Personal and Team Style Options
People always want to know . . . what would we be doing? So, here is a partial list of popular activities, which we are continually updating. If you have something else in mind for your program, let us know. We want you involved in planning your program with us, right down to an informed selection of activities that you know will appeal to your group.
You will find a short description of a pertinent business context related to each activity right after its title. You can use these descriptions to pre-identify activities most relevant to your current work needs. Generally, any activity can highlight important team process issues for each group, as groups typically recreate those patterns in the way they solve the challenge activity. Facilitators observe actions and ask participants to comment on "what happened" in the discussions following each activity.
Warm-up Activities - (one or two to start-off the program)
Helium Tubes (approx. 20 minutes) (Getting a group to think and act like a team)
A long narrow tube is placed on the fingers of all the team members lined up shoulder to shoulder. Simply lower the tube to the ground. What could possibly be difficult about this? Well, youd think the tube was filled with helium as it defies gravity and the efforts of the team. Collective mind over matter can gradually complete the task.
"I'm In Charge" (approx. 10 minutes) (Taking initiative - breaking the ice - owning the program)
Participants have 45 seconds each to lead the group in an activity to prepare everyone to participate fully in the program. This includes anything physical, informative or creative. This is a good icebreaker as it gets participants to take initiative and "do their own thing."
Captain Video (approx. 20 minutes) (Communication and getting past self imposed constraints)
This is an activity to demonstrate the challenge of communication and the assumptions we make about options available to solve problems. One person in the group works out a short movement sequence that everyone else in the group is to repeat. However, each person only sees this motion demonstrated by the person who viewed it just before they do, and then passes it along in serial sequence through the group. At the end, the Captain and the last viewer both do the motion as they know it. Is it even vaguely the same? This fun activity gets people to observe, discuss, and start to make connections to work, program and leadership issues.
. . . also ask about
Gordian Knot, InsideOut, Cheer Leader, Bob's Mother, The Listening Warm-up, Commonalities, Where In The World is . . . , Call of the Wild, Elves -Giants -Wizards, Diversity Circle, LineUp,
and several other effective activities to get a program started.
Challenge Activities (These typically take 50 minutes each for orientation, activity, and debrief - unless otherwise noted.)
The Seeds You Sow
(Big goals require breakthrough thinking about collaborating to win.)
This activity focuses on the need for two teams with similar objectives and limited resources to work together to reach a shared win. The teams start out on opposite ends of a rectangular area. Inside the area are several dozen golf balls (seeds) scattered among several discs and cones (hot spots). Hot spots cannot be touched while someone is in the area. Anyone inside the rectangle is blindfolded as they gather seeds. Those outside direct. A total of forty seeds must be brought out and touching to achieve the objective, which is to stave off world hunger. But there are not enough seeds for both sides to be successful on their own.
The Maze (Developing and sharing an effective process with limited budget and communication constraints)
The Maze activity is conducted on a checkerboard patterned carpet and involves one or two teams. Starting at one end, each team needs to figure out the one path across the maze so that each person can cross without setting off an alarm. For indoor programs, we use a carpet with weight sensors that are programmed to sound if one steps on an "off-limits" square. Teams set their own time and performance goals. Performance goals are measured by minimizing repeated hits on alarmed squares. Each subsequent alarm from an identified square has an incremental cost, measured in chips the team budgets for itself at the outset. If these chips are depleted, the facilitator/banker can advance a team up to seven red (debt) chips, and after these, up to five blue (equity) chips. The best collaboration effort between teams resulted in "0" cost - a perfect outcome.
Color Blind (Effective communication within and across teams, problem solving)
This is a cross-team communication challenge in which participants are provided partial sets of materials with the aim of identifying which specific pieces of the whole set are missing. During this activity everyone is blindfolded, There are five sub-sets, each a different color, and each piece in each sub-set is a different shape. (Participants can ask the facilitator about a piece's color, but not about its shape.) One sub-set is split between the two teams. They will need to collaborate to realize this fact. But with this information, they can figure out the answer. Everyone on both teams needs to collaborate and communicate well to be successful, particularly in the area of listening.
Warp Speed: (Continual process improvement - creative problem solving)
Participants are challenged to continually improve the performance of passing several balls through a set sequence that the group develops at the outset. Each time they succeed, the challenge becomes to do the task in half the time. In order to succeed, the team members need to change the way they are doing things. This usually is only possible if they challenge their assumptions about how something "must" be done, realizing that many limitations are self imposed. New ideas that work are often the result of combining several people's ideas that no one person would come up with on their own. The message: we need each other in order to adapt and change and become more successful in response to outside demands.
(How to collaborate when goals and accountabilities merge.)
Heres a moving challenge that can promote interrelated teamwork. Each team is given a small ball, and each person on the team is given a "channel" device. Each device is slightly different from the others. The challenge is to get the ball from a designated starting point to a target point without dropping or making physical contact with the ball. A series of related standards must also be met for each of the channel support structures (people) that construct the channel. What starts out as a fairly straightforward objective, soon becomes a bigger challenge, as more balls must be moved, the target moves further away, and new obstacles must be avoided. A second team (or more) can enter the picture as teams share channel routes, targets, and even balls in the process. This activity requires collaboration, coordination, cooperation, and tactical skills to be successful. Engagements with other teams can produce elegant and effective solutions, or can impede performance depending on how the groups relate with each other.
Or, it can just be a competitive challenge.
On Your Mark . . .
(Learning from the other team to improve everyone's performance.)
How fast can your teams complete this challenge? A circular game area is roped off. Inside are dozens of "hot spots" (disks) on the ground, each one with a specific marking to distinguish its place in a series. The challenge is for the team to make contact with each mark in series as quickly as possible. Another team is nearby and has the same challenge, and its hot spots are also inside the game area. Multiple play areas can be set up with two teams assigned to each. The challenge is to achieve the fastest combined time for touching the marks, in series. The game area with the fastest combined time wins. As an alternative, if there is only one game area with one or two teams, participants are challenged to meet a predetermined standard. The activity encourages out of the box thinking for ways to create an efficient process and for cooperating across teams.
(Producing predictable and replicable high performance results)
This is a high-energy activity about producing results. Two teams can work this activity from opposite ends of a volleyball court. The starting boundary is 30' feet from the net. At the start are three beach balls. On the other side of the net are three inner tubes. The team must get the balls over the net and onto the inner tubes in the quickest time they can, without carrying the balls in transit, or touching the net. They are aiming for the quickest time possible. In order to be able to claim a time as legitimate, however, they must be able to predict the time, then meet or beat the time twice in succession. The teams can either collaborate or cooperate in the process, or find a mix that meets everyone's needs, and produces the best result. (This activity generates enthusiasm and creativity from everyone involved.)
KPM Transit (Kinetic People Movers - Trolleys):
(Effective project hand-offs between teams)
This activity can be done by one team, or with several teams working together. Participants are given a set of props that are identified as a trolley. The team needs to move the trolley along a route that goes to the end of the line and then returns to the station. The trolley operates to an exact timetable that the team sets before leaving the station. With multiple trolley teams, the challenge requires switching trolleys with another team at the end point, and returning the newly acquired trolley to its original station on the schedule set for it by the other team. The interaction produces inter-team dynamics common to hand-off efforts between teams, especially where "just-in-time" coordination is critical.
(Getting clear on roles & responsibilities, creative problem solving)
A "nuclear reactor" is represented by a circle on the ground, about twelve feet in diameter. In the center is the "reactor core" with some "fuel" lying on top. A "containment device" is located off to the side. Outside the reactor, in the "control room," are materials available to the team. The team is informed it has about thirty minutes to contain the fuel (some balls) on the nuclear reactor core (a pedestal) to prevent a nuclear meltdown. No one can go into the reactor area, and must wear protective gear (blindfolds) if touching anything that does go into the reactor. This is a "hot" activity to demonstrate the need for clear roles and responsibilities, effective leadership, good communication, and shared problem solving to be successful. Teams can do this activity simultaneously and potentially help each other's problem solving. Or they can work in isolation and compare results later.
(Figuring out the problem as you get into it. Attention to detail)
This can be either a single or interrelated teams activity. Each team starts out on a "river bank." They are told that the "river," which is rapidly rising, flows with acid, not water. They need to cross the "river" by building bridges with boards between blocks without touching the acid. They can lose a board if it touches the acid (ground), and participants can lose use of an arm or vision if they come in contact with the acid. They must finish before the rising river covers the blocks and makes crossing impossible. The solution doesn't become clear until after the team is typically well into an action mode, trying out different tactics, which may work at the outset, but ultimately need to change for the team to be successful. With multiple teams, groups start off from different banks and have to share resources while crossing each other's paths.
Beam Us Up, Scotty!:
(this is a 90 minute activity)
(Simultaneous multiple problem solving across several teams)
Participants become Star Trek explorers visiting a distant planet about to be hit by an asteroid belt that is fast approaching and makes departure via shuttle craft impossible. They need to build a transporter to beam them back using materials they have available, but each of the three teams has only partial information on how to do this. Furthermore, each team is stranded on a "river bank" that flows with acid, not water, and they need to cross to an island in the middle where transporter materials (dilithium crystals) are located. They must build bridges with boards between blocks without touching the acid, or they can lose a board or participants can become handicapped. They must build the transporter and move everyone to the island within the hour, or face annihilation. There is no time to waste for anyone in this activity, which uses a fun fantasy to play out real team and inter-team dynamics. Multiple levels of leadership are required to be successful with this situation.
Featured in Successful Meetings Magazine!
(Setting and adhering to high standards, trusting and supporting others)
The team members find themselves at a large web like structure made out of string*, and containing a dozen holes of various shapes through which people need to be passed to the other side. The group needs to set a quality standard for their performance related to how much movement is allowed in the process of moving each other from one side to the other, and enforce their standard during the activity. The group figures out who best fits through which hole and in what order, and aims to complete the task in 30 minutes or less. This activity stimulates a lot of excitement and cheering as the group succeeds in meeting, hopefully, high standards that it sets and maintains.
Islands (Getting clear on the goal and when it's reached, figuring out relationships with other teams)
This is a one, two, or three team activity that requires each team to move from atop its starting island (a large wooden platform), across to a middle island (a small platform), used by every group, and then across to each team's respective outlying island. (The program area is made up of square box-like platforms.) The objective is for each team to get to its outlying island in a set time using only the boards available. The boards represent limited resources to the groups. If anyone comes off an island (box) or drops a board in the process, the respective team must begin again. How well the teams interrelate to share resources and support each other is left open for the teams to initiate to ensure shared success. (This activity requires clear problem identification up front to be successful. It's a good start-off activity.)
(this is a 90 minute activity)
(Cross-team collaboration on a complex project)
Two teams simultaneously perform different tasks required to operate a single device called "The Pyramid," formed by four hinged aluminum poles. Two sets of control strings operate a 'grabber' that hangs down from the top of the pyramid into the center area. Each team manages one set of strings such that one team controls the device's position while the other team controls its grabbing function. The teams must coordinate their efforts to move and stack a set of props inside the pyramid area without physically going inside this area. The activity can be structured many different ways. For example, a sighted group may represent engineering expertise, with a blindfolded team representing operators trying to implement this expertise in the field. It also provides a great tool to practice leading across an organization.
Geodesic Factory (Blind Polygon)
(this is a 40 minute activity)
(Sharing accurate information and inter-team collaboration)
Here's a fun activity that can involve four teams together. As the scenario goes, the teams work at the "Bucky Fuller Geodesic Factory" which produces pyramidal geodesic structures. A representative from each team is informed that Bucky needs the team's help to produce a part of this structure, shaped as a perfect triangle and formed from some flexible line. During the process, everyone in the group wears protective eyewear (blindfolds). After each team gets its perfect triangle formed, they combine it with three other triangles from other production teams to form a perfect pyramidal structure. The four triangles need to be the same size in order to form the pyramid. This activity is about coordinating leadership and sharing a "vision" within and among teams to complete a project. This is a good climactic activity in a program.
(this is a 90 minute activity)
(Creative team problem solving in an uncertain environment)
This is a "high-tech" indoor activity that creates a three dimensional maze in which participants need to navigate a path through a series of electrified towers programmed with motion detectors. The detectors are positioned at various levels within each tower, but not visible to the eye. Participants figure out the location, direction and size of each alarm field and figure out how to get team members to the other side by going over, under or through the safe space within the invisible path, without setting off an alarm. This is like combining spider web and maze, and really challenges a team's problem solving and agility. This is a good follow-up for teams that have done the Maze activity, described above.
Also ask about
Mass Pass, Trust Series
and other activities that are available.
An added option to include with these activities :
Do a Personal & Team Communication and Behavior Style Program
Participants often value and enjoy the process of identifying the personal behavior styles that produce the team dynamics. People come to understand these styles as typical, predictable, and necessary to have in a fully functioning team, in that the differences ensure the kind of diversity necessary to help the team be productive. At times these styles can cause friction and confusion within the team. We describe how this can happen and useful strategies to both take advantage of the strengths and minimize the unpleasantness that can occur, especially in times of stress. We typically provide this program in two ways. The short and very general description of styles uses a survey instrument called the Personal Profile Preview. We can do this presentation in about 90 minutes at an additional cost of twenty dollars per participant. The full version of the DiSC personal profile includes a more reliable and informative survey and booklet. This version requires from two to three hours and costs an additional thirty-five dollars per person for the survey booklet. For even more in-depth personal and team profile analysis we also offer an on-line survey that is taken before a program. A PDF can be downloaded immediately that provides an in-depth report that describes management and coaching styles, specific interpersonal dynamics, and can be used to generate an in-depth team profile. For more information on these options click the link: Team Style Analysis .
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