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Team Building Problem Solving Activities

With an ongoing digitalization, the need for a workforce that easily adapts to a fast-changing world, becomes more eminent. On one hand many jobs will get lost because of digitalization. On the other hand, some workfields will see a higher demand in jobs. E.g. in IT- and Customer Service related jobs. Plus, a lot of jobs do not even exist today; new jobs will be created that can tackle tomorrow’s challenges.

Manpower Group, the third largest staffing firm in the world, calls it the “skills revolution”. Employees that upskill themselves and employers, out of a visionary leadership, facilitating their employees as such. In recent studies Manpower interviewed 18,000 employers in 43 countries. According to this group, employers state that problem solving skills belong to the top-3 most valued skills of future employees.

Can an employee be replaced by a robot? Creativity, emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility are the unique selling points that will make the difference. Now, all of this calls for more fun and games at the workfloor; Team building problem solving activities that foster creativity. For small groups and for large groups. It puzzles you where to start then?

We came up with the following team building activities that can contribute to curiosity and innovation within your company:

  • Problem solving activities for small and large groups
  • Team games, puzzles and other fun activities
  • Leadership-related problem solving activities

Out of your comfort zone, away from your desk!

All of the activities listed have a common element, which is solving a problem. For that, several steps have to be taken. First of all defining and analyzing the problem, followed by determining what to do and deciding how to implement a solution. The final step is to evaluate what went well and what can be improved. Even the most fun activities, can be evaluated in a serious way, leaving a team with great lessons learned. It all starts with leaving your desk and to get out of your comfort zone;

Problem solving activities for small groups:

  • Stranded at the workplace. Maybe not one the likeliest scenarios, but imagine a small group to get stuck in the office. Let the group decide which 10 items in the office are needed to survive for the coming days. And let the items be ranked in order of importance.Tip Your team only has a short time [15-30 minutes] to come up with great teamwork and creative answers!
  • A Lego challenge. For teams that you like to challenge with activities that involve listening skills, you might want to consider good old Lego building blocks! Divide your group into smaller teams. The facilitator will build a Lego construction, but only individual team captains can see both the building process, as well as the final result. The team captain then has to instruct his team to come up with exactly the same structure without the person touching his team’s construction. It’s all about communication from here.

Problem solving activities for large groups:

  • Crossing the line. Clearly one of the more serious exercises for a large group is “Crossing the Line”. In a room, draw or make a line in the middle. Then ask people to cross that line, based on questions whereby attendees have to answer yes or no. The set of questions is carefully formulated at forehand. During the exercise no sound is permitted and there’s respect for everyone in the room. Tip Examples of questions are e.g.: “Anyone who prefers day over night, or anyone who doesn’t like flying?”, to more sincere questions, like: “Anyone who ever feels lonely, or anyone whose parents have divorced?”. Discuss the exercise afterwards and see how team values shifted. Often you’ll find great team bonding taking effect!
  • Escape Room. An increasingly popular problem solving activity, is visiting a so-called escape room. These commercial venues are often found in large warehouses, farms or old buildings. The concept is simple: a group has an hour to get out of a room that is locked. The often themed rooms [like a prison, a wild west saloon or a an operating room] are full of hidden clues, codes and keys. With every riddle solved, the group is a step closer to escaping! No worries for those not picking up on the clues; after an hour the room gets unlocked again. From there you might want to analyze how the escape went. Is there anything you can tell from it that for example relates to leadership within your group?

Problem solving: activities, games, fun activities [100-150].

  • Scavenger Hunt. The principle of the scavenger hunt is simple but fun. In advance you formulate a list with items that the groups have to collect; without purchasing them! Because none of the items can be bought, it will force the groups to be creative and to bring all problem solving skills to the table. The scavenger hunt items can be located in the office, outside or even in nature. The group that brings back all items, in the fastests time, wins. InterestingScavenger hunts evolved from ancient folk games and are regularly held at American universities for team building purposes.
  • Group Timeline. Visualize a timeline and on it mark each person’s date of birth. From here let each person think of 3 moments in their life, happy or sad, that made an impact. Examples can be the day you got married, the day you’ve started a business, got your first pet or very different scenarios. Briefly let everyone write down the moments on post-it notes and take a short moment to position the moments on the timeline. Not only will this tell you more about your colleagues, it can also be interesting to now question how this timeline impacts the functioning of a team. Clearly one of the more serious activities to execute with your team – but one that can lead to interesting outcomes!

Problem solving leadership activities:

  • Taking a personality test. To better understand yourself, your colleagues and even to understand the type of leadership present within your team, a personality test can be of great value. There are dozens of tests out on the web. From fun tests [often for free] to in-depth tests like a color test or the well-known Myers-Brigg Type Indicator [MBTI]. With many of these tests, consultants and trainers come with it. You might want to invite such an expert to your next team meeting. Somebody who facilitates a session about personalities with you. An external professional [an outsider], sometimes has the ability to zoom in better and more objective, than you yourself or one of your colleagues. Out of this session you can even distill what kind of leader is needed for your team and how you can agree to a path of getting there [be it through personal development activities or in a next set of team building activities].
  • Challenging Perspective. Before gathering, ask attendees to register the last 10 minutes of getting to the meeting space or venue. Once you meet, write down your most remarkable, interesting or beautiful observation. No matter how big or how small. Now, make pairs and exchange experiences. Then have a plenary evaluation and randomly pick somebody reflecting out loud on his/her observations from the other person [let’s call him John]. Now let somebody else reflect on John’s appearance today. Another person now tells John one thing to improve on. Finally, a last person reflects on all three previous colleagues: what does their analysis say, not about John, but about the group and their way of looking at people? Is there anything that can be said about problem solving and the way the group approaches this? This can be a fun, yet also confronting game.

Problem solving puzzles:

  • Company Concentration. As a child we all played the memory card game. One of the puzzles whereby cards with pictures are flipped. You take turns and per turn you’ll have to memorize where the individual cards are positioned in order to form pairs of the same pictures.TipEspecially with a complete new team, it is nice to use this game as a mean to transfer knowledge [making cards of specific products, advertorials, logo’s, pictures from team members or items that symbolize company values].
  • What’s my name. A sweet problem solving game is “what’s my name”. Let one or more people come up with names of well-known people: still alive or from the past. Now write the name down on a sticky note, put it on someone’s forehead and let that person walk through the room asking individual team members yes/no-questions. A playful way to interact with new colleagues and learning how to ask the right questions!

Problem solving challenges:

  • If you could ask one question. In advance think of roles, challenges or activities someone fictively should execute. For example, plan a wedding, getting the Olympic Games to your country, make the world’s largest apple pie or other scenarios that involve problem solving. From here the attendees should write down only one question of which the answer potentially should be sufficient to let someone do the job. The group can now discuss the individual questions and decide as a team what would be the best question to ask.TipFrom here you’ll learn how team members determine who is capable and who they will follow or trust.
  • Do-it-yourself challenge. Give different groups one assignment and 30 minutes. The assignment would be to come up with a team-building activity that is realistic in terms of budget, time and effort and that serves leading current themes of the organization. Not only does this result in your own team generating valuable proposals, it also says something about values, perspectives and desired directions.

About the author

Robert DaverschotChairman | Moderator | Sidekick

Robert is a professional moderator, dialogue facilitator and sidekick and works both independently and on behalf of Sendsteps audience response system. Robert has years of experience at home and abroad and has interviewed, ministers, captains of industry as well as His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In his dealings with the audience, he always uses Sendsteps. With Sendsteps an audience is able to voice their opinions, whereby attendees can cast votes or send in open comments and questions to the speakers and panels on stage. As such events turn into 2.0 experiences with everyone being able to speak up!