The thing about team-building games is that you cannot assume your employees will enter into them with the unbridled zest of a 12-year-old summer camp student.
For many people, the idea of intimate touches and groping of people they don’t know, wearing a blindfold to perform a task, or falling backwards with confidence that a team member will catch them doesn’t build teams; they build terror.
If they know such “fun” activities are going to happen on a specific day, they schedule a bad flu.
But it is the job of the human resources professional to bring both the introverts and extroverts together over fun games and challenges. So how do you find activities that accomplish your goals without alienating or boring the opposite personalities that ultimately have to come together?
You think past the one-legged races and games that involve blindfolds and especially touching while blindfolded. You focus on what you want to achieve and develop pleasant, if not uproariously humorous ways to develop teamwork.
Here are 4 activities that inspire teamwork not discomfort.
1. Meet and Mingle– If your company is large and you have segmented departments that work largely in isolation, you have to find ways to get workers interacting beyond department lines. A great way to do this is to have a Meet and Mingle Challenge.
Prior to the event, you send out messages to each employee explaining the rules of the game, the start time, and their team members. Keep each team to a maximum of five people and ensure each of them is from a different department and a different level of the corporate hierarchy.
Let each employee know that there is no rule against getting together with their team members prior to the event to strategize but alternatively, they are not obliged or encouraged to do so.
When the day and time of the challenge arrives, each team breaks up and mingles with as many people as possible for 3 minutes. What team members working individually have to collect is the full name of the person they are speaking with, the department they work in and what they do there, and one little known fact about the job that person does.
When the 3 minute Meet and Mingle challenge is done, teams get together and count up their contacts and information. They appoint a team captain who can quickly summarize to the other members how many contacts they made and facts they gathered. Get the captain to share the “facts.” The more humor and lightness, the better.
The winner is not necessarily the team who contacted the most people. It is the team who came back with a combination of a large number of contacts and the best collection of facts or stories.
Members vote by hand at the end for the winning team.
As the team members discuss each contact that they met and the fact they gleaned from them, that person stands so others can get to know them as well.
This exercise works well to get people from different departments to get to know each other and learn about what goes on within those departments.
2. What To Do With What– This is a great game for small teams of five to seven people. The moderator brings in a whole series of objects in a brown bag. They can be anything from a fly swatter to a bowling ball to a threaded needle or stapler. The important thing is that the items are not related.
The moderator invites one player from each team to pick something from the bag. Then another player that person picks has to demonstrate what the object can be used for. The idea is to be as original and humorous as possible, not to select the obvious. At the same time, the presenter cannot speak. The other team members must guess what the action is. This is a great exercise to encourage creativity as a team as well as individual ideas.
3. Picnic in the Park – Nothing sparks creativity like good food and a change of surroundings. Set one day a month to take different teams out to eat great food in unique outdoor surroundings. As they come up to enjoy the spread of delicious food laid out for them, they pick up a paper plate which has a number on the bottom of it. Once they have their food, they look for the tree, bench or pavilion that has the matching number. There will also be a clue there with an actual work puzzle that needs solving.
For the next hour, they will eat and share ideas with the team members they meet there. The idea is to encourage people from different skill sets and departments to come together to try to solve issues. At the end of the hour, everyone reconvenes back where the food buffet was laid out and one member of each group describe the problem they were given and proposed solutions.
This is an effective exercise to illustrate how creativity can be fueled by changing routines and perspectives.
4. Silver Lining – If you have a team of under 10 people, get together in the board room to play Silver Lining as a team building exercise. Each person is partnered with the person who is sitting far away from them, so the seating arrangements need to change early on in the process (this shakes up people who are comfortable with each other who tend to sit beside each other.)
The idea of the game is to get one person to discuss the worst thing that ever happened to them in the workplace. They tell their story to the whole team. Then their teammate tells the same story, but focuses his or her story only on the positive aspects of the experience. In other words, they tell the silver lining story. Then they switch roles. Each group of two does this. This exercise helps all team members to consider the different aspects of each point of view and each story they consider as they work through projects.