3 fun team building exercises for businesses

We host a number of business events at The Mackey House and we are always happy to pitch in to plan for any occasion.  One of our favorites to help coordinate is Corporate Events with team building exercises.

Businesses large and small throughout the Coastal Empire and Low Country know the importance of keeping a harmonious balance within the workforce – and sometimes that balance needs some assistance.

Below are 3 of our favorite team building exercises that you can do anywhere – or preferably – at an offsite retreat.

1)      Early Bird vs. Second Mouse – taken from Steven Wright’s stand-up quote, “The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese,” this team building exercise highlights a number of different areas.

This is a simple exercise for groups between 8 and 30 people, and involves many different learning elements: understanding strategies, teamwork, presentations, argument, debate, analysis and group decision-making.

Split the group into two teams.

Nominate one team to be ‘early bird’ and the other team to be ‘second mouse’ (or allow the group to decide this themselves, which can be an interesting mini-exercise in its own right).

Give the teams 5-10 minutes, each to develop a presentation as to why their strategy (‘early bird’ or ‘second mouse’) is best for business.

Encourage the teams to make use of the knowledge and abilities and views of all team members in creating their presentations.

After the two presentations chair a 5-10 minute debate between the teams of the question: “Early bird or second mouse: Which is the most effective strategy for business?”

After the debate hold a ‘free’ vote to see what the combined group now believes about the question. Allow but do not encourage abstentions (‘don’t knows’). Encourage group members to vote as individuals, putting their team loyalty to one side.

There are many possible learning areas to review after this exercise, depending on your situation and development purposes,  for example:

different strategies for different situations
adaptability versus consistency
different strategies for different types of people and personalitie
organizational cultures
assembling an argument/case/presentation in a team against a tight deadline
presenting a concise and convincing argument/presentation
constructive debate and discussion – using evidence, examples, structure, passion, etc
how groups consider and decide responsibility of those in authority to assist and enable clear understanding, debate and decision-making

2)      The Paper Tearing Exercise – the idea is to follow directions, but with your eyes closed, anything can happen, and usually does.  Each participant needs only a piece of 8 1/2×11” piece of paper.

Tell the participants the following: “We are going to play a game that will show us some important things about communication. Pick up your sheet of paper and hold it in front of you. Now, close your eyes and follow the directions I will give you—and no peeking! Participants cannot ask questions.

Give the following directions, carrying them out yourself with your own sheet of paper and pausing after each instruction to give the group time to comply:

“The first thing I want you to do is to fold your sheet of paper in half.
Now tear off the upper right-hand corner.
Fold it in half again and tear off the upper left hand corner of the sheet.
Fold it in half again. Now tear off the lower right-hand corner of the sheet.” 

After the tearing is complete, say something like “Now open your eyes, and let’s see what you have. If I did a good job of communicating and you did a good job of listening, all of our sheets should look the same!” Hold your sheet up for them to see. It is highly unlikely any sheet will match yours exactly.

Observe the differences. There will probably be much laughter.  Ask the group why no one’s paper matched yours.  Then, lead into a presentation on the importance of  two-way communication in the workplace.

3)      Letters into words game – giving teamwork a little bit of challenge, each team is measured on the number of words they can make out of randomly selected letters.

Each team will need 3×5 index cards (5 cards per team member) and  pens (one per team member).

Before dividing into groups – have each person write one letter of the alphabet on each given card (letters can be random, but must be kept to themselves). Divide the group into teams of four to ten people.

Once in groups, have each team member put all their cards into a pile.

Set a time limit (five to ten minutes) and challenge the teams to use their cards to make as many words as possible, using each card only once per word. You may give points according to how many words they come up with, extra points for longer words, etc. The team with the most points at the end wins.

Discussion Prompts:
Did the letters you chose hurt or help the group? How did this make you feel?
Did the helpfulness of the letters you chose depend on the letters that others chose?
Do you sometimes do a lot of work for a group and then find out later it wasn’t needed? How do you feel when this happens?

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