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Team Building - Activity of the Month
June 2011, Puzzles and Riddles As Icebreakers
6/6/2011 4:29:34 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment




These fun little word puzzles can be great ice breakers.  You can allow people to work together in teams of 3-5. 

Examples include:


1.         side  side


2.         you/just/me


3.         ban  ana


4.         once



5.         noon  lazy


6.         deal


7.         ho


8.         Wheather


Answers to these examples:


1.         side by side


2.         just between you and me


3.         banana split


4.         once upon a time


5.         lazy afternoon


6.         big deal


7.         half an hour


8.         bad spell of weather


With a little creativity, you can create hundreds of similar Wordles. 





May 2011, Puzzle, Bolt in the Bottle
5/2/2011 6:59:46 PM Link 1 comment | Add comment


This is a very clever puzzle.  It is inexpensive to make, and it is very effective at getting people to see the need to creatively “think out of the box.”

It consists of an assembly in a bottle.  The assembly is a wooden dowel with a hole through it.  A bolt and nut is assembled through the hole in the dowel, down inside of the bottle.

The challenge - To get the assembly out of the bottle, without breaking the bottle.

People will work and work at this, usually without a lot of success.  They will turn it, try to twist it, try to stick other thin instruments such as pencils in the bottle, spin it, etc.


The solution - The puzzle can easily be disassembled by simply turning the bottle on its side, and shaking or vibrating the dowel assembly. 

With the vibration, gravity will slowly but surely move the nut to the end of the bolt and off. 

The bolt can then be allowed to fall from the dowel, and the entire contents can be removed from the bottle.

Once this solution is observed, it seems simple and logical.  It is kind of like a screw or bolt can work loose in a car or truck.  People don’t typically key on this, however, because of the “mental model” that most of us have about how to assemble an disassemble nuts and bolts.  We typically do it with some sort of tool, such as pliers or wrench.

The solution requires a different mental model, thus the learning application to creativity.


The equipment:

Bottle - I like a bottle that is much wider at the base than at the neck.  I frequently use a bottle such as barbecue sauce is packaged in.  The neck needs to have an inside diameter of 1” or so, to accommodate the dowel.

Dowel - The dowel needs to be slightly longer (1/4-1/2” longer) than the bottle.  Its diameter needs to be close to the inside diameter of the bottle.  You don’t want a lot of slop in the fit, as it will allow participants to easily stick other objects such as pencils into the bottle, as they attempt the disassembly.  You don’t want a really snug fit either, as the dowel must have room to move.  The hole is drilled through the dowel approximately 1” from the end of the dowel.  The hole must be large enough for the bolt to easily move in and out of.  It can be 1/16-1/8” larger that the diameter of the bolt.

The bolt and nut -  Size isn’t too critical.  The nut should have a really easy fit on the bolt; i.e., you should be able to spin the nut on the bolt freely.  This is important. If any resistance or burrs exist, creating a tight fit between the nut and bolt, it may not be possible to disassemble it.  The bolt must be short enough to be assembled in the width of the bottle you have selected.


Assembly - The assembly is a greater trick than the disassembly.  In fact, if you have a group that quickly masters the disassembly, congratulate them on their accomplishment and creativity, and ask them to kindly reassemble the puzzle for you.  This will stimulate a lot more puzzle solving creativity.

Step 1 - Place the nut in the bottle.

Step 2 - Cut a thin strip of paper.  Make a small slit in one end of the paper, and gently thread the bolt through the slit as shown.  This tool gives you a way to place the bolt through the dowel, while inside of the bottle, (the most difficult part of the task).

Step 3 - Lower the bolt and paper into the bottle.

Step 4 - Insert the dowel into the bottle.

Step 5 - Manipulate the bolt into the hole in the dowel.

Step 6 - Pull the paper from the bottle, tearing it from around the bolt.

Step 7 - Turn the bottle on its side and manipulate the end of the bolt into the opening in the nut.  Vibrate the assembly only slightly in this position, just enough to get the nut to barely start on to the bolt.

Step 8 - Turn the dowel assembly over, so that the nut is on top.  Now, shake and vibrate it, allowing gravity to slowly work the nut down on to the bolt. 


Encourage your group to be creative.  Congratulate them as they think "out-of-the-box."





April 2011, Puzzles, River Crossing 1
4/1/2011 6:19:11 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment


Simple word puzzles, or riddles, can be great assets in creativity and problem solving classes.  The following is courtesy of Greg Michalak.
If you have examples that you have had great teachning experiencs with, please share them via your comments to this blog.

Crossing the Bridge 

There are four people who want to cross a bridge. They all begin on the same

side. You have 17 minutes to get all of them across to the other side.  Here are the facts about the challenge:

  • It is night.
  • There is one flashlight.
  • A maximum of two people can cross at one time and any party who crosses, either one or two people, must have a flashlight.
  • The flashlight must be walked back and forth. It cannot be tossed, thrown, etc.
  • Each person walks at a different speed.  A pair must walk together at the rate of the slower person's pace.

     Person #1: 1 minute to cross

     Person #2: 2 minutes to cross

     Person #3: 5 minutes to cross

     Person #4: 10 minutes to cross


For example, if Person #1 and Person #4 walk across first, 10 minutes have

elapsed when they get to the other side. If Person #4 returns with the flashlight, a total of 20 minutes have passed and you failed the mission.

Be sure to give this puzzle a try before you look at the solution steps below.  Enjoy! 





People 1 & 2 cross.                                           2 minutes

Person 1 returns with the light.                       1 minute

(the next move is the one usually missed)

People 3 & 4 cross.                                         10 minutes

Person 2 returns the light.                                2 minutes

People 1 & 2 cross.                                           2 minutes

                                                          Total         17 minutes 

Puzzles can expand how people  and teams approach problems, stretching them to consider solution steps that may hold important promise for their success.

Enjoy the learning experience,




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,




February 2011, Moon Ball
2/1/2011 4:09:22 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

action, competition

There is just something fun about knocking a beach ball around with other people. It is really a natural engager.

You can use that natural attraction for a simple yet powerful team building activity – Moon Ball.
Objective – the objective you give the participants is simple. Challenge them to hit the ball to other member with the goal of obtaining the maximum hits possible without the ball hitting the ground, Arrange the folks with plenty of space so that they can move without running into each other.
  • If in-doors, be cautious about obstacles in the room that might be hazards, or which might be damaged in the exercise.
  • If out-of-doors, select a space free of tripping hazards, etc.
Monitor the dynamics to keep it getting out-of-control, allowing people to do things that might be unsafe. (People do tend to get into this game and the sense of competition sometimes tries to take over.)
Keep tracks of the number of "hits" for each round. Encourage the team to think of ways to improve their process.
Additional challenge – insist that everyone has opportunities to strike the ball. This forces the team to consciously think about how to be inclusive of all members.
Celebrate as records are broken round-to-round.
Processing / debrief:
It is a simple activity, but important lessons can emerge. Cast the net of questions widely at first, beginning with what they actually did in the exercise:
Ask:    How did you begin? 
How were your results?
In what ways were you surprised with your progress?
What things seemed to help you score more?
What things made it difficult?
How did you communicate?
How did you try to make intentional improvement?
How was your sense of competition – trying to break your records?
Turn the corner to work issues.
Ask:     What are areas in your real work where improvements in outcomes are important?
When do things get competitive at work?
What are your thoughts on competition at work?
When is in an asset?
When is it not?

Ask:     What did it take to get everyone included?
How did you accomplish it?
When was it difficult?
Again, turn the corner to work issues.
Ask:     At your work, when is it important to have the whole team engaged and involved?
How do you accomplish that?
Ask:     It seemed like you enjoyed celebrating when you scored a new record. Why?

When is celebration important with work projects?
How do you do that where you work?
January 2011, Name That Team
1/2/2011 4:51:25 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

ice breaker

Happy New Year to you all.  I hope your recent Christmas and New Year celebrations were excellent.

I have not been repeating activities on this blog, but  there have been lots of requests and seaches for this ice breaker on naming football teams.  So, I will paste here for all of you that are planning your superbowl parties for next month.  Enjoy!

Ice Breakers are simple activities that can be used to kick off any number of events or meetings (even parties).  Here is one that is just-in-time for the upcoming Super Bowl.

Name That Team

You can have participants work at it individually, or in pairs or small groups to facilitate some teamwork. (Courtesy of Christopher Bissonnette in San Diego, CA. Thanks Christopher!)
Objective: Solve each phrase, determining the NFL team that it represents.
Pope’s men                         __________                 Range Riders              __________
Lilliput Adversaries                __________                Winged Patriots          __________
Rash Results                       __________                 Winter Sleepers          __________
King of Beasts                     __________                 The Moving Crew         __________
Six Rulers                           __________                  Mountain Dwellers      __________
One Dollar per Corn Cob       __________                  Royal Birds                __________
Heaven’s League                  __________                  Seven Squared           __________
Halloween Feline                  __________                  Debits                        __________
Derby Hopefuls                     __________                  Barbie’s Swimwear      __________
Minute Men                          __________                  Frequent Flyers           __________
Poe’s Bird                            __________                  Derrick Climbers          __________
Iron Workers                         __________                  Wild Steed                  __________
Tribe Elders                           __________                 Exterminators              __________
Visa Experts                          __________               
Third Letter Bird of Prey           __________
Her Royal Majesty’s Motor Car __________
Asian Mountain Predator          __________




Name That Team, (answers)
This activity can be a fun ice breaker for a variety of types of meetings and functions. You can have participants work at it individually, or in pairs or small groups to facilitate some teamwork. (Courtesy of Christopher Bissonnette in San Diego, CA. Thanks Christopher!)
Objective: Solve each phrase, determining the NFL team that it represents.
Pope’s men                            Cardinals                    Range Riders              Cowboys
Lilliput Adversaries                   Giants                        Winged Patriots          Eagles
Rash Results                           Redskins                   Winter Sleepers           Bears
King of Beasts                         Lions                          The Moving Crew         Packers
Six Rulers                               Vikings                        Mountain Dwellers       Rams
One Dollar per Corn Cob           Buccaneers                  Royal Birds                 Falcons
Heaven’s League                      Saints                          Seven Squared            49’ers
Halloween Feline                      Panthers                      Debits                         Bills
Derby Hopefuls                         Colts                           Barbie’s Swimwear      Dolphins
Minute Men                              Patriots                        Frequent Flyers           Jets
Poe’s Bird                                Ravens                         Derrick Climbers         Oilers
Iron Workers                            Steelers                        Wild Steed                  Broncos
Tribe Elders                             Chiefs                           Exterminators              Raiders
Visa Experts                            Chargers                    
Third Letter Bird of Prey             Seahawks
Her Royal Majesty’s Motor Car   Jaguars
Asian Mountain Predator            Bengals 



December 2010, Easy Knot
12/1/2010 6:39:16 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

communication, planning, rope

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.




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