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Team Building - Activity of the Month
March 2011, Hula Hoop Circle

This is a simple team building exercise that makes some important points. The props are inexpensive, and the preparation time will be brief.

It requires 2-3 hula hoops ( for a very large group, say of 50, three hoops might be best ).
  • Have the group members stand next to each other in a circle.
  • Have team members join hands. You need to participate as well.
  • Put one of your arms through a hula hoop before joining hands with one of the partners next to you.
  • Instruct the team that you, as a group, will now pass the hoop completely around the circle without releasing your hand grips with each other. (Caution them not to hurt each other’s wrist/fingers/etc. as they work to manipulate the hoop over each other’s heads, etc.) This is usually a humorous process, and the group will enjoy it. They will probably cheer when the hoop makes it entirely around the circle.
  • After pausing, you can discuss what it took to succeed, and then move on to the next step.
  • Quickly introduce one or two more hula hoops at equally spaced places around the perimeter of the circle.
  • Give the team the instruction that now they are trying to catch each other’s hula hoops. (Don’t allow time for discussion. Say, “go" quickly and start moving the hoops.)
  • Typically, the teams will frantically try to move the hoops around the circle, trying to catch the other hoops. What is interesting is that this sense of competition is self-defeating in the exercise. To solve the exercise, all they have to realize is that if they stop one of the hoops, the others will catch up and the objective will be achieved. Instead, they will probably continue to compete, and thus not accomplish the mission.
Ask questions such as the following to provoke discussion:
  • What was necessary to successfully move the hoops around the circle without releasing hands? Cooperation, agility, assisting each other,….
  • Are there examples in our real work/study together where cooperation and assisting each other is important? Examples? Why?
  • What did we do when we introduced multiple objectives, and the new mission? Started competing with each other. Cooperation ceased, Etc.
  • Are there times when competition can hurt our overall mission with work/study? What examples? Why?
  • How do we prevent negative competition?
  • When is competition positive? Why?
  • When is competition negative? Why?
  • Etc…..

Have fun as you learn,




November 2010, CHAOS


This is a great activity to illustrate that our team/dept. structures sometimes create barriers between teams.
Depending on team size, divide the team into several sub-teams of three to five members each.
Setup: Each group has a hula hoop on the ground/floor. Inside of each hoop is a lot of stuff—toys, items from your obstacle course, paper wads, just lots of stuff that can be easily and safety picked up an carried.
Instructions/rules: Tell the teams that each team has a set of resources (the items in their hoop). Also tell them that they need more resources. There job is to work at getting all of the resources from the other teams inside of their hoop.
·        They can only carry two items at a time.
·        They cannot physically stop other teams from taking their items.
·        It is a timed event.
·        Ready begin. (It is critical to immediately tell them to start after you cover the rules. Don’t allow questions. Start the stopwatch and they will usually spring into action.
The teams typically begin frantically trying to steal resources from each other.
It is a very futile effort, but it is amazing how long some groups will struggle. I’ve had teams almost collapse from exhaustion.
Solution: The solution involves simply overlaying the hula hoops and putting all of the resources into the hoops. (We never said they couldn’t move the hoops.) Sometimes you will have to provoke them to think out of the box to finally arrive at the solution.

Debrief: A lot of great discussion can result. Ask questions to guide this.
     How did you begin?  What worked?  What did not help?
     What was it like? Chaos?
     Is work ever like that?
     Do you ever find that your team and/or dept. boundaries become barriers?
     Do your ever fall into the trap of competing for resources instead of thinking about how you can win together?
          Ask for specific examples.
     When is competition good?
          When does it get in the way?



July 2010, Saran Shuffle

This initiative can be done with anywhere from 6-12 people. 

Get the team to clump tightly together, all facing the same direction. Make sure they are about as tight as they can comfortably get. Now have the people on the outside of the circle raise both hands above their heads so that you can encircle the entire team with a couple bands of plastic wrap.

Now they are ready for your instructions.
The goal is to get their team from one cone (or similar marker) to another, approximately 10 yards away, as quickly as possible. 

The rules are simple: Do not break the band (emphasize this!) and keep the band around the midriff without grabbing on to the band with their hands. Time the group on the first couple of attempts, encouraging them to make process improvements to speed up their time.

On the last attempt, ask the group (or those on the outside of the circle) to take a step out, stretching the band as they step. They will quickly discover that they can get a pretty good stretch, way before the band breaks. Their next attempt should result in a much improved time and lots of celebration!

Safety Tips:
  • The larger the group, the more dangerous. It is easy for heels and toes to get stepped on. Be sure that everyone has on flat shoes. This should never be done with high heels on. 
  • As the group gets faster and faster, be ready with spotters to help decelerate the mass as they approach the finish line (cones).
  • Caution the people in the middle of the mass. They should hold onto shoulders of those around them to prevent tripping and trampling.
Processing Points:
Boundaries -- this activity is great at illustrating how groups sometimes create self-imposed boundaries around their process and operations.
Ask:  Do we ever have tendencies to perceive boundaries that may not exist?  What are some examples?
         What should we do if we perceive a boundary is not real, or should be challenged?
         How do we best communicate "boundary questions and concerns, both to leaders and team members?
Ask:  How do we determine process limits in our day-to-day work?
         How are limits set and how are they best communicated?
Ask:  How are paradigms created regarding how we do our work?
         What are the challenges associated with seeking new paradigms at work?
Ask:  Explain where and when teamwork is critical in your actual work.
         How do you facilitate excellent levels of cooperation and teamwork?
This activity is great at stimulating teams to think about and to be proactive is looking for improvements in how they perform their work together as a team.

Blind Polygon

This is a wonderful classic experiential team building initiative that can be done just about anywhere and with any number of people. Have the rope joined at the ends with a simple knot and lay it on the ground. Organize the team into a loose circle around the rope.  Inform them that they will be blindfolded for the exercise.  Give each person a bandana for that purpose.

Once they have their blindfolds in place ask them to hold their hands out so that you can hand them the rope.  Request that each person hold the rope loosely with both hands.  Next, instruct the team to form some shape. For example, ask them to form a right triangle, without letting go of the rope. Other shapes will work, too. Creating a square is a pretty good challenge. If you want a simpler task, simply ask them to produce a triangle. One of the more difficult forms is an equilateral triangle.

Team members are allowed to slide their hands along the rope as they shift positions, but they are not allowed to hand the rope back and forth, or to take up a different position on the rope. Once they have what they think is a pretty nice looking triangle, ask them to lay it on the ground and remove their blindfolds to view their masterpiece.

Equipment required:

  • 40 ft. rope (groups up to 15 members) - Use a good quality, soft nylon rope, approximately 1/2 “ diameter. A longer rope is necessary for large groups
  • Bandanna/blindfold for each participant

Safety tips:

  • Moving with blindfolds should always be done carefully
  • Nobody should pull the rope quickly as it could cause rope burns
  • Set this up in an area that is free of obstacles
  • If there is a team member who is uncomfortable being blindfolded, you can still let them participate. Just have them work in silence.


  • The importance of adequate information when working on projects.
    • Ask them about how they began their process. 
    • Did they assess the information at hand? 
    • Did they clarify the understanding among the team about the goal of the exercise and the constraints?
  • Leadership
    • How did leadership emerge on the team?
    • Did the team allow leadership to shift as other members had ideas?
  • Decision making
    • What was the decision making process like?
    • Describe the level to which all team members were involved.
  • Communication
    • At the start of the activity, how might you describe the communication within the team?
    • How did the communication progress as the activity got underway?
    • What helped the flow of ideas and information?
    • Were there examples of things that were not effective in the communications?  Explain

Best of luck with this great activity!



Return of ATC activities of the month
12/4/2009 8:17:24 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

team building, teams

In the early years of our website, we posted a team building activity every month or so. The purpose of this was to contribute to the many team developers and experiential team facilitators that desire ideas and activities to incorporate into their work.

It was a very popular page on our site.
After redesigning our site a few years ago, the activity of the month piece was no longer included.
We are very happy to announce that it is back! We will use a blog page. This will allow you to access a growing archive of team building exercises as we create them.
The plan is for it to be once per month, but over the next few weeks we will insert several activities in order to seed the blog with several idea postings.
Please let us know what you think. Contribute some ideas if you would like.
If you would like an email notification when we post a new activity, please let us know by contacting Angela Gallogly at We will add you to the email notification list.
Larry Meeker
President, Advanced Team Concepts

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