to the SMART and SMARTER acronyms relating to task delegation. As an alternative to smarties sweets you can use M&Ms instead, which link well to the 3M mnemonic or MMM acronym: measurable, manageable, motivational, defining the essential elements of any contracted arrangement or delegated task (see the acronyms and delegation free materials).
tattoo game (relationships, attitudes and behaviour perceptions)
A game for dinner parties or team building and bonding, however this game is definitely not an activity for particularly sensitive people as it involves revealing personal information, and entails discussion of potentially personal feelings and perceptions. Seek all team members' agreement before playing this game. This exercise can be used for fun and relationship-building, or to highlight and challenge assumptions and pre-conceived judgement about people, class, background, stereotypes, etc. You can develop different games ideas around this exercise depending on the type of party game or team building activity required (and the level of intimacy welcomed by the group), based on the game as follows: ask team members to write down secretly on a piece of paper each whether they have any tattoos on any part of their body, or for more daring groups or party games, a description of the tattoos and their locations. (The amount of detail to be given is a variable factor of the game and must always be subject to agreement by the delegates.) Team members then fold their pieces of paper and put each into a container to prevent cheating. Group members then take turns to pick one of the folded pieces of paper and guess who it belongs to. Team members should read out what's written on the paper and explain their thought process (which obviously raises points for comment and reaction during or after the guessing game). If the person guesses correctly, the paper is removed, if not, it is placed back into the container. Points can be awarded for correct guesses and/or to team members incorrectly matched to tattoos. For groups of up to seven the guessing stage of the game is best played by individuals; groups of eight and over can be split into two teams for the guessing stage of the game, in which case members of the guessing team are not allowed to admit or deny ownership of the description. Team members should also be instructed to disguise handwriting, and to use the same sort of pen or pencil, to avoid giving clues. Allowance also needs to be made for team members having visible or known tattoos, the simplest rule being to disregard these tattoos. For the same reason team members selecting a description that they know already (of a friend for instance) should return the piece of paper to the container without revealing its contents
and pick another. The point of the game is not the score or who wins, it is the speculation and guessing, and the ensuing discussion and reaction, particularly people's reactions when being matched incorrectly, and correctly, to particular tattoos. For more adventurous activities and variations to this game you can extend the exercise to include body piercings, which, like tattoos, for the purpose of the game, should not be known or visible. N.B. Tattoos and piercings are actually a serious and fascinating aspect of human behaviour, culture and evolution, and have featured in one form or another across most civilizations throughout the history of human-kind; in a games context the subject can produce lively and enlightening debate. (As with all of these games on this team building page please read carefully the disclaimer below - if in doubt about any team member's vulnerability or sensitivity to any team building game or activity, don't use it.)
the 'prisoner's dilemma' win-win game (based on the 'prisoner's dilemma' puzzle, for team building, and team-working, co-operation skills)
Use this exercise for a great team building game, and to demonstrate the value of cooperation. Run the exercise as it appears on the sheet or adapt it to suit your situation (change values and numbers etc, etc). Here's a free 'prisoner's dilemma' win-win game sheet and scorecard (pdf) and the same game sheet/scorecard in MSWord format which you can amend to suit your needs. Ideally split the group into two teams of up to five per team (larger teams require leaders to avoid chaos or disaffected passengers). The teams must select simply either 'defect' or 'co-operate' in each round. Scoring is based on the selections of both teams. The point of the game is to game is to demonstrate that poor co-operation leads to winners and losers, and ultimately everyone loses as a result of retaliation. When the teams decide to cooperate, everyone wins. The facilitator acts as the 'banker'. Use this free team building exercise with groups sizes from four (in which case the 'teams' would be pairs), up to twenty or more, or split teams into pairs and have them play separately. For details and examples of the prisoner's dilemma look at the puzzles section. More guidance for playing the prisoner's dilemma game:
• • • •
The game is better with two teams, but it will work with several teams - adapt the sheet and scoring accordingly. The game sheet that is available as a pdf or MSWord file is all you need to give to the teams. The only 'question' each round for each team is to decide whether to 'defect' or 'cooperate'. If delegates want to start with an imaginery 'float', rather than having to contemplate being in debt, you can agree a small credit balance for each team.
The point of course is that if all teams cooperate they will beat the banker, but it takes a while for them to realise this - so don't tell them before hand, just explain the scoring system and tell them the point is to accumulate as much 'money' as possible - teams then tend to defect and try to win at the other team's expense, which in turn causes relatiation, which produces unsustainable losses. For background reference, read the explanation of the prisoner's dilemma on the complex puzzles page. Use the game sheet (pdf or MSWord format - also available from the free resources section) - one game sheet per team - make sure all team members can see it - if necessary issue copy-sheets or show the sheet on a screen. The facilitator should practice the game first with individuals (eg family members) playing the part of the teams, so you see how it works. In early rounds make sure that teams do not reveal their selection to other teams until they all show their selection at the same time - the best way is have them write down on a sheet of paper and then all show together, or for them to hold up a pre-prepared 'defect' or 'cooperate' card, simultaneously, when the facilitator says to. As the game progresses allow teams to confer if they ask to. The facilitator needs to keep the score for all the teams on a flip-chart or equivalent. The game ends when the teams get the point and are all cooperating every round, which will beat the banker.
team-building workshops (for team building, change management, performance management, creativity, train-the-trainer, problem solving, process development, etc)
Workshops are a wonderful way to motivate and focus teams, as well as breaking down barriers, and developing performance, confidence and achievement. Workshops are also ideal for teams and groups who might resist or feel uncomfortable with games or activities too far removed from their normal work. Workshops can be very quick, and integrate well within routine team meetings. Workshops also help establish new leaders into teams whether established or newly formed. The participative aspect of workshops make them highly effective team building activities. As ever, for any training session, workshops need clear aims be established and agreed, and the session to be clearly planned and managed, with useful, relevant outputs, which can be coached later through implementation. More details about workshops, and a sample format for a 1-2 hour session are on the workshop section.
up in the air (for team building, handling change, team development, teamwork, listening skills, illustrating the training and learning process, and more)
You can use this game to support the training of any new task, particularly if delegates feel unsure about their ability to learn the new task and apply it along with existing activities. The game works extremely well, and trainees love it because it's different and fun. This exercise will also help participants understand and deal with that uncomfortable feeling when they join a new team, experience change within their own team, or are forced to adjust to a change in procedure or policies. It emphasises the understanding of 'what is now new and will soon become the normal' and helps demonstrate how the transition from new to normal can flow naturally. Amongst other things, use this great team building game to develop multi-tasking ability, eg., for people who are unsure of their ability to talk to customers and work on the computer at the same time. This game is also ideal as a warm-up for training sessions or courses because it helps delegates remember the names of other people in the group. How it works: A group of 6 to 20 stand in a circle facing each other. The facilitator must participate as well. The facilitator explains to the group that they will call out a person's name and toss a ball (such as a stress ball or juggling ball - any soft object actually, even fruit or cuddly toys will suffice) to the named person. That person must then call out another person's name in the circle (who has not yet had the object tossed to them) and then throw the object to that person. This continues until everyone in the circle has thrown and caught the object. The facilitator must explain to the group that each person must remember their catcher. When the object has been thrown to everyone in the group, the ball returns to the facilitator, and is then thrown around the circle again, in the same order as before. This cycle continues until the facilitator is happy that the whole group is comfortable with the exercise. (You'll know this because people are actually listening for their name to be called out and catching the object.) When the group is competent with the first ball, the facilitator introduces a second ball (or suitable object), which must follow the same order as the first, so that two objects are being passed around the group. When competence is reached with the two objects, a third is introduced, and still, every thrower must announce the name of the catcher before throwing. And so on. At some stage between three objects and saturation point (ie as many objects being passed as people in the group - it's up to the facilitator) without warning the facilitator instructs the group to begin tossing the objects in the REVERSE order (ie., catchers call out names of, and throw to, the people who previously threw to them. Chaos at first, but all great fun, and gradually people learn, which after all, is the point of the game. Points to review: How did you feel when the exercise began? After you reached a comfort level with the task, how did you feel when more objects were added? How soon
did you achieve comfort level when new objects were introduced, and did this timescale change for each new object? Did anyone in the team begin encouraging or helping others by telling them to just focus on the person tossing the object to them? When we had the major change of reversing the order the object was tossed, did you expect it? How did you handle it? Did the group eventually perform well at it and get a constant flow of objects in the air? You will think of more questions to ask and points to review, especially when seeing the game played. (Ack. Tori Sarmiento)
team jenga and reverse jenga (team building, leadership, tactics, planning)
Jenga is the traditional wooden-block tower de-construction game, table-top version or giant garden outdoors size. In teams of between two and six, play it normally (removing blocks, each team taking turns to remove a block until it collapses) or in reverse (building it up, taking it in turns, keeping to a specified pattern or set of rules, again until it collapses). You can use other suitable building blocks or materials in the absence of Jenga (snack-size chocolate bars are good). With larger teams (four or more) allow some planning time for tactics and leadership issues to be developed, and review afterwards accordingly.
who am i ?
Lots of variations to this one: Can be played individually or in teams. A card on is taped onto the player's forehead showing everyone the name written on it. The player with the card on his/her forehead (who does not know the name on the card) must then ask closed questions (requiring only 'yes' or 'no' answers) to establish his/her identity. The method of creating name-cards is flexible: the facilitator can prepare in advance, or have the group think of names and create cards, based on any theme that's appropriate, including work colleagues, or even the session group members themselves. Using names of workcolleagues and group members adds a fascinating dimension, (relationships, reputations, perceptions, emotions), so needs sensitive facilitation and review.
A wonderful team building game for teams of ideally 10 to 15 persons, although a minimum of six people per team will work, and actually there is no upper limit per team it depends on space, and how much emphasis is placed on the planning stage. Total group size is therefore as many 10-15 person teams that the space will accommodate, which
also makes this team building exercise terrific for conferences and warm-ups of very large groups. You'll need two bicycle tyres, with different tread patterns, for each team. Organize each team into a circle, with the team members' hands tightly clasped. The tyres are introduced by the facilitator at opposite points of the circle by unclasping hands of two members and hanging the tyres on the arms, which should then be joined again by clasping their hands. The object of the game is for the team to pass each tyre in a different direction around the circle, involving two crossings of the tyres, and then finishing with each tyre at its starting position. The team which finishes first wins the game. Hands must not be unclasped, and thumbs cannot be used to support or move the tyres. Allow ten minutes planning and thinking time, (or for very large teams where a warm-up only is required, give instructions so that the game can start immediately). Obviously the game must start at the same time for each team. The trick is for the tyre to be moved up the arm, over the head, down the body, at which point the person steps out of the tyre, one leg after the other, and the tyre continues down the other arm to the next team member. The stepping manoeuvre when two tyres cross is the most difficult and requires some agility, so the planning and team selection is potentially very important. NB As a facilitator you must practice this game before using in a team building or conference situation, to prepare for questions and to demonstrate, if required. Here are the typical review points for the tyre game team building exercise, usually based on the performance of the winning team:
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The team understands the task and aim of the team building game. The circle of people develops into a team with a common objective. Technique to achieve task is discovered and refined by 'storming' (see the Tuckman team development model). A team leader emerges. Practice (essential) develops technique and plan. The leader's role becomes stronger as the team develops. Difficulties are ironed out. Resources (people) are reorganized. Right person for the right job (notably for the two crossing points) Training and practice are carried out. The team becomes increasingly motivated to perform. Performance improves, excels, achieves and wins.
(With thanks to Lt Col Ajay Ukidve (retired), Victory Associates, Pune, India)
It's very easy to create a simple quiz - base it on a theme or general knowledge - which can be use for teams or pairs in competition. See the Big Boys Toys table quiz as an example of a themed quiz, available as a pdf download (Ack. J Hespe). See also the puzzles section for quiz questions. The Big Boys Toys table quiz can be given as a
competitive exercise between teams lasting 20-30 minutes plus 10 minutes to review, or as a quiz to be worked on in breaks or overnight as light relief. Prizes always increase team-building value and enthusiasm. Here's a free quick trivia quiz in MSWord.
spaghetti and marshmallow towers
For a variation on the newspaper construction theme....... Issue spaghetti (raw uncooked) and marshmallows to groups of 4-5, and give them 15-30 minutes to build the highest structure in the room (or a widest bridge or tallest arch, etc - whatever the facilitator decides). A really different fun exercise for team-building, motivation and illustrating many management and organizational principles. Exercise duration, amount of materials allocated, group sizes, and whether to appoint team leaders are all flexible aspects of this wonderful game. Excellent for jaded business-people, young people and schools. The review afterwards can focus on a wide range of issues - team-building, motivation, timemanagement, organization, systems, planning, communication, resources, research and development, etc. If you use this exercise to illustrate a particular aspect - eg communication - it is helpful for the delegates to discuss and highlight some of the essential points in the pre-exercise brief, which provides a useful framework for the review. These unusual materials can also be used instead of construction kits for the organizational modelling exercise below. (Thanks Kathi Bogue) Look at the newspaper construction games which provide other ideas for using these materials in construction exercises, although I should point out that marshmallows are not a particularly good weight-bearing material, and also are not ideal in very hot conditions, unless getting messy is part of the fun. See also the ideas for working with aluminium baking foil in the baking foil games on the other team building page.
A very easy warm-up to relax everyone - whether the delegates know each other or not (surprisingly this is often more fun when they do - and if they don't they'll appreciate the opportunity to meet and get to know each other early on). This will also take the early pressure off you as the facilitator by having them do some of the work. Ask the delegates to pair up - you can simply suggest the person sitting next to themselves, or something more active, like finding someone with the same colour hair, or same height, or same colour eyes, anything appropriate for the group. Then ask each person briefly to interview the other person (say three mins each), and then everyone to present the other person to
the audience, again briefly, say a minute each. This is much more dynamic than simply asking everyone to introduce themselves. If necessary give people pointers as to what they should be finding out about the other person (eg - job, home-life, likes, dislikes, hobbies, why they are there, etc). You can also say that after the exercise that everyone will have achieved useful experiences and developed useful skills, ie, questioning, listening, interpreting and then (scary for some) speaking to an audience of strangers. These aspects of communicating are usually consistent with at least one theme of the day, so is a relevant and helpful way to start any training session.
the golf-ball shaker (for creativity and ice-breaking)
The exercise is great for beginning any creative session as it gets people thinking and working outside of their known area. It's also a good warm-up for any situation as it gets people participating, smiling and laughing. It's best done by individuals, although for a large group it can be done in pairs. Ask the delegates first to design a shoe - any shoe making a sketch in 30 seconds. Displaying and reviewing quickly all the ideas is an important part of the exercise so have the delegates draw on acetate for an overhead projector, or make a large drawing on a flipchart sheet, using coloured fibre-tip pens. Quickly review each of the designs. There are no right or wrong answers - the likelihood is that most people's shoe designs will all be similar and certainly resembling styles available in the high street, which is because they are thinking about a concept that already firmly exists - people mostly will be accessing memory and experience rather than truly creating. Next ask each delegate or pair to design an electric heater, again in 30 seconds. Review each design quickly. This time there will be some quite different designs - again no right or wrong answers - the purpose is to show that with less welldefined pre-conceptions the ideas will be slightly fresher and a lot more varied. Finally ask each of the pairs or delegates to design a 'golf-ball shaker' - give no other explanation (what the hell is a golf-ball shaker?.....) - again give 30 seconds for the task. Review the designs and marvel at the range of interpretations and ideas. The ideas necessarily are more creative and innovative because there are no pre-conceptions or existing products in the delegates' minds. The exercise is liberating and enjoyable, particularly when the ideas are reviewed. You can add more intrigue to the exercise by asking the delegates to guess who is responsible for each design, which highlights the aspect of personal flair and style in design and creativity. (Ack. Tony Wills).
round tables (for delegation, leadership, team building)
Split the group into three teams of five. Around the room (or building) put five tables and on each table put three sets of materials and instructions for a task - use things like newspaper bridge building, newspaper towers, playing card sorting, anything that's
complex enough to create a delegation challenge for a team of four plus leader (lots of ideas for the tasks appear below). The game is a contest (or time-based race, depending on the scoring system you prefer to use) between the three teams to complete all five table tasks in turn, only moving from one to the next when each task is completed, or when time is elapsed. Every team member takes it in turn to lead their own team and delegate the task activities as the team moves from table to table. While leading, the leaders are not permitted to take part in the task other than speak to their team members. To prepare, you need three sets of five task materials/instructions. Each exercise should have a time limit (up to you), and there needs to be a clearly understood scoring system for each task (easiest would be simply 3pts for winner, 2pts for 2nd and 1pt for 3rd). As the judge, you reserve the right to deduct penalty points for transgressions (eg leaders participating, or tasks being incomplete or running over time). There needs to be a clear way to measure the performance of each team for each task, so there can be a clear result at the end. The extent to which relative performance is visible to all teams at the time of doing the tasks is up to you - it's a variable factor that changes the nature of the activity (the less visible the performance the more test for the leader as to what's required to win) - some tasks could be clearly visible (eg., tower height), others might only be revealed at the end of the whole activity (eg playing card sorting). Tasks don't all need to be physical construction. Tasks can be varied, including mental (eg puzzles) or creative (finding things out), and they don't necessarily need to be done at the table (teams might be required to go off in search of things in the building - information, or obscure items, like a mini-treasure hunt). The tables need only be the base points for each task, where the leader gets the task instructions. Prior to the activity you should brainstorm with the whole group the relevant skills/aspects that will be useful in the whole activity, eg: establishing who's good at what, timing, resource planning, clear instructions, etc. Use these points as a basis for review afterwards. After the activity review with participants how they felt when being delegated to do things - motivation, consultation, participation, encouragement, clarity of instructions, style of leadership, etc. Also review experience of the leaders - what was difficult, what could be improved, why some things are more difficult to delegate than others. Refer to the notes on delegation and issue these guidelines before or after exercise.
maslow ads (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and motivation)
In pairs or threes, or brainstorm with a whole group, ask for examples of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs motivators in advertising. Ask for explanations as well. You can issue several glossy magazines and/or show videos, or simply ask for examples. Here are some pointers: 1. Biological and Physiological needs - wife/child-abuse help-lines, social security benefits, Samaritans, roadside recovery. 2. Safety needs - home security products (alarms, etc), house an contents insurance, life assurance, schools. 3. Belongingness and Love needs - dating and match-making services, chat-lines, clubs and membership societies, MacDonald, 'family' themes like the old style Oxo stock cube ads. 4. Esteem needs - cosmetics, fast cars, home improvements, furniture, fashion clothes, drinks, lifestyle products and services. 5. Self-Actualization needs - Open University, and that's about it; little else in mainstream media because only 2% of population are self-actualizes, so they don't constitute a very big part of the mainstream market.
organizational modelling exercises (to prompt thought and debate about organizational structure and communications)
Split the group into threes or fours. Issue each team with a good quantity of components from a particular toy construction kit (Lego, Stickle Bricks, K'nex, or similar - each team need not have the same as each other). The task for each team is to create a model which represents the organization that they work for, including other parts of the organization relevant to service delivery or product manufacture. The models require thought and discussion about structure, relationships, departments, co-operation, dependencies, isolation, etc., which can then be reviewed by the whole group when complete. It's a very enjoyable exercise, illuminating for all, and an ideal prompt to debate and develop solutions for improving organizational effectiveness, systems and communications. You can also use baking foil for this exercise. (The activity is on page two of these teambuilding exercise ideas)
agenda wall (barriers to team working)
This exercise illustrates the importance of having a clear collective aim for any group, and how poorly a team or organization functions when individuals (or teams within the whole) have different aims within it. The parameters of the exercise can easily be changed according to group numbers. For large groups create pairs or threes to work together. Issue the group a box of toy building blocks, such as Lego, with various different bricks (colour, length, features, etc). The group task is to build a wall of certain dimensions (you as the facilitator state height and width according to time and group numbers). Issue each group member (or pair or threesome) with their own 'hidden agenda', which they must keep secret and try to achieve. The hidden agendas can be anything that conflicts with other hidden agendas, which will create conflict while the main task of building the wall is under way. Check that each hidden agenda is possible, albeit at the expense of other agendas. Here are some examples of hidden agendas to issue. It's easy to think of others when you have all the bricks in front of you.
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ensure there are three red bricks on each row ensure no red brick touches a yellow one ensure a blue brick touches a yellow brick on each row ensure every row contains two yellow bricks ensure there is a vertical line of touching white bricks, one block wide, from top to bottom ensure no row contains more than three different coloured bricks ensure one row contains only single blocks (no doubles or trebles etc) ensure every row contains at least one double-block brick
(Adapted from a suggestion by Ruth Fradenburg)
fun and games with video (for team building and any other subjects)
Video is a great team building and training medium if you use it creatively - not off-theshelf stuff which rarely works for specific situations. Instead use home-recorded video to provide you with unlimited interesting subject matter for exercises, role-plays and reviews, it's much more fun. For instance - record on video some scenes with a suitable number of characters (relative to your team sizes) from famous TV soaps (especially amusing ones with amusing characters). Then have two teams recreate the scene(s) incorporating your own key messages or products. Alternatively have the teams critique the behaviour according to the theme or message of your session. Using brainstorming before a review or critique session is a great way to establish a common approach and understanding towards the points for review and why. This saves you as the facilitator having to do a lot of detailed preparation on the points to review -
get the team doing it instead as they'll learn more that way. A proforma tool which will help you and the team establish and then refer to the points for review is available on the free resources page. Also, video some TV adverts (good and bad) and have each team critique them, brainstorm first the points you want to look for and review, eg., the AIDCA format (see acronyms), image, style, relevance to target audience, likely effectiveness or otherwise, 'feel', etc. Also, video some scenes from the TV show 'The Office' or another show featuring inept workplace behaviour (the funnier and worse the better) and have teams critique the behaviour from different aspects, eg Action Centered Leadership, Tannenbaum and Schmidt, motivation (eg. XY/Herzberg) leadership, culture, quality, Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Transactional Analysis, etc. Make sure you establish the review points and then use a review sheet to focus on, to manage and get the best out of the review or critique session. Using video in this way creates a lot of fun and interest for any team building or training session - there's so much you can do with this approach, and it's simple and very inexpensive.
variables and values (negotiation game)
Two teams - have each team identify as many tradable variables (concessions - real and perceived) that exist within your product/service offering. You can extent the exercise by asking the teams next to give real and perceived values to each concession. Also to identify actual costs to your organization for each. You can award a prize to the member of each member of the winning team, and maybe a special prize to whoever thinks up the best variable with the lowest cost and highest perceived value.
sweet traders (negotiation game)
Teams of three - each given an equal amount (as many as you like) of at least six different types of sweets and/or chocolate snack bars - wrapped preferable or things get a bit sticky - each type of sweet has a value (eg 1pt, 2 pts, 3 pts, 4 pts, etc.). Devise a complicated scoring system - something that really makes people think and has many different possible winning combinations, Eg., bonus points for sets of all one sort. Bonus points for collections containing one of each, two of each, three of each, etc., bonus points for biggest collection compared to other teams, etc. Teams must trade with each other to collect the highest value collection. The purpose is to illustrate need for planning
and trading, and continual search for new ideas and agreements. See how enthusiastically people plan and how actively they trade - imagine if this dynamism were applied to business.... (Eating the sweets during the exercise is strictly forbidden and carries a penalty of 1 million points)
pit (negotiation game, team building, or for warm-ups, ice-breakers)
The PIT! trading card game - based on collecting a set of the same sort of cards normally based on the commodities exchange - wheat, barley, rye etc., If you can get hold of the game itself do try it, instead but you can base the game cards on anything, even your own products. Cards need plain backs so value/type can be hidden during trading. Individuals or teams of three (better). You need 8-12 cards of as many types as there are teams or individuals (Eg if you have six teams, you'll need six sets of cards, say ten of each = 60 cards total). The game needs at least five separate playing individuals or teams. Shuffle cards and distribute evenly. Players swap cards 'blind' (by shouting how many they wish to swap - not showing or revealing what type of cards they wish to swap or acquire) - equal quantities of the same sort of card for each trade, which produces chaotic and enjoyable trading as players hold cards aloft shouting 'two, two,' or 'three, three', etc, (being the number of cards they are wishing to swap). Winner is first team to collect all same cards. Illustrates principle of trading, rather than simply giving away (concessions, discounts, etc). Also demonstrates enthusiasm and determination, which hopefully can be applied to business. Large teams will need leaders, and so can be used as a leadership development exercise, including the need for planning, checking and communication. Teams will sometimes cheat - swapping cards of mixed varieties - which is technically not allowed, but the strcitness of this rule is up to the facilitator. Use this point also to illustrate importance of integrity - teams and players will be reluctant to trade with people who cheat. Also, cheating in this game can create a cliamte in which other teams begin to cheat as well, with chaotic results.
bop it (communications, team building, warm-ups, etc)
'Bop-it Extreme' is a terrific hand-held game that was primarily designed as a children's toy, but it's great fun and extremely challenging for grown-ups too. You hold it like a steering wheel and wait for the robotic voice to shout instructions, to 'flick it', 'twist it', 'spin it', 'pull it', or 'bop it', while a rhythmic drum beat marks the time allowed. If you get it wrong or are late, it tells you how many times you got it right it speeds up so the challenge never ends. Bop-it Extreme is great for team warm-ups, and for contests between individuals or teams, and for demonstrating how the brain doesn't always do what you want it to, especially under pressure. It's available from any big toystore and various online suppliers. Cost around £20 or $30. It's utterly addictive so beware...
Announce to two or more people that you will auction a £20 note to the highest bidder. The only rule is that the unsuccessful lowest bidder will have to pay you their bid. The bidders will start off low - maybe at just a penny or two. As they progress higher the awful trap starts to emerge - but there is nothing they can do about it: no-one wants to lose and have to pay a few pounds and watch someone else get the prize for a lot less than it's worth. And so it goes. Eventually you see (if they haven't run away) the ludicrous spectacle of people bidding higher than the face value of the note. Of course, the only winning first bid (and this is a good lesson on greed in any aspect of life) is £19.99... (thanks Rupert Stubbs)
silent touch (listening skills, communications)
If you want something a bit different, here's a great quick one for highlighting and developing non-verbal awareness. Each delegate does this in turn: One person (the 'touchee') stands against a wall facing it. The rest of the group, one by one, walks up to the person, places a hand on their shoulder and says their name (the toucher's name not the touchee). The person being touched must not look around to see
the toucher. Then repeat the exercise using a different order for the touchers, this time without saying their names (you may need to point to people to control the order). The person being touched has to use their various senses more acutely to guess the identity of each toucher (the 'feel' of the shoulder-touch, maybe smell, the sound of the approach, etc.) You must explain to the whole group the whole exercise before it starts. You must instruct everyone not to disguise the spoken touch or the silent touch. The 'winner' is the person who guesses most of the silent touches, which means you need to keep a tally of each 'touchee's' correct silent guesses. Review and discuss only after everyone has had their turn as the 'touchee', otherwise clues will surface and benefit the later touchees. When reviewing you can refer people to brain types and styles, and particularly right-side brain strengths, which generally enable greater sensitivity and awareness for this type of exercise. See the Benziger theory. (Thanks Chris Baker)
nail puzzle (team building, problem solving, lateral thinking)
This fantastic puzzle makes a great quick warm-up or teaser for a whole group or for teams to solve. Details on the puzzles page. Also a great puzzle for reinforcing any idea or training that involves a theme of 'nailing' something or 'hitting the nail on the head' - ie emphasising the need to be very specific.
memory exercises (team building, questioning, information gathering)
Show a picture for a minute with lots going on in it - big comic book cartoons are ideal and then ask different questions about what was in the picture (eg what animal was to the left of the camel?, what colour was the teacher's tie?, etc). A great variation on this is to have each team to think of a certain number of questions to ask the other teams. Teams get points for correct answers and for other teams failing to answer. Put about 20-30 household items on a tray and let people memorise them for a minute, then have them jot down all they can remember within a time-limit, say 5 minutes. Draw some geometric/coloured shapes and do the same as above.
Do the same with long numbers.
speed games (team building, mental ability)
Traditional games 'speed versions' - time-limit draughts (chequers) - points for pieces captured, speed chess - the winner is one to achieve check-mate or take most pieces (different pieces are worth different points) within a time limit. 'Connect-4' and 'Mastermind' colour or number versions work well too. These are all great mental challenge games that can be played by individuals or teams, and against the clock if you introduce a suitable scoring system. Look at the boxed board games and card games ideas page for more 'speed games' ideas.
sycamore seed game (creativity, team building, problem solving)
Design and demonstrate a 'wing' or 'spinner' which stays in the air for the longest time when dropped from a specified height (a sycamore seed is a great example to show after the exercise to demonstrate a lateral thinking approach). Issue just a small sheet of paper. Teams of three or pairs are best. Alternative version is to make a paper aeroplane which glides the furthest from a specified height, with or without push start (depends on room size). Time allowed can be as little as 3 minutes, but it's better with 10-15 so that it brings in a planning element.
the paper girder (team building, planning, organizing, creativity, problem solving)
Using one sheet of A4 paper and an item issued for a weight (eg a small coin), make the longest horizontal extension from the edge of the table, to support a paper-clip at its end (attached or hung within the final ½inch of the end of the girder). The measurement will be the horizontal distance from the tip of the girder to the table edge. Scissors, knives or moistening the paper are not allowed. Teams of three are ideal. Again, time allowed can be as little as 3 minutes, but it's better with 10-15 mins to bring in a planning element.
playing card sorting (team building, planning, organizing, creativity, problem solving)
Issue one, two or even three packs of cards to each team (teams of three best). Mix up all the cards in each team's pack(s). Aim is to sort into packs and suits fastest (display face up on table). Be aware that if packs are of different designs you will need to state whether these need sorting too, which obviously increases difficulty. Teams of three and upwards. Great for organization, especially if large team sizes are possible.
more free activities and ideas here
bigger team building games and exercises clay islands (team-building, team-working, planning, negotiation inter-personal skills, creativity, problemsolving and more)
A wonderful hands-on team exercise that takes people way outside their normal work comfort zones. It's always different, is full of learning and development, and always a lot of fun. Group sizes of 6-8 people work well, 8 is ideal. Smaller group sizes of 3-5 will work, but produce less team dynamics and inter-action than with larger groups. It's best with three or more groups, but possible with two. Issue each team with a football-sized lump of clay (the type used for making pottery, available from craft and educational suppliers), and a suitable flat board or tray on which to work. Clay modelling implements are optional. The task for each group is to create an island, which the groups themselves are to imagine they inhabit, which they will model with the clay. Instruct the groups that for the first two parts of the exercise the members within each group are to not allowed to speak to each other. Give 10 minutes for the first two 'silent' parts of the exercise: 1. Ask the groups to create the geographical features of the island e.g. cliffs, rivers, inlets/harbours, mountains etc. 2. Ask them to create shelter for themselves individually eg., a house, a cave, a mansion, a hut.
After these two activities have been done in silence, allow the members of each group to speak within their own group while creating their own island 'community', which can be scheduled to go on for 15-30 minutes. Suggest elements that need to be discussed and established as to how their island operates and what constitutes the 'community' (some of which may be modeled, others not) such as health care, education, commerce, defence, food production, transport, infrastructure, governing structure, decision-making process, etc - all to be discussed and developed by the group. The group is of course the 'ruling council' for their own island, and they have the opportunity to define how they will work together, including issues of leadership and decision-making, etc. Observing all of this experiential development produces excellent data for review afterwards with the group, and is particularly useful for training and development concerning gender, leadership styles, decision-making, personality types, team-working, etc. After a further 15-30 minutes tell them there are other islands (they'll probably know of course, but hitherto will not have given a thought to any islands other than their own). Tell them that they are not obliged or required to do anything about the other islands - it's up to each group what they do. Typically the groups will want to take action of some sort, whether to trade, attack, make friends - whatever. Again this leads to all kinds of experiences within the group and between groups, which should be noted by the facilitator(s) for use later in the review. The exercise needs to be given a finish time or it could go on indefinitely. There is no winner and no stipulated objectives for individuals, groups, islands - it's meant to be very open, which enables the relationships, cultures, systems and styles, etc., to develop very freely. The review can be conducted in various ways - group presentations, individual presentations, group discussion, personal experiences 'felt' by people; focus on certain headings: leadership, decision-making, communications within and outside of the island groups, good planning, bad planning, issues of morality and integrity, island cultures; the list obviously is very long, and the extent to which groups are focused on these issues before and during the exercise is flexible and up to the facilitator. Using clay is messy, so make sure people have aprons and somewhere to wash. The use of such an unusual material provides excellent motivation and interest - working with clay is a very 'earthy' and basic activity and people do not often have the chance to play with it. It does add another dimension. This exercise works particularly well as an evening activity on a residential course. As a guide, allow at least an hour for the exercise and 30 minutes for the review obviously longer if it involves presentations. Typically younger people take less time, but whoever is doing it, if the exercise is providing useful learning experience keep it going.
The facilitator should look especially for the development of relationships in the island communities, and how these affect the relationships between the islands. Leaders and styles emerge, which can all be discussed in the review. The exercise can be used with all ages and in all situations, whether for, business, organizational, educational, or behavioural development. (Ack Judith Jenner)
mini-business project game
Games activities with a real ongoing business purpose - like the website challenge below - are ideal for training and developing people over a period of a few weeks or months. The focus should be the products/services that the company offers or are within strategic intention/capability to do so. Using a series of mini-business projects as a basis for the 'games' gives the organization some serious business-related output, as well as developing the delegates' behaviour and skills (creativity, research, planning, finance, negotiation, selling, design, contracts, buying, management, etc). This type of project based activity also develops a strong feeling of involvement and responsibility among the delegates. As an alternative to creating a new website business , which is an exciting project for most people (see the website challenge below), delegates can instead be tasked to establish a new distributor or retail outlet, or a new product line, as a basis for the 'game' activity. The 'game' is essentially to conceptualise and then implement a mini NPD or new business project. Mentoring, coaching, liaison with other departments are important support elements during project set-up and as the projects unfold. There are also potentially big additional benefits for the organization in building bridges between interested departments - marketing, finance, IT, etc - while parameters are established and projects develop. Terms of reference need to be clearly agreed, and adequate consultation and approvals are essential. The business and training benefits can be huge.
website challenge (team building, creativity, commercial skills, financial skills, planning and organizing, technology, presentation, communicating, etc)
Needs to run over several weeks or months. Great for inter-departmental or regional competition. Challenge is for the teams to each set up a real website and achieve the highest traffic to beat the other teams (need to issue some money or allocate a budget not much - you don't need much for this - and need to establish clear parameters). You can introduce lots of variations and complexities depending on how far you want to take it. You can stipulate the product/service area or leave as open as you wish.
stranded - the team building survival game
You can use this type of exercise with various scenarios for teams/groups of between 3 and 15 people: desert island, jungle, etc. It's also great to use in group selections for recruiting staff, when the interviewing panel observe the efforts, abilities and attitudes of the participants. Here's a mountain survival scenario exercise. It's a very flexible theme provided you avoid the requirement to establish a definitive correct list of items - there's no definitive 'right answer'; there are other reasons for this too. It's best not to have a definitive list of items as recommended by experts - what's important is for the group to see the benefit of group discussion and collective expertise, experience and input, which produces a generally accepted better list of items than anyone's individual list. The risk in referring to a supposed definitive 'right answer' list is that:
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it focuses too much attention on the outcome rather than the process, it causes participants to guess what they think the facilitator thinks, as if it's a trick question, and it can undermine the credibility of the exercise and the facilitator when inevitably someone in the group, or worse still, the entire group disagrees with the 'right answer', as is likely with any hypothetical scenario.
Position the exercise like this: After your small light aircraft crashes, your group, wearing business/leisure clothing, is stranded on a forested mountain in appalling winter weather (snow covered, sub-freezing conditions), anything between 50 and 200 miles from civilisation (you are not sure of your whereabouts, and radio contact was lost one hour before you crashed, so the search operation has no precise idea of your location either). The plane is about to burst into flames and you have a few moments to gather some items. Aside from the clothes you are wearing which does not include coats, you have no other items. It is possible that you may be within mobile phone signal range, but unlikely. (Other than these facts, he session facilitator may clarify particular questions from the group(s) as to details of the circumstances and the environment, and these details remain constant for the duration of the exercise. Other details may simply not be known - it's at the facilitator's discretion.) Your (the group's) aim is to survive as a group until rescued. From the following list choose just ten items that you would take from the plane, after which it and everything inside is destroyed by fire. First you have five-ten minutes (flexible, this is up to the facilitator) by yourself to consider and draw up your own individual list of what the team should have, without consulting with other members of the group. Retain this list after
presenting it briefly to the group. Then you have 30-45 minutes (up to the facilitator) as a group to discuss and agree a list on behalf of the group. Nominate a spokesperson and present this new list. With the facilitator's help, the group(s) afterwards then reviews the benefits of discussion, teamwork, collective expertise, group communication skills, etc., in the team approach to compiling the list, compared to each individual working alone to establish a list, and obviously why the team list is likely to be better than each of the individual lists. Choose ten from the following - splitting or only taking part of items is not permitted (again the list and number of permitted items is flexible to suit the facilitators and situation requirements. This is a long list and will provoke an enormous amount of debate. To run a quicker exercise definitely reduce the list or delegates will feel rushed.)
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Pack of 6 boxes x 50 matches. Roll of polythene sheeting 3m x 2m 1 crate of beer (12 litres in total) 1 bottle of brandy 1 crate of bottled spring water (twelve litres in total) Small toolbox containing hammer, screwdriver set, adjustable wrench, hacksaw and large pen-knife. Box of distress signal flares. Small basic first-aid kit containing plasters, bandages, antiseptic ointment, small pair of scissors and pain-killer tablets. Tri-band mobile phone with infrared port and battery half-charged. Clockwork transistor radio. Gallon container full of fresh water. Box of 36 x 50gm chocolate bars. Shovel. Short hand-held axe. Hand-gun with magazine of 20 rounds. 20m of 200kg nylon rope. Box of 24 x 20gm bags of peanuts. Bag of 10 mixed daily newspapers. Box of tissues. Bag of 20 fresh apples. Electronic calculator. Laptop computer with infrared port, modem, unknown software and data, and unknown battery life. Inflatable 4-person life-raft. Compass. Large full Aerosol can of insect killer spray. Small half-full aerosol can of air freshener spray. Notebook and pencil. Box of size 8 women's promotional pink 'Barbie' branded fleece-lined track-suits (quantity is half of each team/group size).
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Gift hamper containing half-bottle champagne, large tin of luxury biscuits, box of 6 mince pies, 50gm tin of caviar without a ring-pull, a 300gm tin of ham without a ring-pull, and a 500gm christmas pudding. Travelling games compendium containing chess, backgammon and draughts. Sewing kit. Whistle. Torch with a set of spare batteries. Box of 50 night-light 6hr candles. Bag of 6 large blankets.
cotton reel cars (team building, planning, organizing, creativity)
Teams need an hour or two to do this justice, so it's great for an evening exercise when there's an overnight stay. Give each team a set of materials - the more the better within reason (the exercise becomes more complex and longer lasting with more materials). Materials could be anything that could be used to make a small car - for example: shoe box or egg box, wooden kebab skewers, sticky tape, stapler, some wheels - from Lego or Meccano or cotton reels, plus the basic drive-unit components, (ie at least one cotton reel, a couple of matchsticks and at least one rubber band - and if you don't know how to make a cotton-reel 'tank' see the exercise below). The objective is to build a self-propelled (rubber-band-powered) car that goes fastest, or covers the greatest distance, or both - it's up to the facilitator. The exercise climaxes with a race/competition in the bar in the evening. (The exercise has the feel of Robot Wars or Scrapheap Challenge, if you've seen either on the TV.) A variation on this theme is simply to issue each team with a box of mixed vegetables fresh not frozen please - (eg., cucumber is good for a chassis; sliced carrots make reasonable wheels) and some cocktail sticks, and there being no obvious vegetable-based drive-unit, each vegetable car must be launched from a slope. The furthest distance is the winner.
cotton reel tanks (team building, planning, organizing, creativity)
You may remember making these as a child. This is a great exercise for teams of three or pairs, competing against each other. Materials required per team - 1 cotton reel, any size over about 3 cms diameter and 3 cms length. 1 rubber band the same length (cut and tied if necessary) as the cotton reel. At
least two match sticks (or cocktail sticks or wooden barbecue skewers). A wax crayon or candle. Sellotape or stapler. Construction - Thread the rubber band through the reel and anchor the loop around a stick, which must be cut so as not to protrude wider than the edge of the reel. Fix the stick in place to the end of the reel with a staple or Sellotape. Cover the opposite end of the reel and inside the edge of the hole with plenty of wax for lubrication. Insert a second stick, which should be at least an inch - better 2-3 inches - longer than the diameter of the end of the reel, though the loop of the rubber band and then 'wind up' the rubber band using the stick, until it is pulled flat against the waxed end of the reel. Put the reel on the floor and watch it go... slowly. Then spend the next twenty years trying to find the perfect specification! Some people cut notches in the rims of the reels to create a cog effect for better grip. Different lengths and thicknesses of rubber bands are an important variable affecting performance and stability. Wax is essential - it won't work without it. The type and length of stick - other than the one used at the fixed end - also affects performance. The challenge can be a race, distance travelled or obstacle course, whatever you like. As the facilitator, ensure you practice it first and establish clear rules about the aim (what the tanks have to do when they've been made) and the quantity of materials available.
design a game (creativity, team building)
One of the best activities (and particularly to develop problem-solving/analytical skills) is to actually set the group the task of designing the activities or games themselves. You can mix it up any way you want, for example, split group into syndicates of threes and give them different games or activities to design (communications, team building, problemsolving etc), which all syndicates will then have to do. Ensure everyone understands the criteria for designing development activities - brainstorm them to establish clear understanding of the aims and parameters with the group is a good starting point. These main criteria can then act as the assessment criteria for each syndicate to assess the activity designs of their peers. To add extra interest and fun you can give each of the groups some props and limit their designs to using the props, eg paper, scissors, string, dice, building bricks, some newspapers and magazines, cotton-reels, a bucket of water or two, blindfolds, foreign language dictionary, video cameras, anything. Introduce other rules and constraints - must be outdoors/indoors, must be a ten minute exercise, 20 minutes, whatever.
treasure hunts (team building, determination, organizing, problem solving)
There's no better activity for team building than a well-planned 'treasure hunt'.
Treasure hunts can be based on solving clues or finding things, or a mixture. Teams have a set amount of time to collect a list of items from the hotel/office complex/local vicinity - eg a restaurant menu with a fish dish on it, a box of matches with a phone number with a seven in it, an acorn, a brochure with a yacht in it, a sports programme with green grass pictured in it, etc etc. This is fantastic fun and a supreme leveller. Obviously ensure participants are warned not to do anything illegal or anti-social. Great for evening exercises for overnight stays. If you are planning a big event for more than twenty people or so, it's essential that the facilitator goes to the location in advance, so that you can sort out the clues and the route and ensure it all works. It's easy when you're there. It's possible to think up a certain amount remotely, but the best clues will be specific local ones - that you must be able to rely on - something of this scale must be planned and tested at the location. Do some basic preparation remotely before you go there (start point, finish venue, rough area and route) and then spend a day there to find/create the specifics, design the whole thing, and be sure that it will all work in practice. Logistics (getting people from A to B) and timings (how long will it take the first and last to complete) are crucial. Timings are always difficult to predict - be aware that tourist venues are very busy in the Summer, which will affect how quickly people can complete it and the ease with people can all meet up along the way and at the finish. If it's an overnight event, how you design the event will also depend on where you're all staying and what you want to do before and after the treasure hunt. Ideally you don't want to have to worry about bussing people to and from the hunt, so ideally people should be staying where the hunt is and all together. If it's for the evening avoid any necessity for car-driving - it's too risky - on foot is much more fun, people can walk for miles without complaining provided there's not too far between stops for clues - the exercise helps too maybe have them catch a bus at most, but no driving at night. The local tourist information office and library are always a useful reference points for ideas about a basic route, best area, plus contact numbers etc. If you're happy with drinking and can trust people not to be daft than basing the treasure hunt on pubs works well - pubs will offer good potential for clues, a route and lots of fun, subject to your view on alcohol playing a part. Definitely plan an organized gathering for the end of the treasure hunt where you can give prizes and relax as a group, particularly if the treasure hunt is in the evening. The finish venue needs to be reliable and under your control - you don't want everyone to be finally meeting up amongst hundreds of strangers. For a large group of people it's best to have a few marshals along the route to help the lost and tardy.
Teams of four, five, or six at most, work best - the bigger the team the quicker they solve the clues, although teams of seven would be too big and result in one or two being left out. Teams of five sounds are good. Think about your team building priorities - if it's to improve inter-departmental teamworking then create inter-departmental teams; if you want to build stronger relationships within departments create departmental teams. If you've got gender, race or hierarchy barriers to break down, mix the teams accordingly. Try to mix the clues so they require different skills and knowledge, which will enable everyone in each team to shine - some clues very cryptic, some require observation, some historical, some technical, some mathematical, some requiring good persuasive or investigative skills, and always preferably with a local location reference/ingredient. Whatever you do, remember planning is vital.
mime act (creativity, team building, organizing, presentation skills, and lots more)
Groups have a set time to get/make costumes and mime a performance of a song, especially something with theatrical potential like Bohemian Rhapsody, or Stairway To Heaven - the more extravagant or camp the better - props can be begged borrowed or otherwise purloined, and the whole thing climaxes with a show when each group performs their mime act. Fantastic leveller, great fun, normally hilarious. Great to video and enjoy afterwards. House rules are absolutely necessary to avoid serious inconvenience to hotel or conference centre.
sports challenge series (team building, organizing, determination, physical ability, and lots more)
Each team can nominate a sport or game (in local house rules) in which it challenges the other teams. Agree a common weighted scoring system and run it like a weekly or monthly league. Be very careful and clear on the rules and scoring. Sports can be anything from softball on the park to chess and stud poker. League updates and prizes and trophies increase the buzz.
communication corridor (team building, communicating, physical activity, problem solving, listening skills and more)
Here's a great one for a conference warm-up. Great for communications too. Have two rooms with a corridor separating them - the further away the better. Teams of three. Each team has a 'builder' with a set of building bricks or a construction kit in each room, and a runner between the rooms. In only one room do the builders have the instructions for what they're building. As they build, the runners have to run and explain to the other builder in the other room what is being built and how. Winning team is first with a correctly assembled construction in each room.
Get the book on lateral thinking puzzles featured on this website at the businessballs online bookshop page. In it you'll find loads of really great lateral thinking problems you can use - ideally for syndicates of three - give them four or five at a time. More puzzles books also on the board games and card games ideas page.
problem solving treasure hunt
Give teams of three a list of challenges and a timescale - anything from an hour to a week or two - even a month, depending on complexity and type of problem. Great for overnight stays, and can be integrated with normal treasure hunt for obscure items. Examples of challenges: Translate a passage of writing or verse from an obscure foreign language into English; Negotiate the best possible deal for the whole group to visit somewhere interesting and maybe a bit exclusive - a sports event, the opera, the zoo, etc. (Need to clarify house rules on dates timings etc, and that the booking should be provisional.); give them a real problem from your own organization; give them a real problem from the local council or from the newspapers.
the 'in-tray' time management exercise (time management, decision making, delegation)
Issue the teams (or have them bring) a typical in-tray of correspondence. Their task is to decide how and when to deal with each, and then to present their answers to the group. Get the group to observe and critique the answers.
Things to look out for:
• • • • • •
• • •
First assess all items and prioritise them (most won't do this, they'll just deal with them in the order they appear) Treat urgent items differently from important ones (most think they're the same) Only handling each item once (ie procrastination or deferring is a no-no) Opportunities to delegate (tips on the businessballs delegation page) Decision-making (tips on the businessballs decision-making page) Communication method and style in responding to memos, requests, complaints etc (most spend too long writing too much - hand-written notes often suffice email is useful - but recognise potential major hazards and make/agree time to deal with them properly) Avoiding making unnecessary work for oneself (most make mountains out of molehills) Using the phone to deal with sensitive communications/relationships issues (most are frightened, so write or delay, which costs more time and problems) Saying No when called for, and justifying why it's No.
Make sure the sample in-tray material is a good mix of issues, otherwise there's no challenge and people won't see the need for different responses. If you can't be sure that people will bring suitable material provide it yourself. Best of all is to get your hands on copies of someone's in-tray who is forever complaining he/she's got no time.
newspaper towers (team building, planning, organizing, problem solving, time management, creativity, lateral thinking)
Lots of variations to this one. Adjust to suit group and time available. Basic exercise: Split group into pairs or threes (four or more will create 'passengers', who don't get involved). Issue each group an equal given of newspaper sheets (the fewer the more difficult, 20-30 sheets is fine for a 10-15 minute exercise), and a roll of Sellotape (Scotch tape in the US). Task is to construct the tallest free-standing tower made only of newspaper and Sellotape in allotted time. Point of the exercise is to demonstrate importance of planning (time, method of construction, creativity), and the motivational effect of a team task. Facilitator will need tape measure. Instructions need to be very clear (for instance does tower have to be free standing at completion of time, or can it be measured before - it doesn't matter which, it matters only that any issues affecting a clear result are clarified.
See also the ideas for working with aluminium baking foil in the baking foil games on the other team building page.
newspaper bridge (team building, planning, organizing, problem solving, time management, creativity, lateral thinking)
Again, lots of variations to this, including using mterials other than newspapers - See also the ideas for working with aluminium baking foil in the baking foil games on the other team building page. These activities are good for reinforcing communications, support, interdepartmental co-operation themes. In teams (threes are best; teams of four or five can create 'passengers' unless you brief clearly for everyone to be involved and/or have each team appoint a team leader) using only the newspaper and Sellotape (alternatively known as scotch tape) issued, each team must construct a bridge, including floor-standing supports at each end and a horizontal span. The winning construction will be the one with the longest span between two floor-standing supports. If any additional floor-standing support is created, qualifying span measurement will be the longest length between any two of the floor-standing supports. There must be at least (say) 20cms clearance between the span and the floor. Any of the span lower than 20cms clearance will not count towards the measurement. The span must support certain objects issued (eg apple, chocolate bar, can of drink - consumable items are more fun) which must be placed (not fixed with Sellotape) on the span. The objects can be positioned anywhere along the length of the span, but must not touch the floor-standing supports. The floor-standing supports must be free-standing, ie not attached to the floor or any other object or surface. The use of Sellotape as 'guys' from the bridge to the floor or another object or surface is not allowed. Time allowed for planning and building and placing objects on the span is say 20 (max 45) minutes. Variations to tower and bridge games: Tower must support an object (eg a lemon, book, brick, plastic beaker of water, etc). Measurement is taken to height of supported object. If you issue an object to be supported at the top of a tower consider the well-being of the flooring and furniture. Beware safety and mess implications of certain objects, so avoid cups of coffee, glasses, etc. Build a newspaper and tape bridge between two tables, to support the greatest weight (number of given objects). Build the highest platform to support a person's weight, using only newspaper and tape make sure there's plenty of newspaper for this version, ie, three big newspapers for each team. (Bear in mind that a platform is still a platform if it's only an inch high, although platforms of a few inches are perfectly feasible.)
Build the longest horizontal pier from a table top, supported with newspaper struts or not.
tips for newspaper constructions exercises
You can allocate as many sheets as you wish, although it really depends chiefly on the main purpose of the exercise, and then to an extent the duration and how many team members per team. As a general rule - the fewer the sheets the smaller the teams and the shorter the exercise. Lots of sheets and big teams require longer. Short timescales, big teams, lots of sheets = lots of chaos - which is ideal for demonstrating the need for leadership and management. Unless the purpose is leadership and managing the planning stage, avoid small numbers of sheets with large teams. Small teams don't need lots of sheets unless you make a rule to use all materials in order to put pressure on the planning and design stage. Examples of main purposes and numbers of sheets:
• • • •
Very strong emphasis on preparation and design - 1-5 sheets - in pairs or threes. Design, planning, preparation, team-working - 5-10 sheets - in threes or fours. Team building, time-management, warm up, ice-breaker, with some chaosmanagement - 20 sheets - in fours, fives or sixes. Managing a lot of chaos - 30 sheets and upwards - teams of six or more.
News paper construction exercises are terrifically flexible and useful. When you decide the activity purpose and rules, the important thing is to issue the same quantity of materials to each team.
other tips for newspaper construction activities
Building tips: It doesn't matter how big the sheets are, but big double pages offer the greatest scope for the towers. Think about how much paper is issued as it changes the type of challenge: lots of paper makes it much easier and places less emphasis on planning. Very few sheets, or even just one sheet, increases the requirement for planning. The main trick for the bridge and tower exercises (don't tell the delegates before the exercise) is to make long thin round-section struts, by rolling the sheets and fixing with sticky tape - Sellotape or scotch tape, or narrow masking tape instead. The struts can then be connected using various techniques, rather like girders. The same construction approach works well for the bridge too. Round struts (tubes), and any other design of struts or sections, lose virtually all their strength if flattened or bent. Very few newspaper exercise builders understand this fundamental point, and some fail to realise it even after completing the exercise, so it's worth pointing out during the review. Square sections are not very strong. Triangular or circular sections work best, although the former are difficult to make.
It's possible to make a very tall tower (8-10 feet) using a telescopic design, which requires many sheets to be stuck together end-to-end, rolling together and then pulling out from the centre. Most people make the mistake of forming big square section lengths or spans, which are inherently very weak and unstable. This is why the newspaper constructions are such good exercises - each one needs thinking about and planning and testing or people fall into traps and make simple mistakes. The strongest design for weight-bearing is 'building blocks' of hexagonal tubes (six sides). This is the shape that naturally results if lots of circular tubes are compressed sideways together, and it's also the shape found in nature's beehive construction. Hexagonal tubes are difficult to make though and it's unlikely that people will think to do it. It's useful to make up a few samples to demonstrate in the review how strong the hexagonal construction is. Less strong, but quicker is to make is lots of short rolled circular tubes, up to six inches high - make sure there's enough paper for the teams when using the human weight-bearing platform exercise. Grouping the tubes together, stood on their ends and placing sufficient sheets on top to spread the person's weight usually is the easiest way to complete this exercise to a winning standard. Alternatively, roll up lots of solid cylinders, again a few inches long. Grouped and fixed together on their ends these make an immensely strong platform. The best way of finding answers is to try it - you should be doing that anyway if you are facilitating and running the session - you'll be amazed at how strong paper can be if it's folded and/or rolled and assembled with a bit of thought. The weight bearing platform will only be a few inches high - we're not expecting to get someone up to the ceiling. If all else fails, if you think about it, at it's simplest a team member could simply stand on all of their allotted sheets of paper. It'll only be a few millimetres high, but it's still a platform. All of these exercises are generally tackled best by making the 'building block' elements, whether struts or tubes or any other shapes. And this emphasises one of the big lessons from the exercises - planning, and testing (time and materials permitting) are essential.
See also the ideas for working with aluminium baking foil in the baking foil games on the other team building page.
juggling (right-side brain, warm-up, team building, physical activity and lots more)
Juggling is a powerful warm-up and training aid. It's extremely flexible for training and team building, from a 10 minute warm up to a continuous activity over a few days. You'll
need to learn the three-ball cascade first - it's easy - just follow the juggling instructions on this site. To use as a ten minute warm-up, give a summary of the instructions, then issue juggling items. Loosely 5-10% of people can already juggle, and others soon pick it up. Emphasise that everyone can do it provided they go through the proper learning process. Short warm ups can also be done in pairs, using three balls or bags (or lemons or potatoes depending on budget!). Pairs can stand side by side or face to face, but should only use one hand each. One person holds two and starts. The second person throws their ball before catching the ball thrown by their partner. And so on.. To use juggling as an activity to inter-weave with a training course or workshop, break down the juggling instructions and sessions to one ball, then two balls, then three balls. Link to training themes as appropriate (lots of training naturally breaks down into threes, so it fits well). Use any existing jugglers in the group to help coach other delegates, or issue them with four balls and have them learn to juggle four (basically two balls in each hand, not crossing hand to hand, thrown alternately), or issue them with clubs. For more information about juggling four balls and clubs please contact us. Juggling equipment is expensive in the specialist retail outlets, use trade sources instead. Typically you'll get 'Tri-its' pyramid bean bags at £1.50 ($2) for three. Proper juggling balls are more expensive, £3-5 ($4-7) for three, but the extra cost is worth it if you want to print on them to reinforcing a theme or brand, because people keep them. For details of corporate juggling products, or specialised juggling support/facilitation please contact us.
plate spinning (right-side brain, warm-up, team building, physical activity and lots more)
Plate spinning is a great exercise for team building and for warming up delegates for training sessions and conferences. A plate spinning set comprises a plastic plate and a 'wand' - a plastic rod with a point at one end. You can obtain these from a juggling equipment trade supplier for about £1-2 ($1.50-3.00) per set - shop around for the best deal and contact us if you need help. It's easy to teach yourself, which you must do before you try to teach others! It's possible to pass a spinning plate from one person to another using the wands, and this gives lots of possibilities for team races. Plates, like juggling balls, can be branded to support themes, training messages or product launches, etc. They're also cheap enough to give away without denting the budget. People will ask for spares for their kids, so make sure you have plenty. Look at the how to spin a plate page for plate spinning instructions.
diabolo (right-side brain, warm-up, team building, physical activity and lots more)
The diabolo is another great street performer's skill that you can use for team building and training activities. The diabolo set comprises a diabolo 'reel' and two sticks, connected at each end by a length of string. Expect to pay around £5-10 per set depending on the quality and size of diabolo. The diabolo is easy to get started and then to do some basic tricks - throwing up in the air and catching again for instance, after which the diabolo requires quite a demanding level of skill to progress to the more advanced tricks. For instructions how to use and teach the diabolo look at the diabolo instructions on this website.
devil stick (right-side brain, warm-up, team building, physical activity and lots more)
The devil stick is a fantastic piece of equipment, again used by street entertainers the world over. The devil stick set comprises three parts: the devil stick itself, which is a rounded wooden stick, about two feet long, two inches wide at each end, with a taper from each end to a middle 'waist' of about an inch diameter. The other parts are two wooden dowel controlling rods, each sleeved with rubber for grip, about a half-inch in diameter. For instructions how to use and teach the devil stick look at the devil stick instructions on this website.
yoyo (right-side brain, warm-up, team building, physical activity and lots more)
Yoyos are cheap and easy, and great fun. The new style clutch yoyos are now available for less than £1 or a dollar due to over-production in the Far East, so shop around. Start by teaching people how to position the string properly on the yoyo and the finger, then simply making the yoyo go up and down in a controlled way. Next increase difficulty to spinning the yoyo on its clutch (the yoyo stays spinning at the bottom of the string given a fast throw), and then graduate to tricks like 'walking the dog'. Lots more tricks can be demonstrated and taught if you have time. Most yoyos will have instructions on the packaging - make sure you learn the basics yourself before you try teaching others or using yoyos in a warm-up or games activity.
levitron (team building, organizing, lateral thinking, skills development)
The Levitron is without doubt one of the most incredible toys ever invented - it's a small precision spinning-top that with the aid of a repelling magnetic base and special weights, actually stays spinning suspended in mid-air, for two or three minutes. And the Levitron is all the more amazing for the fact that hardly anyone has ever heard about it. It was launched about 1995, but has never really achieved wide distribution. The Levitron is a great product for team games, training and reinforcing concepts about quality, accuracy, patience, the brain, all sorts. The Levitron is available online from several internet retailers. The basic model if you can still get it was around £20 or $30. There are now more advanced 'easier' models, which in many cases will be better for team building activities. See the maker's website levitron.com, or enter 'levitron' into a decent search engine to find a suitable supplier. The UK distributor for trade enquiries is Brainstorm Ltd, tel +44 (0)1200 445113. The use of levitron for team building games and business exercises is restricted only by your imagination - here are some ideas to get you started:
• • • • •
in pairs or teams of 3 - a race to spin first. in teams of 4 or more - a race to spin first with each team member only able to handle a stipulated number of items (eg coloured washers, rubber washer, wedges, the top itself, the perspex plate, the base, etc) - a leader must be elected who allocates responsibilities after a stipulated time to assess abilities. Option to change responsibilities after stipulated periods. in pairs or teams of 3 - longest spin time competition (increase team size and add responsibility requirements as above.) teams of 3 - use levitron instead of construction kits with communication corridor exercise. in teams of 3-5 - create the most spectacular levitron tricks and demonstration using items and materials in the training room. in teams 3-5 - write a training plan to teach someone how to use the levitron. in teams of 5 - role-play the training plan with an individual from the team who does not know how to use it (1 trainee, plus all other team members to have a training duty within the training plan). in teams of 3 - play with the levitron then create an advert for the levitron for the
educational physics market. De-brief and review according to the exercises selected and the local situation and people, abilities, training or team-building purpose, etc. The best way to create a framework for de-brief is to brainstorm the headings before the exercise with the whole group - this also helps people get the best out of the exercise, because they are aware of the pointers.
free team building activities ideas (2) (1)
free ideas for team exercises and activities - for teambuilding, training, employee motivation, learning and development, recruitment, and other group activities
Free team building games, activities and exercises for team development employee motivation. See also the other team building games and activities on this website. See also the tips for planning and running team building activities and the free tips on planning and running workshops for team building and organisational development. Use and adapt these free team building games and exercises ideas to warm up meetings, training, and conferences. These free team building activities, games and exercises are also great ice breakers for training sessions, recruitment group selections, meetings, workshops, seminars, conferences, organisational development, teaching and lecturing for young people and students. Team building games and activities are useful also in serious business project meetings, where games and activities help delegates to see things differently and use different thinking styles. Games and exercises help with stimulating the brain, improving retention of ideas, and increasing fun and enjoyment. Many activities and games can be used or adapted for children's development and education, or for kids party games. We cannot accept responsibility for any liability which arises from the use of any of these free team building exercises ideas or games - please see the disclaimer notice below. Always ensure that you have proper insurance in place for all team building games activities, and take extra care when working with younger people, children and if organising children's party games. See the other team building games and activities (page 1) on this website.
team building games - are the exercises or games appropriate?
Before you decide to use any team building games with a group of people, think about whether the activities are appropriate for the team members and the situation. See the notes on checking that games or team activities are appropriate for your situation. The subjects on this website increasingly feature ideas for developing the whole person. Think beyond providing traditional work skills development. Explore everything, and show your people that you have a broader view about development - they'll have lots of ideas of their own if you let them see it's okay to think that way. Team building games are just a part of a very wide mix of learning and and development experiences that you can explore and facilitate for your people - try anything. If it helps your people to feel good and be good, then it will help your organisation be good too. See the guidelines and tips for planning and running team building activities and the free tips on running team building workshops. Ensure that team-building activities comply with equality policy and law in respect of gender, race, disability, age, etc. Notably, (because the legislation is relatively new) teambuilding facilitators should be familiar with the Employment Equality Age Regulations, effective 1st October 2006, (UK and Europe). For example, a demanding physical activity might be great fun for fit young men, but if one of the team members is old enough to be a grandfather then think again, because it wouldn't be fair, and it might even be unlawful. The same applies to any activities that discriminate against people on grounds of gender, race, disability, etc. Team-building games and activities have to agreeable and acceptable to team members, and the exercises have to be fair.
free team building games (2)
free team building games - warm-ups, quick games and exercises, ice-breakers, exercises and activities
These free team building games and exercises generally last less than one hour, and can be adjusted to create longer team building activities, depending on the sort of team building, ice-breakers, training development activities required. Review and discussion are often useful and helpful after exercises which have raised relationship issues, or changed people's perceptions. Plan and practise all unknown aspects of the activities before using them. Logistics, facilitation and especially how you split the group into the numbers of team members per team are factors which have a big effect on how the exercises work and the experience for all. See the team building activities guidelines for
tips and techniques. See also the activities and exercises on the team building ideas page 1 on this website, and the quizballs quizzes, especially the management and business quiz for aspiring managers and trainers, and anyone interested in managing people and organisations.
free games, exercises and activities (2) (1 - more activities and exercises here)
questioning games (to demonstrate, teach and practise the difference between open and closed questions)
Many people habitually ask closed questions when they want to gather information and encourage the other person to talk, instead of using open questions. Here are some scenarios to use with groups in demonstrating the effectiveness of open questions, and the ineffectiveness of closed questions, for gathering information efficiently. Use your own alternative scenarios if more appropriate to your situation. In each case state the scenario to the group, and then role-play or ask for closed questions by which the group must gather all the facts or solve the puzzle. This is neither easy nor efficient of course. Then ask for suggestions of open questions which will reveal the information or answer most efficiently. Scenarios (numbers 2 and 3 are lateral thinking puzzles suitable for questioning exercises): 1. You are seeking to rent a holiday cottage in a particular area (say Cornwall, or whatever). The newspaper has one advert in the Cornwall section, stating merely: 'Holiday Cottage For Rent' and a phone number. Role-play your phone call to discover if the cottage is what you want, using closed questions only. (If helpful, brainstorm a long list of typical requirements beforehand.) Similar exercises are possible using other sale/hire/services scenarios, e.g., cars, houses, party/wedding venues, coaching, clubs, etc. 2. A class of twenty-five children is invited by their teacher to share a bag of exactly twenty-five sweets. After the share-out all the children have a sweet but one sweet remains in the bag. How is this? Instruct the group to ask closed questions to solve the
puzzle. (The answer is that last sweet was taken away in the bag.) 3. Two electric trains were mistakenly routed onto the same track in opposite directions into a tunnel. One travelling at 200 mph, the other at 220 mph. Each train passed successfully through the tunnel and was able to continue its journey without stopping or colliding. How so? Instruct the group to ask closed questions to solve the puzzle. (The answer is that the second train entered the tunnel several minutes after the first one had left it.) Use or adapt your own puzzles and scenarios as appropriate for the audience. You can also vary the way that the group asks questions - in turn, one-to-one with observers, in pairs, etc. Here is some explanation of the use of questioning in a sales training context, as typically found in a traditional selling process. Questioning of course features importantly within coaching, counselling, interviewing, investigating, and many other disciplines, so adapt the explanation to suit your needs. Use the poster of Rudyard Kipling's 'six serving men' verse to help explain and reinforce the best way to ask open questions. You can also extend this activity to develop the way that questions are structured and asked (style, emotion, tone, body language, use of words, etc), in which the Mehrabian theory is a helpful reference. For help with enabling powerful facilitative questioning see Sharon Drew Morgen's Facilitative Methodology. (My thanks to Sarah Phillips for this activity idea.)
diversity quiz game (for diverse groups, mutual understanding, empathy, diversity training)
Here is an easy exercise which makes use of the quiz format to teach and improve people's response to diversity issues. The activity is for diverse groups (mixed age, race, gender, religion, and/or other types of people), but the exercise will be useful for groups of apparently less diverse nature too. Diversity is not just about race and religion - diversity entails all aspects of what makes people different, which can be found in any group of people, even if initially the group seems not very diverse at all.
The exercise is basically for the group members to create a diversity quiz by contributing questions individually (or working in pairs or threes depending on overall group size), and then for the group as a whole to take the quiz (or in the same teams). This process enables discovery of real practical local diversity issues, instead of assuming and announcing what they might be. If appropriate first brainstorm and/or discuss and agree/explain what diversity means. Here is a suggested description. Adapt it or use your own explanation to suit the situation. "In a social or work context diversity means difference and variation among people. This difference and variation can be characterised by race, gender, age, religion, physical shape and ability, social class and background, personality and ability: any, some, or all of these. Organizations which make the most of the natural diversity in their staff, customers, suppliers and other partners, have a huge advantage over organizations which fail to do so. Making the most of diversity in staff and other people - often called inclusiveness - increases the depth and range of behaviours and capabilities (also skills, knowledge and styles) that the organization can call upon in meeting the needs of the increasingly diverse market place. Recognising diversity in the market place effectively increases the size of the market. Failing to acknowledge diversity within and outside the organization reduces capabilities, causing the organization to be less appealing, and to fewer people, and in some cases creates organizational liabilities for litigation under discrimination laws. Failure to recognise and respond to diversity often equates to discrimination and is regarded by fair-minded people as unethical." Here is the instruction to group members to create the quiz: 1. You have five (or 10 or 15) minutes to formulate one (or two or three) quiz question(s) and answer(s) for a diversity quiz. You must do this individually/in pairs/in threes. N.B. Timings, numbers of questions and team size depends on the size of the group, for example: work as individuals for group sizes up to 9 people; in pairs for groups of 8-24 people; or in threes for groups of 15 and above. Very parge groups should be spilt into sub-groups with appointed facilitators. Consider time availavle and number of questions needed when deciding your parameters for the activity. 2. Tell the group: when formulating your questions and answers think about subjects that are significant in reflecting or influencing how you, and people like you act, think, behave, decide, etc. Questions can be about anything - history, lifestyle, culture, media, travel, geography, finance, food and drink, language, politics, leasure and entertainment. 3. For the effective running of the quiz, questions must be clear and easy to understand, and have clear short answers - facts, figures, etc., not subjective personal opinions that might be subject to wide interpretation.
4. One of the ironies of diversity is that we all tend to assume that people who are different to us understand how and why we think and behave the way we do. We take for granted the way we are, and expect others to sympathise with us, and to see things from our viewpoint. This starts with the simplest aspects of our lives. Therefore in formulating helpful diversity quiz questions and answers do not strive for complex concepts. Keep it simple, and you will be surprised how revealing and helpful this can be. 5. Hand the formulated questions and answers to the facilitator, who can then run the quiz for the whole group using all questions. The quiz can be run for people competing as individuals or in the same pairs or threes which formulated the questions. A useful reference model for this activity is the Johari Window. The diversity quiz exercise seeks to enable people to increase what others know about each other, which is at the root of inclusiveness and making the most of diversity. The Multiple Intelligence model is also a useful reference model for considering people's different strengths (to avoid assuming that there is only one type of intellectual capability), and the Erikson life stages model is also helpful in considering age and upbringing issues.
Please send me quizzes created using the above exercise to share with others, or post them onto the Businessballs free publishing Space.
causes and solutions exercises (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.
quiz public survey game (research, communications skills, appreciating the knowledge other people possess, human engagement, fun)
This is a simple twist to bring any quiz or question to life, and add a wonderful dimension for developing and demonstrating the power of successfully communicating and engaging with other people. Split the group to suit you (teams, pairs, or threes probably best). Decide rules, timing, presentation, discussion, review, etc., to fit your situation. All this is flexible. Take any quiz or series of questions, or one big difficult question. Issue it to the teams (or pairs, or individuals, etc). The task is to go out and engage with the general public to find the answers. Introduce variations to suit your situation. For example if working with competing teams you can arrange that each team has a 'shadow' or observer from another team to ensure no cheating, and also to give observer feedback in any reviews that happen afterwards. (If appropriate brainstorm the review points prior to the exercise with the group - it's easier and better than you doing this by yourself.) You can also define certain areas or places for the teams to go (shopping centre, pubs, library, old folks home for example), although take care to ensure no nuisance is caused. State clear rules for the use of phones. Purists might argue that they are not allowed at all, which is fine, but there is no problem allowing an element of phone research if it fits the
group roles/preferences and development situation. There are lots of quizzes in the quizballs section, including many with interesting varied content that would suit this exercise. Or make up your own questions or subjects for the teams to research among the general public, for example:
• • • • • • •
List the last 20 prime ministers/presidents in correct order. List all the county towns/state capitals. Name all the Big Brother winners in order. What's the history of the local town? Who are the most famous people born locally? What are the five most liked corporations, and what are the five least liked corporations? Who would win an election if one were called now?
You'll think of lots more ideas.
bin toss game (warm-up, tea-break activity, competitive exercise, exploring competitiveness and motivation)
Adapt this simple idea any way you want. There are lots of potential variations. A horseshoe table layout (U-shape) or a ring of tables or a square with a gap in the centre are well-suited to this idea. 'Cabaret'-style layout will also work provided the position of the waste bin target(s) is arranged fairly. You can probably guess already... Position a waste bin or basket on the floor or on a table centrally between the delegates. The winner or winning team is the one to throw the most balls of paper (or any other suitable objects that the facilitator decides) into the bin. Obviously specify a method of identifying who threw what. Variations on the theme are for example:
• • • • •
Design a personalised or team brand or logo for each sheet rolled and tossed. Different coloured paper. Paper rockets. Only one sheet allowed - how many tiny balls can you get in the bin. Time limits. Limits on amount of projectile materials.
• • • • • • • • •
All throw at once, or take it in turns. Business cards - float or spin. Coins, coloured rubber bands. Pairs, threes, teams. More than one bin with different point values. Ice buckets and dustbins. One bin per team with point deductions for opposing team missiles successfully deposited. Write a letter on each sheet before tossing - words must be spelled from bin contents. Pairs, or threes or teams to devise a party game based around the bin toss idea then demonstrate and sell it to the group.
You'll think of lots more.. When you have why not publish them on the new Businessballs Space?...
bricks in the wall exercise (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 resources and materials, maybe people too, and intangibles like agreements, permissions, understanding, etc. and 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.
the ampersand game (ice-breakers, 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'. It looks like this, in two common fonts, (Tahoma and Times New Roman):
In fact 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 - hence why it takes a bit of practice to reproduce a good one by hand.
seasonal team games (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 ongoing 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.
See Quizballs 29 - twenty questions and answers for parties and team games.
cartoon and celebrity role-plays (case-studies, character profiles and scenarios for role-playing appraisals, interviews, counselling, disciplinary meetings, and coaching reviews, etc)
Creating or compiling case-studies, character profiles, and scenarios for role-play training exercises can be time-consuming and difficult for trainers. This is especially applicable when planning role-plays in training for appraisals, job interviewing, counselling, disciplinary meetings, coaching, etc., when it's important to get people practising and observing techniques and learned skills. Role-plays produce significant benefits for the participants and observers - and provide evidence of learning retention and comprehension - but giving people suitably interesting parts to play usually requires a lot of preparation. Even given good preparation, casestudies which are too mundane or too close to real work situations can hinder enjoyment and the necessary detachment and focus on techniques. Here's a way to generate easily and quickly lots of interesting case-study character profiles and scenarios for role-play exercises, which will also be great fun and very enjoyable to use. Instead of spending ages searching for and developing work-based case-studies, consider using well known characters and situations from the world of news, entertainment and celebrity. You can also get the group involved in thinking of suitable characters or situations they'd like to incorporate into their role-plays, for whatever work skills you are teaching or seeking to demonstrate. Certain characters are useful for different sorts of skills development role-plays. Where helpful or necessary also stipulate a situation that relates to the character. Situations related to characters are especially useful in roles-plays for disciplinary or counselling meetings, and for performance reviews, etc. Here are some character examples. You'll be able to think of many more:
Superman, Lex Luthor, Batman, Catwoman, other comic book heroes and anti-
• • • • • • • •
heroes (for mediation roles-plays too..) George Bush, Tony Blair, Nelson Mandela, Hillary and Bill Clinton, other politicians Characters from Thunderbirds, Wacky Races, X-Men, Star Trek, etc Characters from TV Soaps; Eastenders, Coronation Street, Friends, Sex in the City, etc Characters from Sci-Fi and fantasy adventure: Dr Who, James Bond, Harry Potter, Bilbo Baggins, etc Rupert Murdoch, Clive Thompson, Richard Branson, and other notable corporate leaders in the news Cruella Deville, Snow White, Homer Simpson, other cartoon characters Tom and Jerry, Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote, (for arbitration role-plays..) Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Paul Gascoigne, OJ Simpson, and other controversial celebrity figures
The world of news and entertainment is full of well-known characters and interesting situations that provide unlimited fascinating raw material for role-plays. Using iconic and famous characters enables participants to relate quickly to the personalities and broad issues. Characters and situations are instantly recognisable and instantly available for all sorts of role-play situations. Importantly, not having extensive case-study details encourages people to focus on helpful facilitative questioning and listening, and on clear expression and presentation, all of which is central to successful one-to-one communications. Using very broad and powerful characters and situations enables a strong focus on the development of communications style and techniques for both/all participants, rather than getting bogged down in technical work-based content. (If you want to work with bit more detail you can always use biographies or obituaries of famous people, which are readily available on the web.) It's also a lot more fun role-playing larger-than-life iconic characters than using detailed (and for many, boring) management case-studies. Fully detailed work-based role-plays of course have a place in the learning and development spectrum, but there are times when something quicker and more stimulating will work better. Not forgetting also the benefit for the facilitator, for whom these ideas enable role-playing activities to be organised without having to spend ages compiling and writing case-study profiles.
obituaries (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)
telephone chatting activities (team-building for homebased staff, telephone skills exercises, remote teams relationships)
Home-based staff and remote teams miss out on the valuable social contact normally available to office-based teams. Personal interaction between staff (typically chatting and engaging in the canteen, elevator, lounge areas, etc) is crucial for developing relationships and mutual awareness among teams, so if teams do not meet frequently then the leader must devise ways to enable this personal interaction to happen. Traditional autocratic management discourages chatting between workers because it considers chatting to be a waste of time, but this misses the point. "You are paid to work not to chat or socialise in the corridor - get back to work.." is actually a very unhelpful management tactic. The truth is the better team members know each other the better the team performs. See the Johari Window model - it is a powerful explanation of the value of increasing mutual awareness, and why mutual awareness is central to effective teams and team building. Within reason, people need to be given every opportunity to get to know each other, and chatting achieves this very well. Chatting develops mutual awareness, and it also helps people feel included and valued. Conversely, if you deny people the chance to engage personally with their colleagues you starve them of interaction that is essential for wellbeing and life balance. The internet increasingly enables people to connect through 'groups' and 'social networking' websites, but for many remote or home-based work teams a simple telephone-based alternative can provide an easier more natural process, moreover using the telephone - even for chatting - helps improve telephone skills, especially listening. A simple way to achieve this double benefit of team development and skills improvement among remote teams is to encourage telephone chatting (within reason of course) between team members. Here are some ideas for doing this:
Introduce a compulsory 15 minutes telephone chat-time which each team member must have with every other team member every week. Give no subject or aim other than having a good chat and getting to know the other person. Introduce a rota or matrix for inter-team chat telephone appointments - timings to suit workloads - again with no aims other than to have a chat and learn something about each other. Introduce a virtual team tea-break or virtual visit to the pub - everyone is in fact by their phone in their own homes or offices (with a cup of tea or a tumbler of what does you good) connected a suitable via telephone conference call - and the tone and spirit of the discussion must be as if the team were gathered around a table in the canteen or at the local pub. There are no aims or intended outcomes aside from having a good chat and getting to know each other better. When people are connecting more regularly and the telephone chats are up and running, maybe try introducing a few discussion subjects - not necessarily about work - anything to get people talking and understanding each other better. Maybe ask the team to suggest topics too, and then see where the team wants to take things.
Encouraging and enabling chatting between team members improves telephone communications skills since it involves using the telephone to develop understanding, mutual awareness, empathy and relationships between people. Skills development becomes sharper still if activities are adapted for 'conference' calls connecting several people. Communications skills are placed under greater pressure when the voice is the only medium, which obviously tends to develop people's listening abilities.
businessballs quickies (ice-breakers, thought-provokers, ideas you can develop into all sorts of activities)
These are quickies in the sense that they are quick for me to explain and for you to understand the basic ideas. What you do with them is up to you. Of course the development of these ideas could also be team exercises in their own right. Have fun. quickie 1 - marbles Take a few bags of marbles into the session. They are inexpensive, extremely evocative and nostalgic, beautiful and can be used for all sorts of exercises, aside from simply organising a quick knock-out competition (in which case be sure to brainstorm and agree the rules first with everyone..) quickie 2 - ultimate sandwiches Provide various loaves of bread, butter, margarine, and various (adventurous) fillings, plus bread-knives and wipes. Competition to make the ultimate sandwich. Variations
extend to sending delegates out at lunchtime to buy their own ingredients for the ultimate sandwich challenge. Group tasting and voting as appropriate. Be adventurous with fillings and if appropriate enforce penalties and forfeits for anything you could buy in a sandwich bar. Bonus points for anything including anchovies, capers, etc. Could you patent a sandwich? What sandwich would be most or least profitable? Consider production, packaging and distribution too. Correlations between sandwiches and types of people (makers and eaters)? Brand your ultimate sandwich. How would you market and promote your sandwich? How would you extend your successful sandwich business?.. Fancy rolls/cobs/batches/baps? (any other names incidentally for a bread roll?), pot noodles? restaurants, delivery? Market sectors? Range diversification? Pies, pasties, soup in the basket?.. quickie 3 - papier mache Papier mache, for those who never paid attention at infant school, is newspaper strips and flour paste glue, which is a wonderful modelling material, for small and large constructions, especially with a few tubs of Vaseline (petroleum jelly) as a release agent (if using moulds) and maybe some chicken wire from the local DIY store for making base structures. Painting is optional if you have time for constructions to dry and work on another day. For ideas see papiermache.co.uk. Revisit all the construction exercises you know and consider how they might work with papier mache. Aprons are advisable. quickie 4 - conkers Still a few around (October 2006) and amazingly the kids aren't interested in them any more, which means there's plenty for grown-ups. A knock-out championship is the obvious activity, but like marbles they are beautiful and will prompt lots of thoughts, memories, feelings etc., which can be used to address all sorts of issues - environment, cultural diversity, technique, quality, ageism, etc.( Conkers of course get better with age, not vinegar, which just makes them smelly and soggy..) quickie 5 - sweeties Buy a few chocolate bars and tubes of sweets - one or two of the main varieties - and see how the groups responds to them. Why do we each have our favourites? What correlation is there between favourite chocolate bar and personality? Is there a class thing going on? Is there a gender thing? Cultural diversity and team correlations or analogies? What are the brilliant marketing and packaging successes and abject failures? Does anyone in the world like the new Smarties packaging? Bring back the tube I say. The possibilities are endless. quickie 6 - breakfast cereals Another visit to the supermarket, or task the delegates to go shopping at lunch-time for the cereals (according to whatever rules you state) and report back on their service and marketing experiences and observations. Same sort of activities and discussions as above
basically. Milk, sugar, spoons and bowls are optional. Who prefers it straight out of the box dry? Anyone prefer water on their cornflakes? Salt and sugar debate, linked to marketing and social responsibility issues? How old is Tony the Tiger? What's the best thing you ever had free from a cereal box? What's the greatest example of added value? Which actually tastes the best and can we predict what your team members will like and dislike? Are the adverts grreeeeaaat or are they a load of rubbish? Can we see similarities in the style and feel of products from the same organisation? Which brands are more likely to succeed globally and which will need re-branding? quickie 7 - groups Essentially this is an activity for the group to organise itself into sub-groups according to the categories you state. People should have space to move around, and materials to create simple signs (for sub-group names). It's up to the group to establish the sub-group sections, which many people will find very challenging - they have to create the structure from nothing and then fit themselves into it. The facilitator can stipulate minimum and maximum sub-group sizes, which obviously increases or reduces challenge of deciding the sub-group structures. Here are some examples of subject categories. These are daft, but daft is thought-provoking, fun, and a great leveller, which makes the topics helpful for relating to each other in ways that are completely removed from usual work or social groupings:
• • • • • • • •
preferred washing-up or vacuuming or decorating or gardening methods favourite type of TV or show or entertainment leader role model random words, eg., 'pets/money/sport/wow', or 'table/tree/nut/leave' (obviously the random words are effectively the sub-group structure) holiday destinations favourite music dream car preferred retirement age
Points to review after several group organisation phases would be for example: what did you think when you saw different people in different sub-groups? Who surprised you in their choices? Who was predictable and unpredictable? How did people's behaviour change in according to the different group categories? Who has knowledge or expertise or passion about something that we didn't realise before? quickie 8 - playground visit Take people to a local kids playground and mess around on the swings and roundabouts, etc. Try not to get into trouble with the local authority. Find a location without an upper age limit ideally. Preferable go when the kids are at school. Playgrounds help people get in touch with feelings and imagination that gets buried and hidden at work. And it's fun.
visualisation exercises (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.)
team skipping (teamwork, team-building, warm-ups, outdoor activities)
These team skipping activities are for groups of ten people or more, ideally twenty or larger, up to very large groups of a hundred or two hundred people. Split the group into teams of five to ten team members - 8-10 is ideal - or bigger teams if you fancy being more adventurous. Issue each team with a length of rope six metres long, or longer if you want to work with larger teams. The rope should be suitable for skipping, about 1cm wide, typically available from DIY and hardware stores. As ever practise and test any untried elements before selecting activities and materials for the actual event or session. The task for the teams is to perform a routine or series of skipping exercises in teams (like children's playground games, with two team members holding the rope, one at each end obviously). Instruct and demonstrate the rope twirling correctly, so that the skipping rope just touches the floor on each downward part of the twirl. Twirling too fast or too high can be dangerous and is punishable by detention or a visit to the head-teacher's office.. The rope holders will create a safer wider higher area of clearance for their team's jumpers by using their arms, not just wrists, to create big circles when twirling the rope. Ensure everyone in the teams has a chance to practise the rope twirling if the intention is to rotate this responsibility during the routines, which will add useful variety and change. Teams can perform simultaneously or one after the other depending on the situation, as planned by the session facilitator, although activities like this are far more dynamic and exciting if everyone is involved at the same time. If you wish you can arrange individual team displays or 'jump-offs' at the end of the activity, which will enable voting and
judging by all participants. As implied, voting or judging the best teams and team members can be included in the activity depending on the situation. You can create different prize categories to ensure there are a number of different opportunities for teams and participants to excel in their own way (style, technique, duration, most spectacular rope tangle, most awkward director, overall best skipper, most reliable steady twirlers, best team rhythm, etc, etc.) Music can also be used to add to the atmosphere, in which case be aware of the effect of the music beat on the skipping speed. Encourage team members when not skipping themselves to coach and support those skipping at the time. It is the responsibility of the facilitator(s) to oversee the skipping speeds to ensure teams keep to sensible and safe rhythms. Be mindful of age and health issues, and structure the activities accordingly, for example allowing those who prefer not to skip to be twirlers or coaches or judges. Be mindful also of general health and safety and insurance issues, and where appropriate (especially if you are external provider) ask participants to sign a disclaimer. If using the activities indoors ensure the floor is carpeted or that sponge gym mats are used to cover the skipping areas. If using the exercise outside use a grassed area rather than a car-park. Under no circumstances force anyone to take part. This sort of physical activity must always be voluntary, and also must be appropriate for the group. Warn participants not to jump in high heels (not just the men, the ladies too..) If you really want to use this exercise but are unable or unwilling to risk the rope then consider running the exercise without the rope. Instruct the teams to use an imaginary rope. It might sound a daft idea, but it will get people thinking, moving and jumping about, and working in teams. And it's completely safe. Here are some examples of skipping instructions, which can be issued in advance, or called out during the activity by the facilitator. Plan instructions that are appropriate for the type of group. Variation to instructions can be increased by asking the teams to give a number to each team member. You should clarify the instruction terminology before the exercise begins. Terminology suggestions (adapt according to preferences):
skipping zone = the floor area above which the rope is twirling, between the two rope holders step in = enter the skipping zone and start jumping, preferably over the rope at
each revolution step out = exit the skipping zone, preferably without getting caught by the rope twirler = a rope-holding team member responsible for twirling the skipping rope
These skipping instructions examples are based on a team size of 8-10 people but in principle they'll work with larger or smaller teams. Be creative and imaginative. There are no bounds to the silliness, subject to safety and the group's sense of humour and fun:
• • • • • • •
step in/out boys/girls/all/bosses/directors/team-member1/2/3/whatever change one/both twirlers (while skipping continues) clap/chant/count/sing along to the music/whatever in time with skipping rhythm boys remove ties while skipping girls put make-up on the boys while all skipping make a mobile phone call to a loved one/colleague while skipping you get the idea..
More chaotically challenging variation and team inter-action can be introduced by instructing team members to join or swap team members with other teams. This obviously changes the competitive team dynamic into one of whole group interaction and cooperation. To do this you will need to clearly identify each team. Again, using humour and imagination makes more fun. Examples of a 'whole group' instructions:
All teams to synchronise their skipping rhythm so the whole group is skipping 'as one'. All teams maintain at least one/two/three jumpers, while the whole group reorganises into (balanced) teams according to categories specified by the facilitator, for example: boys/girls; job type; length of service; personality type; favourite food; etc, etc. (The facilitator must prepare and list the categories within these broad category headings, for example personality type could offer the categories of reliable-dependable, intuitive-creative, critical-thinking, warmfriendly.) Each team develop into their own actual or virtual team by swapping team members with other teams and then develop their own distinct skipping pattern/sequence/style/performance which reflects their actual or virtual team role in the whole group/organisation (which can be performed and judged at the end of the activity).
isolation and intuition team exercises (relationships, bullying and harassment, diversity, intuitive demonstrations)
Here are two simple ideas for groups which can each be developed and adapted to suit local situations. Split very large groups into teams of ten to twenty people. exercise 1 - isolation The task demonstrates the feelings that a person experiences when isolated or subject to victimisation, group rejection, etc. As such it supports the teaching of positive human interaction principles, and laws relating to equality, diversity and harassment. Ask the team(s) to nominate a person among each team to be the 'victim', who must then stand away from the rest of the team, while the team members stare and sneer at the unfortunate isolated 'victim'. For very grown-up people you can allow mild criticism directed at the 'victim' (nothing too upsetting or personal please). In any event be careful, and do you best to ensure that the first 'victim' is not the most vulnerable member of the team. Preferably it should be the most confident or senior member, and better still the team's boss. Ensure every team member that wishes to is able to experience being the victim. The review should focus on how 'victims' felt while isolated and being subjected to the staring or worse by the rest of the team. The exercise demonstrates the power of group animosity towards isolated individuals. If appropriate and helpful you can of course end the activity with a big group hug to show that everyone is actually still friends. (Hugging incidentally demonstrates well the power of relationships at the positive end of the scale of human interaction and behaviour. See the Love and Spirituality at Work section for more supporting background to this subject.) exercise 2 - intuition Aside from the lessons from exercise 1 relating to victimisation, the above activity also highlights the significance of intuitive feelings, which although difficult to measure and articulate, are extremely significant in relationships, teams and organisations. This next exercise augments the first one to further illustrate the power of intuition and feelings that resides in each of us. Using the same or similar team(s) in terms of size, then split the team(s) into two halves. One half of the team (called 'the watched') should stand facing a wall unable to see the other half of the team (called 'the watchers') which should stand together, several or many yards away from 'the watched'. The watchers then decide among themselves which person to stare at in 'the watched' half of the team (for say 30 seconds per 'target' person). The watchers can change whom they stare at and if so should make rough notes about timings for the review. After an initial review you can change the sides to ensure everyone experiences watching and being watched. Of course 'the watched' half of the team won't know which one is being stared at... or will
they? In the reviews you will find out if any of 'the watched' people were able to tell intuitively who was being stared at, even though 'the watchers' were out of sight. Also discuss generally how 'the watched' and 'the watchers' felt, such as sensations of discomfort or disadvantage among 'the watched', and perhaps opposite feelings among the watchers, all of which can support learning about relationships and human interaction. For review also is the possibility that some people in the teams are more receptive and interested in the activity than others, which invites debate about whether some people are more naturally intuitive than others, which is generally believed to be so, and the implications of preferences either way. Experiments (and many people's own experience) indicate that many people have an instinctive or intuitive sense of being watched, and although there is no guarantee that your own activities will produce clear and remarkable scientific results, the exercise will prompt interesting feelings, discussion and an unusual diversion into the subject of intuitive powers.
age diversity exercises for teams (age discrimination training, ageism awareness, diversity development)
With the introduction of Age Discrimination legislation (UK October 2006, and consistent with European law), there is an increased need to raise awareness and to train people about ageism and age discrimination. Here are some ideas for activities and exercises which will highlight the issues. See the related notes about Age Discrimination and Diversity, including the 'objective justification' rules explaining certain allowable age discrimination subject to robust evidence that it is proportionate and legitimate. Organise teams and discussions according to your situation. Here are four separate ideas which can be used for exercises and team games. 1. Under age discrimination legislation many customary expressions in written and spoken communications are potentially unlawful if they refer to a person's age (any age - not only older people) in a negative way, and/or which could cause a person to feel they are being harassed or discriminated against. Under the law, individuals are liable (for harassment claims) as well as employers' wider responsibilities regarding discrimination, harassment and retirement. Some very common expressions are potentially discriminatory or harassing if directed at someone at work. Ask people to think of examples - there are lots of them, such as:
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Teach an old dog new tricks An old head on young shoulders Mature beyond his/her years
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Respect your elders It's a young man's game Too old Past it Over the hill Put out to grass or pasture Dead man's shoes Too young/Not old enough/Not mature enough
2. Direct age discrimination means treating a person at work less favourably because of their age. Indirect discrimination is more difficult to identify and guard against than direct discrimination, and it is equally unlawful. Indirect discrimination is where policies, criteria, processes, activities, practices, rules or systems create a disadvantage for someone because of their age. These pitfalls can be less easy to identify and eliminate than directly discriminatory behaviour. Ask delegates to think of examples of potential indirect discrimination with your own organisation or within other (real or hypothetical) organisations, and/or based on past experience. Here are some examples - there are lots more:
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job or person profiles or adverts (and advertising media) which stipulate or imply an age requirement application or assessment documentation which includes reference to age or date of birth training or job selection criteria, attitudes, expectations which differentiate according to age job promotion decisions and attitudes pay and grades and benefits policies holiday entitlement and freedoms social activities and clubs which have or imply age restrictions office and work-place traditions of who should do the tea-making, errands and menial tasks organisational and departmental culture, extending to jokes and banter
3. Age diversity (as other sorts of diversity) offers advantages and benefits to all organisations and employers, especially where a diverse range of people-related capabilities is a clear organisational and/or competitive strength. This is particularly so in all service businesses. In all organisations, age diversity (as other sorts of diversity) is very helpful for management teams, which benefit from having a range and depth of skills, and a broad mix of experience, maturity, and different perspectives, from youngest to oldest. Diversity in organisations relates strongly to the immensely powerful 1st Law of Cybernetics. Ask people to suggest specific benefits which age (or any other) diversity brings to organisations. This helps focus on the advantages of encouraging diversity, aside from
simply complying with the legislation. Here are some examples - there are lots more:
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Diverse organisations can engage well with diverse customer groups, markets, suppliers, etc Diversity in management teams can more easily engage with a diverse workforce A diverse workforce has a fuller appreciation of market needs and trends Diverse organisations have more answers to more questions than those which lack diversity Diversity enables flexibility and adaptability - diversity has more responses available to it than narrowly defined systems (Cybernetics again..) Age Diversity in an organisation collectively understands the past, the present and the future Age diversity naturally enables succession and mentoring Age diversity in management helps executives stay in touch with the whole organisation; helps keep feet on the ground (as opposed to heads in the clouds or up somewhere unmentionable) Full diversity in an organisation collectively understands the world, whereas a non-diverse system by its own nature only has a limited view.
N.B. Beware of promoting age diversity by suggesting particular correlations between age and capability, which can in itself be discriminatory. For example it is not right to say that only older people have maturity and wisdom, nor that only younger people have energy and vitality. Instead make the point that by having a mixture of people and ages, an organisation is far more likely to be able to meet the diverse demands of managing itself, and engaging successfully with the outside world, compared to an organisation which lacks diversity. 4. If you do not already have an equality policy (stating the organisation's position relating to all aspects of equality and discrimination) why not start the creative process with a brainstorm session about what it should contain. Incidentally the term 'brainstorming' is not normally considered to be a discriminatory or disrespectful term, just in case anyone asks... Ask the team(s) or group to list your own or other typical major organisational processes (inwardly and outwardly directed, for instance recruitment, training and development, customer and supplier relationships, etc) and how each might be described so as to ensure equality and to avoid wrongful discrimination. Alternatively ask people individually or the team(s) to prepare or research (in advance of the session, or during it if you have sufficient internet connections) examples of other organisations' equality policies, with a view then to suggesting and discussing as a group all of the relevant aspects which could for used for your own situation.
We all, irrespective of age, race, religion, gender, disability, etc., have our own special capabilities and strengths, and it is these capabilities and strengths that good organisations must seek to identify, assess, encourage and utilise, regardless of age or other potentially discriminatory factors.
shot at dawn discussion (organisational morality, leadership styles and integrity, decision-making, humanity versus efficiency)
This is a big emotional subject which enables a variety of discussions about morality, ethics, integrity, leadership styles, policies and decision-making in institutions and organisations, and the wider world. It also provides a stimulating basis for exploring ethics versus autocracy, and for examining the balance in organisations and cultures between humanity and efficiency. Organise the team(s) and debating activities to suit the audience and context. This can include debating, presenting, role-playing, brainstorming, listing and mapping key factors - anything that fits your aims and will be of interest and value to people. The subject also provides a thought-provoking warm-up discussion for any session dealing with ethics, morality, compassion, leadership, decision-making, and organisational culture, etc. Read and/or issue the notes about the Shot At Dawn pardons, which were announced by the British government on 16 August 2006, relating to British soldiers shot by firing squad for 'cowardice' and 'desertion' in the 1st World War. The 'Shot At Dawn' story represents a 90 year campaign to secure posthumous pardons for over 300 soldiers shot by firing squad in 1914-18 when it was known then, and certainly in recent decades, that most of these men were suffering from shell-shock and mental illness. The human perspective is obviously considerable, including the institutional position up to the August 2006 announcement. The story of the Shot At Dawn campaign and its historical background prompts discussion about some fundamental modern issues relating to organisational management, ethical leadership, and wider issues of cultural behaviour, for example (see the organisational perspectives below too):
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leadership styles - morality-centred versus results-centred (and any other leadership styles models people care to explore) leadership integrity and ethics policy-making methods, purposes and reviews decision-making influences and reference points decision-making pressures which cloud judgement
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morality and compassion in institutions and organisations - versus the need to maintain controls and systems the growing responsibility and opportunity for ordinary people to hold leaders to account for humanitarian and ethical conduct why did it take successive UK governments much longer than any other nation to begin to reconcile this issue? why is this issue being resolved now and not twenty or fifty years ago?
The different organisational perspectives together provide a stimulating way to look at organisational dynamics, systems, and relationships, etc:
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the army and leaders of the time who saw the need to implement the policy to execute soldiers the politicians and institutional system which until recently refused to acknowledge the injustice of the executions and the avoidance of the truth the campaign dimensions, and how the modern world enables increasing transparency of ethical issues
When looking at the issues people will also see meanings and relevance in their own terms, and as such discussion can help personal and mutual discovery and awareness. There are also many parallels with modern issues of organisational ethics and social responsibility, because at the heart of the issue lie the forces of humanity and efficiency, which to a lesser or greater extent we all constantly strive to reconcile. N.B. People will not necessarily all agree a similar interpretation of the First World War pardons. This makes it a particularly interesting subject for debate, especially in transferring the issues and principles and lessons to modern challenges in organisations, and the world beyond.
corporate globalization debate exercise ideas (exploring: corporate globalization issues, corporate response to the debate, and the internet as a powerful force for awareness, challenge and change)
Whether you agree with the sentiments or not, this performance by Lizzie West is an immensely powerful comment about corporate globalisation. The nature of its availability and potential 'reach' (an advertising expression for exposure) also illustrates the awesome potency of the internet. Maybe start your next meeting or training session with this and discuss or arrange an organised debate about the issues involved, whatever your perspective. Free live music download: - Lizzie West performing 'Little Boxes' at The Cutting Room
in NYC 27 July 2006 Please ensure that when you use this you credit Lizzie West and mention her website as the source: www.lizziewestlife.com. Here are some ideas for exercises to use with this for developing good awareness and outcomes related to globalisation, and particularly corporate globlisation issues:
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Define 'globalisation' (or 'globalization' - either is correct) - there is no single answer, eg: www.globalisationguide.org What is corporate globalisation? Is it a feature of globalisation or a driver of it? What are the other drivers of globalisation and/or corporate globalisation? Is globalisation and/or corporate globalisation a good thing or a bad thing? Give examples of each. Is our company or organisation an example of good globalisation or not so good globalisation? Name some examples of good organisations on the context of globalisation, and some not so good ones, and say why. What can individual employees and teams do to ensure that the organisation is regarded as a positive effect on globalisation and not a negative one? How does globalisation relate to ethical business, the 'Triple Bottom Line', Fairtrade, etc? How do customers perceive globalisation - what's good about it and what's not good about it? How does globalisation relate to customer service and retention? What are the environmental impacts and potential advantages in globalisation? Which are the subjective (matter of opinion) aspects of globalisation, and which are the clear indisputable good and bad points? What would be a good three or five-point plan for an organisation to use globalisation for good, rather than risk damage and harm?
inspirational speech exercises (public speaking, presentation skills, motivation, inspirational leadership)
This is a simple idea for a group of between five and around a dozen delegates. Split larger groups into teams and appoint team-leaders. Ask people to select in advance a great speech, verse, piece of poetry, news report, etc., to deliver to the team or group. The chosen piece can be anything that each delegate finds inspiring and powerful, for example Nelson Mandela's inauguration speech, Martin Luther King's speeches about civil rights, The St Crispin's speech from Shakespeare's Henry V, or maybe lyrics from a pop song - really anything that the delegates find
personally exciting and interesting. Ask the team members to give their speeches in turn to the group, injecting as much personal style and passion as they can. Then review with the team the notable aspects of each performance, the effect on the speaker, the audience, etc. Preparation in advance by the delegates is optional and in some situations recommended for presentation skills and public speaking courses. Facilitate accordingly. Obviously where delegates are not able to prepare then the facilitator instead needs to prepare several suitable pieces for team members to choose from or select at random. Or to keep matters very simple the facilitator can select just one speech or other literary work for all of the delegates to deliver, in which case encourage and review the different interpretations. A different twist to the exercise is to select a piece or pieces that would not normally be delivered passionately to an audience, such as the instructions from the packaging of a household cleaner or a boil-in-the-bag meal. Encourage people to team members to stretch and project themselves through their performances. If helpful, brainstorm with the group before hand the various elements of an effective speech. If appropriate and helpful organise lectern or suitable stand for the speaker to place their notes on while speaking. Interestingly this exercise works well with several speeches being given to their respective teams in the same room at the same time, which actually adds to general atmosphere and the need for speakers to concentrate and take command of their performance and their own audience. This is a flexible activity - adapt it to suit your situation. For young people particularly give a lot of freedom as to their chosen pieces - the point of the exercise is the speaking and the passion; the actual content in most cases is a secondary issue. See also the presentations page, and bear in mind that many people will find this activity quite challenging. A way to introduce a nervous group to the activity is to have them practise their speeches in pairs (all at the same time - it aids concentration and focus and relieves the pressure) before exposing delegates to the challenge of speaking to the whole team or group.
corporation life-cycle exercise (understanding organisational dynamics, corporate maturity and development; market development, organisational systems)
This is a simple and flexible activity for groups and teams of any size. Split the group into working teams or pairs and decide the presentation or discussion format, which can be anything to suit your situation. Alternatively run the exercise as one big brainstorming session. First introduce to the delegates the Adizes Corporate Life Cycle model. Then ask the delegates or teams for real company examples of each stage, from team members' own experiences, or their knowledge of their market place, or the general economic landscape, or from a few business pages of newspapers or trade journals (which you can provide as reference materials for the activity). This exercise prompts a lot of thinking and useful debate about the differing 'organisational maturity' found across different types of organisations. This is helpful for understanding how to deal with corporations from a selling viewpoint, and is also useful in providing a perspective of organisational culture for management and supervisory training. The exercise can be extended into (for example):
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exploring different selling strategies required for different life-cycle stage corporate prospects, or examining different management styles and behavioural issues and challenges within corporations of different life-cycle stage interpreting the delegates' own organisation and divisions in terms of the lifecycle stages, and discussing the implications for working styles, attitudes, need for change, etc.
The theme overlaps with the Tuckman model of team and group development, which is a further useful reference point, especially for management development and training, and particularly if extending the discussion to the maturity of departments and teams.
world cup/major event 'learning parallels' exercises (strategy skills and understanding global marketing,
debating, presentation, and for ice-breakers and warmup 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 (Sven) 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 exercise (team building, 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.
baking foil modelling games (team-building, 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. It's 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. 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:
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make a baking foil horse make an animal that represents yourself make a tree
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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.
triple bottom line game (understanding TBL - profit people planet - implications, developing ethical teams and organisations)
With the obvious rising interest in and awareness of modern 'ethical' organisations issues (at last), it's helpful for all organisations to bring TBL-type thinking to life in team activities. Here's a simple exercise to do it: The activity (which can also be used for more structured workshops) is for groups of any size although large groups of more than twenty people will need splitting into several teams with facilitators/spokes-people/presenters appointed, and extra thought needs to be given to the review/presentation stage to review and collect all the ideas and agree follow-up actions. Split the group into debating teams of 3-7 people. (The larger the whole group, the larger the debating teams should be.) Each team's task is to identify three great new team or department initiatives - one for each of the Triple Bottom Line areas, namely, Profit, People, Planet. Give some thought to team mix - if helpful refer to the Belbin model or Gardner's Multiple Intelligences inventory - it's useful for all teams to have a balance of people who collectively can reconcile ideals with practicalities. If necessary set the scene with a brainstorm or group discussion about what ethics and the Triple Bottom Line (profit people planet) actually means to people, staff, customers, and its significance for the organisation/industry sector concerned. Initiatives must be SMART (in this case SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Each of the initiatives must focus on one of the Triple Bottom Line areas (profit, people, planet), and at the same time must support the other two TBL areas. For example, a profit initiative must not undermine people or planet. A planet initiative must not undermine profit or people. And most certainly a profit initiative must not undermine people or planet. When we say 'not undermine profit', let's be clear that many ethical intitiatves can reduce
profit, especially if the profit was being achieved by doing harm or damage somewhere, and the initiative seeks to correct this. The extent to which profit is affected by ethical initiatives is a matter for discussion and consideration of the wider and long-term view. Within this view are the wider benefits achieved by improving the ethical behaviour of the organisation, which ultimately will improve profits far more than ignoring ethical issues. Instead of looking at loss of profit, think about the risks associated with ignoring the ethical issues, which generally dwarf short-term costs of ethical initiatives. For example, what's the point in sticking with exploitative third-world manufacturing if the consequence of doing so means in the future there'll be no customers prepared to buy the manufactured product? Teams have between 20 and 40 minutes (facilitator decides beforehand) to develop their ideas, and presentations, depending on time available. Presentations can be in any format to suit the timescales, numbers of teams and delegates, and the emphasis given to the TBL theme. Allocate time for presentations to suit the situation, numbers and timescales. David Cameron is entirely correct (and very clever) in identifying that the 'zeitgeist' (feeling of the times) is for more meaning, humanity and corporate responsibility in work and organisations; the question is how to make it happen. This exercise begins to address the practicalities. Otherwise it's all talk. As with any ideas session or activities always ensure that there is follow-up, and seek agreement for this with the relevant powers before raising hopes and seeking input of people and teams. Follow-up can be for a limited number of initiatives that all delegates vote on at the end of the presentations, or you can agree follow-up actions on a team-byteam basis, depending on levels of enthusiasm, quality of ideas, workload, and perceived organisational benefit. This activity links with the spirit of the development forum gameshow activity, which particularly addresses the people and well-being aspect of the triple bottom line philosophy.
jigsaw puzzle game/team puzzle race exercises (teambuilding, illustrating teamwork, team problem-solving, lateral thinking, etc)
For groups of 8-100 people, even more with suitable adaptation - this is a very adaptable game. Divide the group into a number of teams. Give each team some pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and instruct them to assemble the puzzle as quickly as possible. Ensure each team's
pieces appear initially as though they could be an entire puzzle in their own right. Say, "The task of each team is to assemble the puzzle as quickly as possible. Each team has the same puzzle. No further instructions will be given," (other than options explained below; the point is for teams to resolve the exercise for themselves working together in teams, not by asking the facilitator). The teams will assume they are competing against each other, but in fact there is only one jigsaw puzzle, and the pieces are shared out among the teams. If the teams are in the same room they soon find out, and begin to cooperate. If they are in different rooms the realisation takes a little longer, but eventually the teams understand that the pieces are held by all the teams and the only way to do the puzzle is to work together. The facilitator's preparation for this exercise is there therefore to obtain or create a jigsaw puzzle whose complexity and number of pieces are appropriate for the group numbers and time available for the activity. Ensure there are sufficient pieces to occupy the total number of team members, and obviously each team needs a suitably sizes table or floorspace to work on, so that all team members can be involved. Larger teams (upwards of five people) will be additionally challenged in areas of team organisation and 'work allocation' to ensure everyone is involved. The exercise can be made easier and quicker for the teams by describing or giving clues as to the shape or image on the puzzle, for example, (if using the template below) "It's a square," or "It's a geometric shape," etc., as appropriate. Offering a prize in the event that the puzzle is completed within a timescale of say 10 minutes (or during the session, day, whatever, depending on the situation), adds extra interest. The prize is obviously given to the whole group, so be mindful of the budget... Use these words or similar: "In the event that the puzzle is completed (within...) a prize will be awarded," rather than referring to 'the winning team," which is not technically correct, because the activity is one of cooperation not competition. Exercises based on this theme demonstrate that all the people and all the teams make up the whole, and no team or individual can do it alone. Ideally you need to have a space somewhere that the puzzle can be kept and worked on during tea-breaks, should the activity over-run the initial time-slot. This is not a problem people will continue to work on it during the day/session, and the ongoing activity and assembled puzzle serve as a constant reminder to team members of the theme of cooperation and teamwork, so don't worry (and explain this to the group once they've started cooperating) if the puzzle is not completed in the time initially allotted. Here is a jigsaw puzzle pattern (in MSWord) and separately as a pdf. This puzzle is for groups of, for example, twenty people split into five teams of four. The puzzle needs to be significantly enlarged - at least five to ten times bigger - for best effect, so that it's visible and usable for lots of people, and makes a big impact. The more teams and
players, the bigger the enlargement is required (and the more pieces - achieved by drawing and cutting more lines). The jigsaw pattern artwork needs to be taken to a decent print/copy bureau, enlarged, printed, laminated onto card or foam and cut by hand. If you possess basic craft skills and the necessary equipment you can do it yourself - it's quite straightforward really. The dashed lines are thick so as to be cut through the centre (along the lines), which helps the puzzle assembly. You can adapt the puzzle for more players by drawing more drawing more lines to increase the number of pieces. The design of the puzzle is currently the businessballs logo although you can substitute it with your own (if using the MSWord version, via box 'fill' pattern). Someone who knows MSWord well will know how to adapt/develop it. Use and adapt the puzzle artwork, or source your own jigsaw puzzle, to suit your own situation.
values-led team-driven change activities (team-building, 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.
See the Fantasticat page - ideas for motivating, teaching and developing young people grown-ups too..
transactional analysis activities ideas (understanding transactional analysis, undersanding self, improving tolerance and communications, diffusing conflict)
There are many exercises and activities that can be used to illustrate and develop understanding of Transactional Analysis. Many of the exercises in the team-building activities pages on this site will adapt for a TA perspective, especially the activities which relate to the Johari Window theory. When selecting activities and ideas to use, much depends how knowledgeable your audience is. If teams know the basics of TA then a lot of fun and learning can be had from acting out scenarios, reviewing and discussing emotional communications and behaviours (for example in newspapers), and watching films - and particularly TV soaps and sitcoms - with the purpose of looking for different types of transactions between the characters. This invites also the opportunity to critique certain on-screen transactions which are poorly scripted and acted, where behaviours can be seen to be unnatural, and reasons explained and discussed from a TA perspective. At a more fundamental level, people can work in pairs to identify their own personal triggers for parent and child responses: Behaviours which can be traced back to a root cause or emotional trigger are typically for example: losing one's temper, especially with children and subordinates; feeling stressed and upset; exhibiting 'sour grapes' attitudes; messing around; being judgmental or critical; blaming things and people; being too compliant and submissive, etc. Analysis and discussion benefits from using the 'Parent, Adult, Child' model, and also by referring to the 'I'm OK, You're OK' (OK Corral) model. See the modern Transactional
Analysis theory pages for more TA guidance and materials. Identifying behaviours and their causes are important steps towards addressing the causes of emotional responses, and changing the behaviours resulting. Transactional Analysis is an excellent model for teaching and developing these concepts.
obstacles exercise (team-building, 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:
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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: signed (by walker)
portmanteau words games (creativity, ideas and concepts, a vehicle for developing and highlighting issues and initiatives)
For groups of any size. This is a basis for various activities. Adapt and use it to suit your purposes and situation. If you need help deciding on format, teams sizes, timings etc., refer to the tips on working with teams and groups and exercises. First see the explanation about portmanteau words - aside from anything else it's very interesting as a perspective on the development of language and communications. Portmanteau words are new words that are made from the combination of (typically) two other words. Common examples are 'Pictionary' (the board game), the Chunnel (the channel tunnel), 'infomercial' (information and commercial advertising); avionics (aviation and electronics), and 'webinar' (web and seminar) The grammatical effect enables the quick and stimulating creation of new ideas and themes, for any purpose. First explain to people about portmanteau words. Then, depending on your theme or purpose for the meeting or session, ask people (can be individually or in teams - pairs or threes ideally unless you ask for lots of work and ideas), to devise their own portmanteau word or words for a particular purpose. Here are some examples of purposes:
a new brand name for a product or service (for the people's organisation or any another organisation, depending on the situation and participants) a name for a new company/organisation initiative (perhaps addressing customer service, quality, communications, inter-departmental relationships, training and development - anything that is a challenge or opportunity that would benefit from a fresh and inventive perspective) a new name for the company or organisation to replace the existing one, that will effectively communicate purpose and values, etc. a name to describe a particular problem or challenge within the organisation (agree or state specifics or a range as appropriate), and then a name or names for remedial action(s) a name (or names) to describe the most important skill(s) or attribute(s) for given roles within the organisation (this is a useful way to look at job skills, which are
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commonly not described or stated very well, and which of course are under pressure to change and develop all the time) a name to describe a particularly challenging customer behaviour, and then name(s) to describe appropriate responsive behaviour from staff a special combination of abilities I'd love to develop for myself a special combination of abilities I'd be really good at coaching and developing in others the name of a conference to improve/develop/raise profile of... (whatever - sport in schools; diversity tolerance; media responsibility; ethics in business; etc)
Exercises in creating portmanteau words involve a lot of thinking about meanings, interpretations, communications, and the efficient, effective, creative use of language and ideas. As such this is a potent and flexible activity, for all ages, roles and levels.
kitchen top drawer game (introductions and icebreakers, and for children's activities too)
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..
employee relations and communications exercise (team briefing role-plays, speaking to groups, handling difficult communications and questions, written communications)
This is a simple quick role-play or written communications exercise. For groups of up to a dozen. Split larger groups into smaller teams and appoint team leaders to chair and facilitate. Ask the participants to draft (and then deliver as if in a meeting) a 2 minute employee 'team brief' item or a verbal instruction (or for participants who are not comfortable standing up and speaking to the group a written employee notice or email) relating to a
contentious subject. There are some examples below, but you can define different scenarios depending on your situation and the needs of the delegates.
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Car-park spaces in the front of the reception are now reserved for directors only. Canteen is being closed in order to make room for more office space. Access to site is restricted to employees only - no family or friends permitted unless on company business in which case formal pass and security procedures to be followed. The site is now a non-smoking area everywhere. (Add your own scenarios as appropriate.)
You can run the exercise for individuals or in pairs. If in pairs encourage both people to have a go at speaking. More variety is created if you offer different scenarios - for instance by having people pick blind which one they must handle. Alternatively for complex scenarios you might prefer to see how people take different approaches to the same situation. You can additionally/alternatively ask delegates to describe their own particular scenarios for use in the role-playing activities. You can extend and increase the challenge within the activities by asking the team to role-play some 'questions from the audience' at the end of each spoken exercise, which the speaker(s) must then handle appropriately. Review use of language, tone, clarity, effective transfer of key points and reasons, technical and legal correctness, and the actual reaction of other participants to the verbal delivery/written notice.
people picture interpretations (relationships, communications, attitudes, body language)
The activity is a simple discussion of the group's interpretations of different pictures (photographs of people) - anything between one and six different pictures, depending on how long you'd like the activity to last - each picture/photo featuring people engaged in some sort of activity or interaction. Show a picture to the group and ask them to consider and comment on how they interpret what's happening in the picture - what's being said, how people feel, what the moods are, what the personalities and motivations are, what might have caused the situation and what the outcomes might be - as much as people can read into and interpret from each photograph. Additionally ask the group or teams what questions they would want to ask anyone in the picture to understand and interpret the situation.
You can organise the group's response to each picture in different ways - in open discussion, or split the group into pairs or threes and give them a couple of minutes to prepare their interpretation for presentation and discussion in turn, or split the group into two teams and see which team can develop the best interpretation, and optionally, questions. It's helpful, but not essential, for you to know the true situation and outcomes in each picture (perhaps you've read the news story or the photo is from your own collection), which will enable you to give the actual interpretation after each picture is discussed. However one of the main points of these exercises is appreciating the variety of interpretations that can be derived from observing people's behaviour, facial expressions and body language, which means that many situations can quite reasonably be interpreted in several different ways. So knowing and being able to give a definitive 'correct answer' is not crucial - the main purpose of the activities is the quality of the ideas and discussion. To prepare for the exercise, find and enlarge, or create slides of several pictures of people in various situations. These photographs and pictures are everywhere - on the internet, newspapers and magazines, in your own snapshot collections and photo albums. Select photographs of people showing facial expressions, body language, especially interacting with other people. In addition to communications, motivation, relationships, etc., you can link the exercise to Johari Window (the exercise will develop people's awareness about themselves and each other from listening to the different interpretations of the pictures) and personality (different personalities see the same things in different ways).
'christmas is/holidays are brilliant' vs 'christmas is/holidays are a pain in the arse' exercise (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 playacting 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:
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"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 icebreaker (warm-ups, icebreakers, 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 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
Ask the team to introduce themselves to the person facing them, optionally (up to you) by asking and answering questions, such as:
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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 3 4 5 6 6 1 1 2 3 4 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:
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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)
'straw poll' exercises (identifying and getting buy-in for individual and group learning and training)
These team development activities quickly identify team and individual learning needs and wishes, and importantly helps builds 'buy-in' and commitment among the team members to pursue the identified learning or training. The activity can also be extended to explore, encourage and enable more innovative approaches to personal development, and particularly to pursuing 'life-learning' or 'unique personal potential' if such a concept fits with the organisational philosophy. If so, the organisation (or department or at a team level) must first decide how and to what extent it can support people's 'non-work' and 'life learning' aspirations. There are very many ways to do this. Progressive modern organisations have been doing this for several years. Use your imagination. You will find that as far as the people are concerned, you'll be pushing on an open door. The provision of 'non-work' personal development must be defined
within a formal organisational process and framework, by which identified individual 'life-learning' ideas can be acted upon. Such process and framework are obviously vital to discussing people's personal needs and wishes in these non-work areas. The exercise is for groups of any size, although large groups should be sub-divided into teams of between five and ten people representing single functions. The bigger the teams the more requirement there will be for good facilitation by a team leader within each team. The level of guarantee for ideas to be acted upon is a matter for the facilitator and the organisation. Promise only what you can deliver to people. Embark on these activities only if you can reliably implement the outcomes, to whatever extent that you promise to the team members. The facilitator should ideally run the session with a flip-chart or wipe-board because the sharing of ideas and discussion is a valuable part of these exercises. Refer to the guidelines for running brainstorm sessions, since the activity uses a team brainstorming process. The aim of the exercise is to gather, list and prioritise collective and individual training and learning needs and wishes for work and non-work learning and development. Involving the team in doing this in an 'immediate' and 'free' informal situation generally exposes many more ideas and opportunities than normally arise from formal appraisal, surveys and training needs audits, or personal development review discussions. Sharing ideas and personal views also helps build teams and mutual awareness (see Johari Window theory). The exercises enable the team leader or facilitator to work with the people to arrive at ideas for learning and development, which can then - according to organisational processes and framework - be fed or built into proposals or plans for implementation. The process of hearing and sharing other people's ideas also greatly assists people in imagining what might be helpful and relevant to their own situations - far better than thinking in isolation. First ask team members individually (allow five minutes) to make one or two short lists: 1. Three things they'd like to be able to do better for their jobs, (and if the organisation supports and enables 'non-work' and 'life learning'): 2. Three things they'd love to learn or do better for their life in general - anything goes. Then ask the team members to call out in turn their top-listed work or job learning personal development item. Write these on the flip-chart. This immediately identifies collective training priorities. Ask for reaction and comment.
Then ask for people to call out in turn their second-listed work/job learning item and write the answers on the flip-chart. Then gather the third-listed job/work learning items. Use different coloured marker pens so as to be able to group common elements and to identify patterns and consensus priorities. Ask the group to comment on what they consider to be the 'high-yield' items - ie., the development items that will make the biggest difference to productivity, enjoyment, stress-reduction, service quality, business development, etc., and discuss this issues. Ask the group what type of learning they'd enjoy and best and find most helpful. Additionally explore people's learning styles; also look at multiple intelligences, and perhaps introduce a learning styles questionnaire. Using these activities and exercises will enable you to identify development opportunities that are high priority according to need and organisational effect, and you can now conclude this part of the session with an agreement with people to investigate or proceed with implementation depending on personal wishes, learning styles and preferences, organisational processes, budgets, etc. The investigation/implementation can involve the people or not, depending on the circumstances. Now, provided the organisation/department/team endorses and supports 'non-work and 'life learning' development, turn to the non-work 'life learning' items featured in the second list. These can be anything: hobbies, pastimes, personal loves and passions, natural abilities stifled or ignored at school, anything. The aim is to explore personal potential and enthusiasm in whatever areas that might be relevant to people and what they want from their lives. It is important to open your own mind and the minds of the team members to the fact that all learning and development is useful. All learning and experience in life benefits people in their work. Everything learned and experienced in life is transferable one way or another to people's work. People commonly don't realise this, because nobody tells them or gives them the confidence to see it. When you see it and talk about it, people begin to see too that there can be more alignment and congruence between their lives and their work. Moreover, organisations are now seeing that when people are supported and encouraged to follow their own life interests and natural potential, so the organisation benefits from their development. When people learn and experience new 'non-work' and 'life learning' capabilities and development, they achieve and grow as people, and this gives them many new skills for their work (especially the behavioural capabilities normally so difficult to develop via
conventional work-based training), and a greater sense of value, purpose, self-esteem and maturity. All these benefits and more result from non-work learning and experience. What matters most is that people are given the encouragement and opportunity to pursue experiences and learning and development that they want to. People are vastly more committed to pursuing their own life learning and experiences than anything else. So, the more that organisations can help and enable this to happen for their people the better. People develop quicker and more fully, and they obviously become more aligned with the organisation because it is helping them to grow in their own personal direction - far beyond the conventional provision of work-only skills training and development. Ask people to think about and discuss the skills, knowledge, behaviour, maturity, experience, etc., from personal 'non-work' activities and learning that are transferable to their work. Many people will be able to give specific examples of where they are performing outside work in some activity or other that is way, way, way above their status and responsibility at work. This is the principle that we are seeking to recognise and extend. For example (these examples of experiences and learning and benefits are certainly not exhaustive - they are simply a few examples):
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Sports and physical pursuits - develop fitness and determination, leadership, discipline, commitment, teamwork, stress-management, goal-setting, excellence, perfection, etc. Travel - develops cultural awareness, maturity, languages, etc. The Arts (art, music, writing, etc) - develops creativity, communications, empathy, interpretation. History - develops cultural and political and philosophical awareness, analytical and interpretation abilities. Voluntary and Care work - develops humanity, team-working, management, leadership, decision-making, etc. Environmental, Animals, Natural World - develop humanity, social responsibility and awareness, team-working, organisational and political understanding. Clubs and Societies - management, planning, organisation, communications, knowledge and information management, etc. Own 'sideline' business - entrepreneurialism, decision-making, management, marketing, customer service.
I once knew a wonderful receptionist. She worked part-time. Most people only ever knew she was a receptionist. She never received any training or development. Nor much respect. In her spare time she ran an international market-leading business, supplying high performance components to a specialised sector of the industrial engineering sector. She could have taught the MD a thing or two but they never asked.. Every organisation contains several people like this, and many more people with the potential to be the same. But nobody bothers to ask.
When an individual pursues personal learning and development and experience, whether through a hobby or some voluntary work, or any outside-work activity, they always develop as people, and also learn lots of new skills, which are increasingly transferable and valuable to their work situations. The tragedy is that organisations mostly fail to recognise this, and this is a major reason why most people continue to perform at work considerably below their full potential. Non-work experiences, responsibilities, learning and development provide wonderful opportunities for people to grow in capability, maturity, experience, and in specific knowledge and skills areas, that are immensely valuable to employers. Opening people's minds to these possibilities then enables discussion and identification of personal learning aims and wishes, perhaps some consensus, which then naturally enables planning and implementation and support of some new exciting non-work and lifelearning activities for people, as individuals and as teams, depending on what people want and will commit to, and how far the organisation is prepared to assist and encourage.
playing card bingo (warm-up, icebreaker, exercises to demonstrate competitive effects, team-building, teamworking 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.
'spice of life' exercise (personal development, goals, true motivation and purpose, visualisation, life balance)
A quick simple powerful activity for groups and teams of any size. The exercise can also be used for yourself, and when working with individuals in counselling, coaching and performance reviews and appraisals. Optional preparation for a group activity: buy some green cardamom pods - they are a highly aromatic spice used in Asian cooking and curries - the Latin name incidentally, for interest, is Eletteria Cardamomum. Star Anise - aniseed seed pods - and cloves also work well for this sort of exercise - they reinforce the point and add additional sensory stimulation to the activity. Distribute a pod or clove or several of each spice to each team member. Alternatively you can give different spices to different people if you have them. This will prompt discussion and expectation. You can mention that spices like these are symbolic - they are small and natural, of relatively little monetary value, and yet have a
remarkably powerful effect. They also have healing qualities, and being seeds they represent new life and beginnings. Also optionally at this point in the exercise you can ask people do this calculation in their head to further concentrate the mind: Subtract your age from 90 and add two zeros to the answer. Divide that number in two. This is roughly how many weeks you have left on this Earth, assuming you live to a very ripe old age. If you smoke and don't look after yourself properly subtract 1,200 weeks (if you are very lucky). How quickly does a week pass by? Almost the blink of an eye... Then ask the group to close their eyes, take a few slow deep breaths, and visualise.... (it's a bit morbid but it does concentrate the mind somewhat): You are very close to the end your life - perhaps 'on your deathbed'. You have a few minutes of consciousness remaining, to peacefully look back over what you achieved, and what difference you made in the world. And especially how you will be remembered. So how do you want to be remembered? What did you do that mattered? What spice did you add to people's lives? What was the spice in your life? What will you have done that will give you a truly good feeling at the end of your life? And so, how can you best fulfil your own unique potential? We rarely think about our lives this way: that we are only here for a short time, and that what really matters is beyond money, possessions, holidays, cars, and the bloody lottery. Thinking deeply about our own real life purpose and fulfilment helps us to align what we do in our work with what we want to do with the rest of our life. This in turn creates a platform for raising expectations and possibilities about direction and development - pursuing personal potential rather than simply 'working' - and finding ways to do so within our work and our life outside it. (As facilitator do not ask people to reveal or talk about their dreams unless they want to. The exercise is still a powerful one when people keep their dreams and personal aims to themselves.) This type of visualisation exercise is also important in helping people to take more control of their lives and decisions - becoming more self-reliant and more pro-active towards pursuing personal dreams and potential, instead of habitually reacting to work demands and assumptions.
'starter keys' icebreakers and 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: 1. 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. Tiebreaker(s) can be decided according to the key(s) with most notches. 2. 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. 3. 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. 4. 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). 5. 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' exercise (personal development, icebreaker, 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 selfdevelopment, 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' exercise (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.
free team building games (1) (2)
free team building games ideas, exercises and activities for employee motivation, training and development, children's games and party games
Free team building games, free team building activities and free team building exercises for building teams and corporate employee motivation. Many of these exercises can be adapted for young people and children. Employee motivation benefits from team building games, exercises, activities, puzzles and quizzes. Use free team building games and exercises ideas to warm up meetings, training, and conferences.
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These free team building games are also great ice breakers for training sessions, meetings, workshops, seminars or conferences. Team building games and activities are useful also in serious business project meetings, where games and activities help delegates to see things differently and use different thinking styles. Games, exercises and quizzes help to stimulate the brain, improving retention of ideas, learning, and increasing fun and enjoyment. Most of these games can be used or adapted for children's development and education, or for kids party games. We cannot accept responsibility for any liability which arises from the use of any of these free team building exercises ideas or games - please see the disclaimer notice below. Always ensure that you have proper insurance in place for all team building games activities, and take extra care when working with younger people, children and if organising kids party games. If you find these materials helpful please try to contribute something of your own to the Businessballs self-publishing Space. Here are details about the Space on Businessballs and the philosophy behind it. New activities and exercises are now being added to the additional team building ideas page 2 on this website. See also the Quizballs quizzes, especially the management and business quiz for aspiring managers and trainers, and anyone interested in managing people and organisations.
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team building games - are games appropriate?
Before you decide to use any team building games with a group of people, think about
whether the activities are appropriate for the team members and the situation. Kirkpatrick's learning model is a good reference point for this assessment: team members should ideally enjoy the activity, learn something from it, which they can apply, and which will improve results. See the Team-Building Activities Evaluation Form and Outcomes Notes (Excel file). It's useful also when assessing any team development needs to refer to Bloom's Taxonomy of learning domains, which provides a useful template or checklist for designing and evaluating training and learning activities of all sorts. Ensure that team-building activities comply with equality and discrimination policy and law in respect of gender, race, disability, age, etc. Age discrimination is a potential risk given certain groups and activities. Team-building facilitators should be familiar with the Employment Equality Age Regulations, effective 1st October 2006, (UK and Europe). Note that team building games are not necessarily the best way to improve team morale and attitude if there are problems in these areas. Workshops are often a better starting point for fragile or bruised teams, which need basic bonding, confidence and help to strengthen their sense of responsibility and purpose. If using team building to develop mutual respect, care and compassion, etc., look at the love and spirituality at work section - it explains about bringing compassion and humanity to work and teams. Effective relationships and behaviour at work involve the same principles as everyday life - respect for others, integrity, honesty, compassion, courage - all the good things that we all naturally possess deep down. Sometimes people have insecurities or stresses which create difficulties on the surface, to which others in the team then react. Emotional maturity, or Emotional Intelligence is a useful perspective. However, if you approach a behavioural problem head-on, or try to resolve it with a team building exercise, this can cause people to clam up and become defensive (just like we all tend to do when someone is critical or implies a weakness). Instead, ask the people what they'd enjoy and find helpful for their lives in general. Move the issue away from work and skills and 'teambuilding' per se. Help the person (and people) rather than treat the symptoms. If you help people with their life-balance and personal fulfilment they become more emotionally mature, tolerant, positive independent, self-sufficient, etc. When the person is okay, so is everything else, including their relationships and communications at work. Developing people involves more than behaviour, relationships, skills, knowledge and processes. It's often more about helping people feel better about themselves; helping the person to feel happy and fulfilled. A good leader can facilitate this. Team building doesn't have to involve games and exercises - team building might be better achieved by arranging other things which appear to be unconnected to work. Perhaps the sort of things that people would otherwise seek out at evening classes. Perhaps lunchtime yoga or reiki or
relaxation sessions might be of interest? Maybe go bowling? Horse riding? Ask the people. In the Summer maybe play softball on the park? Or maybe ask if they would like to run a lunch-time barbecue for clients and suppliers. If you focus on the problem it will become a battlefield. Instead focus on fun, new positive experiences and self-fulfilment. The subjects on this website increasingly feature ideas for developing the whole person. In the same way, you are not restricted to providing traditional work skills development. Explore everything, and show your people that you have a broader view about development - they'll have lots of ideas of their own if you let them see it's okay to think that way. Team building games are just a part of a very wide mix of learning and and development experiences that you can explore and facilitate for your people - try anything. If it helps your people to feel good and be good, then it will help your organisation be good too. On which point, see: abstract images for feelings, challenge and change love and spirituality in management and business - bringing compassion and humanity to work buddha maitreya's japanese garden and meditation centre the Sales Activator® games system for sales training and development - a remarkable sales training and team building system free quizzes - questions and answers - trivia, general knowledge, management and business quiz role playing process and tips for role play games and exercises fantasticat - the Fantasticat ideas for motivating, teaching and developing young people grown-ups too.. team building games ideas and theory, which explains about preparation, organization and training for team building games and exercises free puzzles (and free answers) for quizzes free tips on running teambuilding workshops
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