Team building activities are essential in creating a closely-knit, happy and productive A-team. But what activities EXACTLY are team building activities? Which are the most effective (and low cost, low time-consuming) ones? We believe the best team building activities not only serve to increase communication amongst your team members, but also help to form some great memories they can share. Here are our top picks:
A Truth and A Lie (0.5-1hour) – Have each member introduce themselves by stating their name plus one truth about themselves and one lie. After each person makes their statements, allow for a quick open conversation where everyone questions each other on their two statements. The idea is to convince the other members that your lie is actually a truth, while guessing the truths/lies of the others. After the questioning period, vote as a group on each member’s statements. Points are awarded for each lie guessed right or for stumping other members on your own lie. This exercise helps to get to know your coworkers better and encourages group interaction and communication. (Optional: Increase the difficulty by having 2 truths and 1 lie, or 2 lies and 1 truth. Remove the open conversation segment if time is constrained)
Poker Tower (15-30minutes) — Distribute a pack of poker cards and a pair of scissors to each group of 2-5 members. Instruct them to build the tallest poker tower using ONLY the cards and scissors given to them. This will stimulate creativity and team bonding, as the team figures out how to build the tower with the limited material available. (Optional: Spice up the game with 1 A4 size piece of paper)
Egg Drop (1-2hours) — This is a messy yet classic engaging problem. Split the team into 2-3 teams of reasonable size. The task is to build an egg package that can keep the egg intact from a 2-4 storey drop. Tools that can be provided include newspapers, straws, tape, plastic, balloons, rubber bands. Give the teams 30min-1hour to create the package. After which, each team will take turns to drop the egg package from the 2nd storey while everyone else stays at the bottom level to observe. (Optional: increase the height of the egg drop until a single winner is found!)
Legoman (0.5-1hour) — This problem solving activity requires little more than a couple of sets of children’s building blocks. The instructor will build a small sculpture with some of the building blocks and hide it from the group. The participants should then be divided into small teams of 3-6. Each team should be given enough building material so that they can duplicate the structure the instructor has created (specific size and color included). The instructor should then place their sculpture in an area that is an equal distance from all the groups. One member from each team can come up at any point of time to look at the sculpture for as long as they want and try to memorize it before returning to their team. No paper, pen no camera are allowed to be brought to the sculpture. After they return to their teams, they instruct their teams about how to build an exact replica of the instructor’s sculpture. Meanwhile, another member from each team can come up for another sneak peek before returning to their team and trying to recreate the sculpture. The game should be continued in this pattern until one of the team’s successfully duplicates the original sculpture. This game will teach participants how to strategize, communicate effectively and problem solve in a group.
The Mine Field (15-30 minutes) – The idea behind this exercise is to improve team members’ trust, their relationship, and to communicate in a more effective way. You will need an open space such as an empty room or hallway in which you will distribute ‘mines’ that are placed haphazardly around the area. The ‘mine’s can be cones, balls, bottles etc. Team members are paired into teams of two. One team member will be blindfolded and the other can see and talk, but is not allowed to enter the field or touch their partner. The challenge is for the blind-folded person to walk from one side of the field to the other, avoiding the mines by listening to the verbal instructions of their partners. (Optional: Have more than 1 pair walking through the mine simultaneously, so the difficulty of focusing and listening to the right instructions increases)
Win, lose or draw (15-30 minutes) — This is another classical team game, which can be very easily executed. You need paper, pen, and a flipchart/whiteboard. Think of items that fit into certain categories. These can be generic or specific to the team. For example, generic categories include food items, places of interest, idioms. Team-specific categories include computer technologies for computer scientists, business ideas for startups, school and students for teachers. Split the group into 2 teams. Each team takes turns to play. The team that is playing will nominate an artist, who will draw a “list” of items to draw. The only hint to his teammates will be the category name. They then have 1-3 minutes to draw the items on that list, without writing nor speaking. Switch around to another team after the time limit. Swap artists with each round, and repeat for 4-5 rounds. Collate the final results to find the winning team.
Zoom. (30 minutes) — This is an activity designed for smaller teams. It requires the wordless, picture book entitled, “Zoom” by Istvan Banyai. This book features 30 sequential pictures that work together to form a narrative. The book should be fairly easy to find, as it’s been published in over 18 countries. The pictures can even be laminated to prolong their usage. Hand out one picture to each participant, making sure a continuous sequence is being used. Explain to the participants that they can only look at their own pictures and must keep their picture hidden from other participants. Time should be given for the participants to study their pictures because each picture will contain important information that will help the participants solve the problem of putting them into order. The ultimate goal is for the group to place the pictures in sequential order without looking at one another’s pictures. The participants can talk to each other and discuss what is featured in their picture. This activity brings coworkers together and gets them communicating with the common goal of solving a problem, but it also allows for leaders to emerge and take control of the task. (Optional: Draw up your own pictures to accommodate the team size and difficulty level)
Dragon-boating (2-4 hours) — Who said all team building activities need to be indoors? Head out with your team for some sun! Try dragon-boating or double-kayaking, which requires good teamwork. Include a race if possible.
Paint-balling (2-4 hours) — Because really, there’s no better way to build a healthy rapport with your manager than shooting him in the ass (literally) while your co-workers stand around and cheer on. As an interesting variation, there’s a British firm specializing in corporate “Fatless Fat Fun” for when “the old team-building standards are feeling a bit tired.” Surrey-based Sumo Experience provides not only the sumo fat suits (complete with protective headgear that resembles a sumo hairdo) that will send your “opponent rolling on the ground like a beach ball,” but a Dohyo (sumo arena) and Gyoji (sumo referee) as well. Smoke machine and Japanese soundtrack are optional.
Helium Stick (15 minutes) — This is a quick game that serves well as an ice-breaker or a short coffee break. A long thin stick is required. Be sure to call the pole a “Helium Stick” when you introduce the exercise. Place your group in two lines facing each other. Have each person hold the index finger of their right hand chest high. Place the helium stick on top of the outstretched fingers. The challenge is to lower the stick to the ground while keeping everyone’s fingers touching the stick. If anyone’s finger loses contact with the helium stick, you must start again. At first the stick will seem to rise (hence the name Helium Stick). In fact, it is simply the upwards pressure of everyone’s fingers causing the stick to go up instead of down. Once everyone relaxes they can easily lower the stick to the ground. This usually takes ten minutes of laughter and a leader to complete. (Optional: swap the helium stick for a helium balloon for a smaller team)
Talking in Circles (0.5-1 hour) — This is a highly challenging game that is only recommended for teams who love challenges. Place everyone in a circle around a long piece of string that is tied at its ends to form a circle. Have everyone grasp the string with both hands and hold the string waist high. Without letting go, the team will have to form shapes with the string; a square, a triangle, a figure eight, a rectangle, etc. Repeat the game but with everyone’s eyes shut! This will require everyone to communicate clearly and listen well. Make the shapes progressively harder and periodically have them stop and open their eyes to see their progress…or lack there of
Human Knot (15-30 minutes) — This brain teaser is funny and really works on teambuilding, problem solving and communication. No materials are needed. Recommended group size includes a wide range of 8-20 people. Instruct the participants to stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. Tell everyone to put their right hand in the air and grab the hand of someone standing across the circle from them. Now tell everyone to put their left hand in the air and grab the hand of a different person. Someone needs to check that everyone is holding the hands of two different people and that no one is holding the hand of someone who’s standing directly next to them. The objective of the game is to untangle everyone without letting go of their hands. If the chain is broken, participants will have to start over. Note: sometimes >1 circle will form. This game requires casual clothing, and is not recommended for team members with physical limitations. This game will rely heavily on teamwork and communication.
Salt and Pepper (15 minutes) — This activity is fun, excellent for energizing your team, and also great as a quick ice-breaker exercise. It is simple to set up and suitable for a wide team size of 10-40 people (ideally even numbered). As a facilitator, think of pairs of things such as, salt and pepper, yin and yang, shadow and light, peanut butter and jelly, Mickey and Minnie mouse, male and female, and so forth. Write each item on a piece of paper (i.e. salt on one piece and pepper on another), and tape one paper on the back of each person, making sure they can’t see it. When the game starts, everyone must walk around asking yes or no questions in order to find out what word they have taped to their backs. Once they figure that out, they need to find their other pair. Learning how to ask the right questions is the key. (Optional: The two will then sit down and learn three to five interesting facts about one another)