December 2010, Easy Knot
This is a great team building activity which challenges a group to think together, plan together, communicate and work together. It involves the team in trying to tie a simple knot in a rope. With many teams, they will jump right in, expecting the solution to be simple, only to find that it is more difficult than it first appears. (This is a good comparison to real-life projects that are more complex than they seem at first.)
Set-up is quite simple. You need two ropes:
- 10 ft. length of small diameter rope—3/8” to 1/2” dia.
- 40 ft. length of rope that is slightly larger in diameter—1/2” to 5/8” dia.
Use soft nylon braided rope if possible.
Join the two ropes together with a simple knot. Next, tie the free end of the shorter section of rope to something solid, such as a tree trunk, table leg, etc. You should now have the 10 ft. rope anchored to a tree, etc, and connected to the 40 ft. rope.
Have the team members all pick up the longer section of rope. Give them the following objective and rules, and let them begin.
Objective: Tie a simple overhand knot in the smaller section of rope—the section closest to the tree, table, etc.
- They cannot let go of the rope.
- They cannot change their relative positions to each other on the rope.
- They cannot touch the smaller section of rope.
The team will discover that they must move together to tie the knot in the long rope that they are holding. They will actually need to create the loop and pass team members through it. The challenge then is to somehow transition the knot onto the smaller section of rope, without touching the smaller rope or letting go of the larger rope.
Processing possibilities include:
The need for planning
Ask: How did you plan?
How do you plan new projects at work?
Did you have to adapt your plans as you went? How did that go?
How do you adapt at work when things are complex?
Ask: How were you communicating as you went?
How effective was the communication?
Was everyone communicating and participating? Describe it.
What are common communication challenges at work?
Ask: How was the overall cooperation in the activity? Explain.
When is cooperation critical in your real work? Why?
How do you encourage cooperation on the team day-to-day?
As with any experiential team building activity, be prepared to discuss any actions and behaviors that occur during the activity. Relate those activities back to their work settings. For example, if people get frustrated, discuss the impact of frustration levels on real work projects, etc.