Teams don’t just come together and click into well-oiled productivity machines, at least not always. There’s often a period of time when the team members have to get to know one another and develop a rapport. Even teams that have been working together for years might need a bit of team building to reinforce their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
(p.s awesome team project collaboration tools can help with team building on a daily basis!)
In other words, every team can find value in team building exercises. What you want to do is find those activities that are not going to take up a lot of valuable time or involve many materials, and will still result in a lot of positive bonding.
We’ve done the research, so all you have to do is implement these team building activities and reap the rewards to learn how to build teams in the real-world.
Below is a video with Jennifer Bridges, PMP, illustrating two types of activities best for building strong teams, followed by a no-means exhaustive list of 30 team building activities.
Now that you’ve seen Jennifer’s video outlining team building, here are 30 brief team building activities you can try out yourself at the office or on a company retreat. They’re broken up into sections: communications, bonding, cooperation and coping. Try them out and watch your team bond and grow right before your eyes.
Communication Activities for Teams
Activity: Divide you group into teams of three and give each group two one-dollar coins. Now have them decide who gets to keep the money.
Objective: Finding creative answers to problems.
2. Trading Triangles
Activity: Divide groups into smaller teams, each of which gets an envelope of cards quartered into triangles. They have three minutes to strategize before trading for eight minutes. Then see who got the most cards.
Objective: See other’s perspective in other to help influence their position.
Activity: Pair up participants, and give them prepared index cards. One person reads the prompt on the card and speaks about the topic for three minutes. Then the partner, who had remained silent, recaps their talk in one minute. Reverse roles.
Objective: Develop listening skills.
Activity: Pair up people. Have one person talk about whatever they like for three minutes without stopping, but without using the word “I.” The listener remains silent. Reverse roles.
Objective: Show how much talk is self-centered.
Activity: Have a person take a piece of paper, close their eyes and then follow your instructions. They may not ask questions. Give the same instructions to several team members and see how the results differ.
Objective: The importance of clear communications for building strong teams.
6. Sharing Values
Activity: Everyone takes two minutes to write down what they think are the most important values to the organization. Now divide them into small groups that then have to share what they wrote and collect those values in posters with pictures, words and symbols that illustrate those shared values.
Objective: Getting the group to agree on what’s important to all of them.
7. Marketing Washers
Activity: Make groups of three to six. Each team has to market thousands of used washing machines they’ve come to own. Prepare a 30-second sales pitch delivered to the other teams. Vote on the one most likely to succeed.
Objective: Thinking up creative solutions.
Bonding Activities for Teams
8. A Typical Day
Activity: Pair up participants. Have one tell the other about a typical work day. The listener can only ask for more details. Reverse roles.
Objective: Learn new things about team members.
Activity: One person is the target, who everyone else writes one thing about. Collect the statements and read one aloud. The target guesses who wrote it. If they guess wrong another statement is read. This is repeated until the target guesses correctly. That person is the next target.
Objective: Learn more about who you work with.
Activity: On a large placard participants have six minutes to use words, pictures or symbols to describe themselves. They then wear this billboard over their chests. When done, everyone mingles and asks questions about the other person’s placard.
Objective: Connect with team members on a more personal level.
11. Hello, My Name Is…
Activity: Pretend your name is an acronym where each letter represents something about yourself. Everyone shares theirs with the group.
Objective: Learn everyone’s name and interesting things about them.
12. Penny for Your Thoughts
Activity: Give everyone a penny and have them share something about themselves related to the year that penny was minted.
Objective: Way to develop a more intimate rapport among team members.
13. Rather This Than That
Activity: Everyone sits in a circle looking at one another. Pick someone to say what they like to do. The person to their right repeats that and adds something they’d rather do. This continues around the circle.
Objective: Get to know the team better.
Activity: Divide the group into two lines facing one another. Pick a category, such as first names, and have both teams reorganize themselves alphabetically, as fast as they can. Then announce another category and repeat, and so on.
Objective: Learning about your team to build social connections.
15. Same and Different
Activity: Everyone gets an index card and pen. They’re told to divide their card into three columns: Name, Similar, Different. Then they are told to go through the group collecting names and noting what they share with the person and what they don’t.
Objective: A way to connect by learning interesting things about one another.
16. Candy Confidential
Activity: Give one piece of candy to everyone. Tell them not to eat it. Depending on the color or the type of treat, create a code that dictates what they’ll share with the group, such as chocolate means a story about a something you did at work you’re proud of, and so forth.
Objective: Participants find out things one another and learn trust.
Cooperation Activities for Teams
17. Circle Catch
Activity: Stand in a circle. Give a ball to someone and tell them to throw it to anyone in the circle. That person does the same, and this continues until everyone has been thrown the ball. This pattern is then repeated exactly. If someone drops the ball, the pattern starts again at the beginning. Time how long this takes. Give the group a few minutes to strategize how to improve their time. Do it again and see if they succeeded.
Objective: It takes a team effort to improve process.
18. House of Cards
Activity: Divide the group into teams of four to eight people. Each team is seated in a row. Place a deck of cards on the floor to the far right of each team’s row. Person nearest the deck picks a card and passes with their right hand to the left hand of the person next to him. That person passes the card from their left hand to the right hand of the person besides them. The final person in the row places the card on the floor at their feet. Continue without anyone holding more than one card at a time. The first person to pile the deck up on the far left of their row wins.
Objective: Competitive teamwork energizes teams during periods of change.
19. Spoon-Fed Popcorn
Activity: Pair people up. Distribute blindfolds, spoons and popcorn. While blindfolded, one participants feeds the other 10 kernels of popcorn, one at a time, by spoon. Then reverse the roles.
Objective: Cooperation and communication are productive and fun.
20. Puzzle Pieces
Activity: Divide the group into teams of three-to-six people. Give each team a bag with random puzzle pieces from as many children’s puzzles as there are groups, but do not tell them the bags have been tampered with. They must put the puzzle together in five minutes.
Objective: The importance of cooperation across boundaries for team building.
21. The Silent Treatment
Activity: Divide the group into teams of four-to-six people and give each team paper and markers. Each team then designs the perfect workspace. Tell them to have fun, but not to talk among themselves. After 10 minutes, each team shares their plans.
Objective: How much we communicate without words.
22. Everybody’s a Star
Activity: Everyone holds onto a long rope. They can move their hands on the rope, but they cannot change places with one another while trying to form a five-sided star with the rope. They have 10 minutes, and there shouldn’t be any rope left over at either end.
Objective: Cooperation is fun and leads to better communication skills.
23. The Big Race
Activity: Line the group up behind a starting line. When you tell them, “Go!” they all have to cross the finish line at the same time. If they don’t succeed the first time have them try again until the do.
Objective: Things are never as simple as they seem, especially when trying to coordinating others into the plan.
24. You Gotta Have Hearts
Activity: This team building activity is a little more elaborate. Divide people up into three teams of two-to-five people. Give each team a suit of cards, but keep the hearts. They cannot look at the cards. You are dealer. Each team picks a leader. Tell them there will be 13 rounds, one for each card in their hand. You place one of your hearts face up. Each team leader places one their cards face down next to it. The card with the highest value wins the amount of points that the heart card is worth (numbered cards are face value, jacks are 11, queens 12, kinds 13 and aces 1 point). In the case of a tie nobody wins. Once play begins no one is allowed to speak, but after five rounds and then again at the ninth round, allow the teams a couple minutes to discuss their progress. Whoever gets 30 points first wins the game.
Objective: Competing against team members is problematic.
Coping Activities for Teams
25. Times Change
Activity: Each person gets a pen and paper and writes five major changes they’ve experienced in their life on a timeline marked by an x. Now have people pair up and share with their partner one of these events from their lives. Ask them why the change was hard, how they dealt with it, what was their feeling before, during and after, etc.
Objective: Problems that arise from change can be overcome.
26. The Guessing Game
Activity: Divide the group in half and place each team on opposite sides of the room. One person from each team leaves the room and together they choose one object in the room. When the people who left return they go to the opposite team from which they left. Each team asks the person who left yes-or-no questions to try and figure out what the object they choose is. When they get the right answer, the team applauds to indicate they won. Now the two participants who left join that winning team. The process continues with two new people.
Objective: Developing comfort with changing teams and alliances, and the problems of binary answers.
27. Index Cards
Activity: Divide group into teams of three-to-five people, giving each 25 index cards and a roll of tape. They now have five minutes to construct the highest freestanding structure they can with the materials at hand. Once you’ve measured all the towers, the teams destroy them. Now give them 25 more index cards and have them do the exercise again, but without tape. Wait five minutes and measure the results.
Objective: Learn creative ways to overcome challenges created by change through teamwork.
28. Machine Made
Activity: Divide the group into teams of six-to-10. Give each team six minutes to plan a human machine and then have them demonstrate it. Remove one member from each team and give them three minutes to adjust their machine.
Objective: Change can create opportunity.
Activity: Have some magazines and allow everyone to pick a picture from one. Cut the picture into small pieces and use those to make a wholly new image. Everyone then shares their creations.
Objective: Change can bring new things to light.
30. By the Numbers
Activity: Arrange the group in a U formation and have them count off so everyone is assigned a number. The first person quickly calls someone’s number, who in turn quickly calls someone else’s number. This continues until someone hesitates or messes up, and that person goes to the end of the line, getting a new number and changing those numbers of the people behind them. Resume play.
Objective: Learn to cope with rapid change as a team.
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