1. Magic Cane (Helium Stick)
The magic cane or helium stick game is a simple activity to see how teams communicate with each other and solve problems. The premise is that groups of 6 or 8 must lower a helium stick until it is lowered to the ground. Try to keep teams in even numbers. A helium stick is a thin, light-weight rod. You can easily find them on Amazon.
It sounds like a simple task, but it is deceptively challenging. The group must create two lines on each side of the stick and face each other. With the stick lying horizontally in the middle, have each person put their index finger underneath it.
Groups must start with the stick at chest level of the tallest person. Everyone must be standing on their feet when you start. (Some may try to find a loophole in the rules by starting on their knees.) At first, people will likely lift the stick or set it off balance.
Remind the groups that every person’s index finger must be in contact with the cane at all times. If it slips, they have to start from the beginning. They also can’t curl their finger around the pole. It must sit there.
Every person is needed to complete the task, so members must work together and communicate. This reinforces the idea that everyone is equally important, valuable and necessary for the team to succeed.
2. Barter Puzzle
If you want to strengthen your sales team or get team members to practice negotiating and strategizing skills, try the barter puzzle. Groups are given different jigsaw puzzles. Each puzzle has had pieces of the other puzzles mixed in at random. Members have to strategize, assign roles and barter with other teams to get pieces they need to complete their puzzle first.
Divide groups into 4 or 5. Make sure that each group has the same number of members. Give each group a puzzle with mixed pieces. Explain that other teams may have the pieces they need.
You can see a group of students at Stanford doing the barter puzzle with a twist, they change the market every 10 minutes. The activity leader will offer teams a quick look at the puzzle image or throw another curve ball that requires groups to think on their feet.
3. All Adrift
I Want to see how your team makes decisions? Set up a hypothetical scenario, in which an accident strands the group in a body of water. The traditional brief in All Adrift is that your boat catches on fire and you have to abandon it. You only have a few minutes to grab items. Some examples are: First Aid Kit, rope, canned food, water, a bucket, a knife, a compass and a blanket. You can print out the list of items and worksheet for the activity here.
First, individuals should write down the items that they would grab from 1-10 in the order of most important. Then as a team, they have to decide and agree on which 10 are the top priorities and fill in the worksheet.
Groups should have about 30 minutes to complete the entire activity and come to a consensus. There is also a scoring sheet that they should use to rate their decisions. All Adrift helps you see that you can often make smarter decisions as a team with combined knowledge than on your own.
4. Bridge Build
To tap into your team’s creativity and communication skills, try bridge build.
Divide into two different teams. Each must build half of a bridge with the materials provided. The goal is for the two bridges to have similar or identical design and be able to fit together when finished. The challenge is that the teams must be separated so that they can’t see the other team or what they are building. But, they are allowed to communicate verbally (eg. through Slack).
You can give them anything as building materials including: dry noodles & marshmallows, straws, Legos, popsicle sticks or Jenga blocks. Depending on what you use, you may want to also supply them with tape, paper and pens.
5. Electric Fence
In this activity, you create a hypothetical electric fence. Teams must cross over without touching it. The fence can be created by tying a rope or shoe string to two chairs or other objects, as long as it is elevated to about waist-height.
Members can’t go under the fence and must be touching another member of the group with at least one hand at all times. This motivates people to brainstorm ideas, problem solve and put their proposed plans into action.
6. Blind Drawing
Similar to Charades but with a twist, Blind Drawing is a team-building activity that can be done in groups of two. All you need is pen and paper or marker, a mini whiteboard and an eraser. The two participants sit back to back. Only one person should have the drawing materials. The other is handed a picture, and must make sure that the other cannot see it.
They are given 60 seconds to describe what is in the picture, by shapes and indirect descriptions. They can’t say, “Draw a bee on a rose.” But, they can say adjectives like, “Buzz, yellow and black, spring, blooming, etc.” When the time ends, groups should compare their drawings. It can be comical to see how bad they usually turn out. The game can get people laughing and highlights how difficult giving instructions can be and how important it is to communicate clearly.
7. What’s my name?
If you have ever played the game “Heads Up”, you’ll be familiar with What’s My Name.
Create a set of names, which can be celebrities and icons like Beyonce or Mickey Mouse or types of professions like actor, hockey player or doctor. You can use Post-It notes or tape and small slips of paper.
Place the name on each person’s forehead. Make sure that they can’t see who it is. Set a timer and instruct everyone to move around the room asking different people yes or no questions until they guess correctly or time runs out. This gets people to move around the room and interact with people they may not have before. It also makes them more aware of stereotypes and categorizing others based on certain characteristics.
8. Hole Tarp
It may remind you of an activity you did in gym class, but it can be a lot of fun, even for adults. You can do Hole Tarp with a circular tarp or plastic sheet and a few tennis balls. Your team stands around holding a piece of the tarp, which should have a hole cut in the middle. Then they begin to shake the tarp so that it moves around like a wave. Once it is moving, throw in a ball.
Much like a business, everyone on your team has to keep moving to keep the ball rolling. If someone stops, the ball will drop.
9. Game of Possibilities
A great way to bring out your team’s creativity and quick thinking is Game of Possibilities. To do the activity all you need is to gather a group of random objects.
You can use anything from a basketball or plastic bag to a hula hoop or scarf. In groups, each person is given an object and must demonstrate an alternative use for it.
Other group members must guess what function they are acting out. It is a fun way to boost team creativity and innovation.
10. Lava Flow
“The floor is lava!” If that brings back happy memories of your childhood, you’ll like this team-building game.
Lava Flow, also called River Crossing, is a game in which a group must cross the river of lava by jumping and maneuvering on different objects. Limit the number of objects to two or three, so that they have to be moved and shared each time someone crosses. If you touch the floor at any point, then you will get burnt and must start over. The first team to cross the river with all members intact are the winners.
11. Group Juggle
For new groups, check out an icebreaker and memory game called Group Juggle. Participants form a large circle facing each other. If you have a large group, break the circles so there are no more than 20 people in each.
Throw in a soft ball to one person. They will throw it to someone else, but must say that person’s name first. The ball goes around the group like that until a pattern starts. Once the group seems comfortable, throw in more balls to increase the difficulty.
12. Company Concentration
Similar to “Concentration”, in which you flip over cards two at a time to try to find matching pairs, this activity focuses on learning and memory. You can create cards with photos and names of team members or with company information like products, logos, and values.
Break into teams and time which groups find all the matches the fastest. Company concentration teaches employees more about your business while playing a fun game.
13. All the News
With this team-building exercise, you can boost creativity and get an inside look at how your employees see the future of your business. To do All the News, you just need a few newspapers, whiteboards, markers, pens and paper. Each team is given a newspaper and asked to come up with different headlines that cover what the company will be doing in the future. They can create as many as they want and as far in the future as they want.
Groups share their headline ideas with the rest of the team and get feedback. All the News is useful for entrepreneurs and business owners that want to get an idea of the company’s future direction and start setting some new goals.
14. Grab Bag Skits
Acting and improv exercises can be a humorous and energizing way to bring your team together. Grab Bag Skits is a short activity in which teams of 3 to 8 select a paper bag. They don’t know what is inside, but it is stuffed with unrelated and random objects.
Each team is given 10 minutes to put together a 2 to 3 minutes skit that uses each of the items. Every person in the group must take on a speaking role. Encourage groups to be as creative as possible. For example, they can use an apple as a meteor or a paintbrush as a witch’s broom.
Although some individuals may be more introverted, Grab Bag Skits can encourage them to get out of their comfort zone and connect with colleagues.
15. Tied Up
In this activity, divide groups up into teams of 2 to 4. Form members into circles facing each other and use rope or shoe strings to tie their hands together. Then, give them a task that they must complete together with their hands tied. A few examples of tasks that you can use are:
- Make a sandwich.
- Tie a ribbon.
- Navigate through an obstacle course.
- Complete a jigsaw puzzle.
Because everyone’s hands are tied, it will require the effort of each person to complete the task. The constraints can increase their creativity and push them to think outside-of-the-box.
16. Sneak a Peek
In this game, divide into multiple groups. One person from each group is selected to view a hidden object or sculpture. They only have 10 seconds at a time to peek at the sculpture and must relay the information that they see to the rest of their group. The group must try to recreate the sculpture based on the peek person’s description.
Players must trust the team member to describe it accurately and listen to their instructions. It can help break down management barriers if you select a lower-level person as the person to view the sculpture. In a different position than they are accustomed to, it pushes them to adjust, direct a team and communicate clearly.
17. Murder Mystery Dinner
A Murder Mystery Dinner is an interactive activity that will require everyone to get involved. There are several companies that will design murder mystery dinners specifically for business groups. Actors will provide an entertaining story and set clues in place for your team to decipher.
But, you can also host your own murder mystery dinner party which may be more cost-effective and intimate. Learn more about Murder Mystery Dinners here. Either way, your group will rally around the main goal─solving the mystery and finding the culprit. It’s ideal for problem-solving and critical thinking.
18. Conducted Story
Stories are powerful. In many ways, it is your story and how you tell it that makes people connect with your business. Your team members are storytellers.
To do a Conducted Story, groups stand in a line. One person may act as the conductor, who is responsible for moving the story along. The first person starts the story with a sentence like, “Mike went to the supermarket because...” The next person continues the story, “He needed eggs to bake a cake for..” The story continues on like this until it reaches the last person in line.
The conducted story is a listening exercise that requires every team member to pay attention to what the others have said. It also stresses the importance of telling a seamless story and that unity and strong communication are needed to do that.
19. Swedish Story
This is another activity that combines storytelling and teamwork but with a twist. People work in pairs or small teams of no more than four. One person is the storyteller while the others are the word givers. The word givers start off by giving a title that the storyteller must start talking about.
Then, as they are speaking, word givers yell random words that storytellers must incorporate. The key is that the words should be unrelated to the topic to make it more challenging and interesting. For instance, in a story about, “Visiting the City,” word givers should avoid relevant words like, “taxi”, “skyscrapers”, and “subway”. Instead, they shout out unrelated words like, “coconuts”, “T-Rex”, “Big Foot”, or “lumberjacks”. You can see a combination of Swedish Story and Conducted Story here:
Storytellers will be put on the spot and have to think fast. It drives them to actively listen to the words the other members say and insert them into the storyline.
20. Group Order
Ask the group to line themselves in order based on certain criteria. Some examples are by:
- Shoe size
Make it more challenging by setting a rule that members can’t speak to each other. You can do this as a get-to-know-you-better activity. As members move around the room to organize themselves in order, you’ll notice how they communicate to complete the task and who takes on the role of organizers or leaders.
21. PowerPoint Karaoke
If you want to test your team’s presentation skills and see how they react in fast-paced or high-pressure situations, play PowerPoint Karaoke. In it, groups are given a set of slides that they haven’t seen before and must give a presentation based on those slides.
This is a more intense version, but you can adjust it so that groups are given a few minutes to view the slides and prepare before giving the presentation. It requires groups to think quickly and work together to pull off a difficult task with a short time to plan.
Another spin on this is that one person presents a story that details an adventure or a process. This can be anything from traveling through the jungle or navigating around a city to building a house or planning a large dinner party.
The other team members must act as the slide show or visuals for the presentation. With each section that the presenter says they must demonstrate the scene. Add in random props to make it more exciting. The Slideshow activity sparks creativity and pushes members to think on their feet. It also shows how they support each other throughout the process.
23. Culture or Common Book
Some businesses may do team-building activities once for new employee orientation or once or twice a year for a company retreat. Although team-building activities help to bring your group together, you don’t have to limit them to only one time a year. Doing team-building games more often prevents your team from drifting apart over time.
Some companies like Zappos have incorporated a culture book. It is a long-running team-building activity that can be done every day. In a common area like a break room, leave a book with markers or pens. On each page, you can leave a prompt or ask a question for each day. Encourage employees to leave quotes from movies they are watching or books they have recently read.
24. Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunts are one of the oldest ways to get people to interact and collaborate. But, there are still one of the most effective and fun. Smartphones and apps have made it possible to do scavenger hunts anywhere. You can even add in photo or video challenges and share an album within the organization.
You can do a simple scavenger hunt and keep it in the office or take it outdoors, which can be much more exciting. Create a list of items that groups must collect or tasks that they have to complete. They can be goofy, as long as it’s possible to complete. Some examples are: “Take a selfie with someone wearing a cat shirt” or “Grab a take-out menu and a fortune cookie from a Chinese restaurant.” Set a checkpoint for people to meet when they finish.
25. Spider Web
Do you remember all those spy movies with the intricate laser security systems people had to maneuver through?
Spider Web is kind of like that. Create a maze of lines and shapes using string. Teams must cross the spider webs to reach the other side without touching the string or going in the same shapes as anyone before them.
The challenge gets harder as more people cross to the other side and requires everyone to remember and communicate with each other.
26. Balloon In Water
The balloon in water activity is a great way to see how your team solves problems together, particularly when faced with limited resources. Each group must immerse an inflated balloon in a bucket of water for a minimum of 5 seconds. They can only use the provided materials to complete the activity.
Each group gets:
- Bucket of water
- 5 disposable straws
- 5 paper clips
- 3 binder clips
- 1 plastic bag
- String (20cm)
- Tape (20cm)
- 3 binder clips
The brick goes in the bottom of the bucket of water. Teams have a minute to strategize and flesh out their plan and only 5 minutes to do the activity.
Only the provided materials can be used during the challenge. The 3 binder clips and inflated balloon given to the team cannot be altered in any way. Before starting the activity, the team has one minute to plan and they have to plan without touching the materials.After planning, the team is given 5 minutes to execute their plan. The balloon must be fully immersed in the water before the 5 minutes is over. The balloon must remain immersed for at least 5 seconds, and the team must notify the trainer(s) when they are ready to be timed.
It can be difficult for some to trust their team members or to rely on someone else to help them reach a goal. Some may think they have to do it on their own. Minefield is an activity designed to foster trust in teams. It can help members that are resistant to collaboration become more open.
You can do this inside or outside, but make sure to clear the area to avoid any accidents. Place “mines” or objects in an obstacle area. These can be anything from styrofoam cups to cones, as long as they are soft with no rough edges. The member that is going through the field, or obstacle area must be blindfolded. The other members of the team direct them through the minefield by giving them verbal instructions.
If they hit an object, they must start over. The first team with all members across the minefield wins.
28. Leaky Pipe
This game can get a little messy, so it’s recommended for outside only. Leaky Pipe is a highly interactive activity that drives groups to work faster and more efficiently together. You’ll need water, buckets, several cups, 2 pipes with holes drilled in them, and 2 ping pong balls.
To win, teams must retrieve a ping pong ball from the pipe by filling it up with water and floating the ball to the top. Participants will need to work together using the cups to carry the water from the bucket to the pipe, relay race style with cups of water to fill it.
The pipe has holes drilled in it, so they will have to plug the holes as the water gets higher. To complete the challenge, each team will receive a bucket of water (which is placed 10 metres away from the pipe) and several cups. Remember to set a countdown, so they are racing against the clock.
29. Heads Up!
You may have seen “Heads Up!” being played on the Ellen Show. It is a mobile app available for download on Android and iOS devices, in which one player puts the phone on their forehead, the rest of the players can see the word, accent, celebrity, or other category on the card, but it is hidden from the person holding it. He or she has to guess the item on the card based on clues from their team.
Although it is a fun app usually associated with parties, it can be perfect for office team-building. The best part about the game is that you can use the preloaded decks or you can create your own decks. Make a deck that relates to your company or industry and test their knowledge while having some fun.
30. Dance Party
One of the most effective and quickest ways to bring someone out of their comfort zone is to get them to dance. You can download the Dance Party app from the App Store and set it up in your office. Players mimic the dance moves that the avatar performs on the screen. Encourage members to form teams and compete.
Dancing as a group takes a lot of the pressure and embarrassment out of it. Plus, Dance Party fosters healthy competition and can energize teams and prepare them for the next challenge, whether it’s a dance-off or a business deal.
31. Reverse Charades
In a normal game of charades, one person from the group stands up and acts out a word or phrase while the rest of the team tries to guess. However, in reverse charades, it is flipped. One person has to guess while the rest of the team must work together and act it out. You can play the box game version or download the mobile app.
In Reverse Charades, it is necessary for everyone that is acting it out to communicate and plan together. Because there is one person is guessing and everyone else is acting, everyone is involved throughout the entire game. No one can sit back while a few take on the challenge.
32. Who Lurks
Who Lurks is a multiplayer game that combines strategy with sci-fi. Groups of 3 to 6 can play. Individuals can either play as one of the crew members on a spaceship or an alien infiltrator posing as crew to sabotage the mission.
Team members will take turns completing tasks to reveal which person is the alien. You can also set up missions that players must overcome together. The spaceship is like your company, without a crew that collaborates to detect issues, repair them and keep moving forward, it will come crashing down.
33. Sing! Karaoke
Some companies go out to Karaoke night. Instead of paying a hefty admission or organizing a large group outing to a venue, you can get the same bonding benefits of a fun night of karaoke with the mobile app Sing! Karaoke. You can download it on an Android or iOS device and start belting out popular hit songs.
Karaoke helps members show off their talent or funny side that may not be obvious in the traditional office setting. Form groups of singers and create a competition, so that the more introverted don’t feel intimidated by the thought of performing alone.
34. Evil Apples
Evil Apples is a mobile app inspired by the party game, Cards Against Humanity. If you are unfamiliar with them, the idea is that one person has a game card that is missing a word. Other players submit cards anonymously to fill in the blank and the person with the game card chooses the best response. It can be a humorous way to break the ice.
Players will bond over laughs and may appreciate the creativity of other group members. However, be cautious how you use it. Some cards can be considered inappropriate. However, you can download different decks that are more work-appropriate or use other card apps to create your own decks.
35. Who Can’t Draw
Evil Apples Who Can’t Draw is a mobile game app that is best to play in groups of 4 to 8. People pass the app down the line and try to draw a word based on what the person before them drew. You can end up with some hilarious results as the last person guesses the word that the first person was given.
This is a great way to show teams that we each interpret and think differently. The way that you do a task can be completely different from how a co-worker does. Instructions and information can get muddled when passed from person to person, so it is important to be aware and communicate clearly.
36. Order & Chaos Online
A fantasy MMORPG game like Order & Chaos Online can bond your team together as they go on quests and develop strategies to overcome challenges. It can be download on Android or iOS devices. People can communicate, barter, form alliances and show what they are capable of when they work as a team.
Playing a fantasy multiplayer RPG game may seem like an unconventional way to build your business team, but it can foster real-world teamwork. It also taps into the imagination of your members and their ability to communicate.
Bounden is a mobile dance game that is designed to be played with partners. A pair of people hold a smartphone or tablet while instructions pop up on the screen. Sensors in the phone detect if the right moves are made.
This can be used as a great icebreaker for small groups. It also requires people to pay close attention and follow the instructions that they see. As they continue, the moves can get more fast-paced or difficult, so they’ll have to team up to win.
Based on the board game, the Pandemic mobile app centers around teams working together to fight and cure deadly diseases. Each player has a specific role that they must fill in order to succeed, that can be anything from an engineer building satellites so the CDC can communicate to a scientist collecting data and samples to test for a cure.
The premise for the game is the perfect setup to teach risk management and foster teamwork. It shows that every role is needed to reach the long-term and tough goals.
Another board game turned mobile app, Carcassonne focuses on laying tile to strategically gain control of map’s cities, fields and other terrain and earn the most points. The game is best played in groups of four players and as a pass-and-play for teams.
With each new tile that is laid, groups must adjust their strategy. It can get people thinking about how to formulate strategies and use logic to reach long-term goals.
These activities may give you the inspiration and motivation to build stronger and more successful company teams. But, remember there are other opportunities to bond your team, so don’t stress too much about planning out everything in exact detail. It could be as simple as holding monthly team Happy Hours or encouraging transparency with Toggl work hours tracking. Focus on creating shared memories and finding common ground.