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What’s the most efficient team building game?
The most efficient team building games are those designed to instill teamwork, improve communication, and develop problem-solving skills in employees and organizational units. For example, pass the egg, copy my Lego, pass the message, mind the mines, and shape it up are some of the team building games your company should try because they improve employee engagement and better collaboration among teammates for more productive work relationships.
If some wise cracks at the office approach you and question the need for these games, tell them: the company has invested in its employees and it is the company’s responsibility to take care and develop the workforce and foster a team spirit. This process can be reinforced and accelerated with team building activities that promote teamwork, improve communication, eliminate conflicts, boost employee morale and creativity, and enhance productivity in the workplace.
This article will present to you 10 team building games that you can try with your group of employees. Keep in mind though that these games can backfire when done wrong or when forced down employees’ throats with corporate team building cliches. You must strike a balance between making the games feel not like a day in the office while sticking to work coaching principles. Read on and find out how you can exactly optimize these games to the benefit of both employees and the company.
Team building goes beyond getting to know each other stuff or bonding moments. It makes employees more cooperative, collaborative and, generally, engaged in his or her work. Low employee engagement has been a challenge to various organizations.
One report estimated that companies around the world spend over $700 million to improve engagement levels. Why the big spending? Because “disengaged” employees have a great toll on businesses – they cost the U.S. economy a staggering $350 billion a year in lost productivity.
Consider the 2018 Gallup study on employee engagement in the U.S. – 34% of workers were “engaged” or are committed and involved in their work and workplace. On the other hand, 53% of workers are considered “not engaged” and 13% are “actively disengaged. That’s nearly 70% of workers who couldn’t care less about their job tasks.
Team building, while not perfect, is one of the best ways to improve employee engagement. Here are the main reasons why you should get into the game.
- Nurture a culture of teamwork. It’s the core of easy team building games, where individual egos take a backseat for the common good. While these team building activities are usually fun, they’re shaped by competitiveness and cooperation, two vital factors that drive a team to success in real-work situations. The activities are designed where a goal can only be accomplished through the proactive participation of all members, and this requires bonding. Participants are made aware of the importance of each other’s role, no matter how trivial, and that only by cooperating can they win the game. In a real scenario, teamwork is one of the key factors to effective leadership and project management.
- Improve communication. Clear communication is vital to any organization. How many projects have failed and business put at risk because of miscommunication? Common team building activities here involve message delivery, non-verbal interpretation and other communication challenges that promote clarity in conversation whether in print or verbal.
- Develop problem-solving skills. Activities can employ team building strategies to solve a problem and achieve victory. Teams may be tasked to break down a complex problem by assigning each member a problem subset. Each one follows a systematic process to solve the problem. These activities mimic delegation, cooperation and coordination under pressure, which are important test cases in real life. Problem-solving team building games suit participants with a leadership role, such as managers, supervisors and project leaders.
- Enhance specific skills. Some games require specific team building techniques to accomplish a goal that mirrors a real job task. We usually see this in blue-collar roles with a defined skill set. For example, a competitive game among firefighting teams that simulate real skills like climbing ladders, putting out a fire and carrying heavy loads.
- Be aware of one’s personality versus others’. A workplace is a cesspool of personalities that sometimes are at each other’s throat out of a misunderstanding or lack of empathy. Team building games may focus on resolving this issue by making participants aware of these differences and how each personality type approaches an issue differently. Role-playing is a key element in these activities. The goal here is to nurture empathy; plucking people out of their comfort zone, assume other people ’s roles and make them see things from other people’s perspective.
Below are various easy team building games that you can quickly organize with little costs involved. Each game has its specific goal, requirements and mechanics explained. Have fun adopting any of these fun-filled, lesson-rich simple team building exercises.
1. Drop the Egg
- You’ll need: Eggs, cardboard tubes, boxes, scrap paper, cotton balls, rubber bands, tape, glue, popsicle sticks, straws.
- The goal: Protect the egg from breaking when dropped to the ground.
- Instructions: Using only the materials above, each team needs to create a container to protect the egg from the drop. A team is eliminated if the egg breaks. To shortlist the winner, you can increase the height of the fall or downsize the materials until only one egg remains intact.
- Focus: Problem-solving, creative thinking
2. Copy My Lego
- You’ll need: Equal set of Lego blocks for each team.
- The goal: Copy the Lego build of the other team through memory.
- Instructions: Two teams try to copy each other’s Lego build within 10 minutes, but only one member from each team knows the Lego design of the other team. Place the teams in separate rooms (or anywhere they can’t see each other) and give each team an equal set of Lego blocks. The teams need to build a structure of their choosing. Once the build is done, a member (spy) from the opposing team is allowed to check the other team’s structure for one minute. He or she must remember the details including the color, block types used and overall design. The spy will then rejoin his team and must communicate clearly the specs used by the other team. The teams have ten minutes to build the replica under the guidance of the spy. Whichever comes up with the more accurate and more complete replica wins. To up the challenge, mix different block colors, types and elements in the Lego set.
- Focus: Communication
3. Pass the Message
- You’ll need: At least 10 members for each team, the more the better; coded message (a combination of words that doesn’t make sense)
- The goal: Pass the coded message from one member to another without adding to or subtracting from it.
- Instructions: Line up the team members, each one must face front (no glancing back). To start the game, the team coordinator whispers a coded message to the member at the back of the queue. The member then whispers the message to the one in front of him or her, who’ll do the same thing until the message reaches the one at the frontmost. He or she then will say the coded message aloud. The coordinator matches it with the original message. The team that sticks closest to the original coded message wins. To make the game more challenging, the message must be a coded phrase that doesn’t make sense to force participants to remember not just the words but the sequence. Example: “The chicken swimming with sharp teeth eats the shark playing with kids.” Alternatively, you can have the first participant look at a picture, then he or she describes it to the next person and so on and see who gets the most accurate picture at the end.
- Focus: Communication
4. Mind the Mines
- You’ll need: Open field or any wide space; miscellaneous materials for “mines” like boxes, papers, strings, chairs, etc; start/finish markers
- The goal: Walk blindfolded across the field without hitting the mines.
- Instructions: The area is marked with a START and FINISH points on opposite ends, and “mines” or obstacles are placed across the open space. Participants are grouped into twos. One member is blindfolded and positioned at the START point, while his or her partner is at the FINISH mark. The blindfolded person must walk towards the FINISH mark guided only by his or her partner on the other end of the field, who barks the instructions to avoid hitting any mine. The team that hits the least number of mines wins. Vary the shapes and placement of mines to create a challenging course.
- Focus: Teamwork, trust, bonding
5. Shape It Up
- You’ll need: At least 10 members for each team
- The goal: Team members arrange themselves to form shapes as instructed.
- Instructions: Have the participants huddled up together in groups. A game coordinator barks a shape (for example, square) and the teams must quickly form the shape in five seconds (adjust the time for larger groups). Start with simple shapes to warm up everyone, then start barking complex shapes like “a circle on top of a square” or “square intersects a triangle.” Teamplay is essential here to coordinate who is forming what in a group. The team that forms the shape first wins. The larger the group the more challenging the game is.
- Focus: Teamwork, bonding, communication
6. Unknot the Knot
- You’ll need: A wide space.
- The goal: The participants must untangle themselves from a human knot to form a big circle.
- Instructions: All participants stand in a circle. Each one holds hands with the person next to the one beside him or her. The result is a circle tangled with overlapping arms. Now instruct everyone to form a neat circle by untangling themselves from the knot without letting go of their hold. The participants can twist their arms and bodies or face forward or backward, but they cannot let go of anyone’s hand.
- Focus: Teamwork, bonding
7. Guess the Word
- You’ll need: Hat or cap, slips of paper, tape, marker
- The goal: A participant must guess a mystery word within a minute using the process of deduction.
- Instructions: Write a mystery word on a slip of paper, big enough that can be read from 2 meters away. Make ten or more of these slips, each one with a different mystery word and keep aside (don’t show anyone). Group participants into two with each member facing his or her partner. Each team takes turns to play this game. Start with the first team. One member wears the cap. Tape the slip of paper on the cap’s front so that the other member can see the mystery word. The one wearing the cap must guess the word by asking a series of questions within a minute. The one who knows the word can only answer yes, no or maybe. The one wearing the cap must be able to deduce the word within the allotted time. The team that gets to answer a mystery word fastest wins. Mystery words can be related to the company’s business, staff or completely random items.
- Focus: Clear thinking, deduction, problem-solving
8. Act the Attitude
- You’ll need: Self-adhesive sticker, pen marker
- The goal: Make participants aware of how attitudes affect meetings or projects
- Instructions: Make a list of descriptions of common attitudes in a workplace, both good and bad. For example: cheerful, supportive, optimist, listener, indifferent, grumpy, pessimist, fearful. Write each description on a sticker and place them in a box to be raffled off later. Group participants to simulate a meeting. Pass the box around and each participant picks one description and sticks it on his or her shirt. The participants must act out their sticker description. The game coordinator starts the meeting with a project goal and specifics and each participant must give his or her feedback acting out his or her sticker description. So, a pessimist reasons why the project will fail, while an optimist props up its good points and the indifferent couldn’t care less. Pass the box for a second round so that each participant will have a different sticker description this time. You can do a number of rounds that will allow each participant to role play different attitudes, making them realize in stark terms how specific attitudes affect their workplace. The game has no winner but will make everybody laugh seeing themselves being acted out by their colleagues.
- Focus: Work empathy, team bonding
9. Blind’s Count
- You’ll need: Blindfold for each participant
- The goal: The team must count as high as they can
- Instructions: Have the participants form a large circle facing outwards. Blindfold each one. Each participant will have to count out loud one at a time in sequence. To start, designate the first person to shout “1” then the person to his or her right follows with “2” and so on. Let the counting goes on until the sequence is broken or two or more participants count out at the same time in their confusion. Assign a target number that the team must reach to win a prize.
- Focus: Listening skills, team bonding
10. Throw the Ball
- You’ll need: Tennis ball or similar item
- The goal: All team members must remember the complete name and one interest of each other.
- Instructions: Form the participants into a circle. Each one will shout out his or her complete name and one random interest (example, “I like sushi” or “I enjoy watching Stranger Things”). After everyone has done their turn, designate the first person to throw the ball to anyone in the circle. The one who catches the ball must shout out the name and interest of the one who throws the ball, before throwing the ball to the next participant. Each participant won’t get to shout out all the names and interests of all the other participants, but the randomness of being thrown the ball to him or her keeps everyone on their toes to remember as many names and interests as possible. This game is a good icebreaker for a new team or large organizations.
- Focus: Team bonding, getting-to-know you
Building Bridges Across Your Organization
While you may think of team building games only for your team, these exercises can be a great way to build bridges across units in your company. An organization-wide team building activity might be unthinkable, but imagine the benefits of having an interaction between various departments – finance, sales, marketing, IT, HR, customer support. It connects company employees who might not even know each other, links long-time employees with new hires, and promotes a culture of diversity and openness.
Imagine what that can do for employee morale and engagement. Silos are broken down and everyone is placed on equal footing with a sense of belongingness. When employees feel they belong, they’re more productive and motivated and 3.5X more inclined to contribute fully in order to achieve their potential. Of course, you’ll also be strengthening loyalty and improving retention while reducing turnovers. It might be high time you level up team building activities and plan with management how you can implement them across your organization. The activities we’ve included above will set you up and prepare your team when the time comes to square off with other teams from other units.
Of course, getting the whole organization to work as a team requires investing in the right tools. For that, you can read our best 20 collaboration tools to get your product research up to speed with the latest trends.