Top-15 Team-Building Exercises for an Inspired Team

by | Nov 25, 2019

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan

‘Team collaboration’ time. Ugh.

That’s the general reaction, right? After all, who wants to forcibly ‘bond’ with team members and play silly games that annoy everyone to no end? To top it off, generational differences and continuously changing leadership can get exhausting and leave behind a disengaged workforce – a staggering 70% at that.

We hear you.
What if the games were genuinely entertaining?
What if the team leaders could actually engage in some quality time-spending? What if the leaders celebrated every individual’s uniqueness while celebrating the team on the whole in a fun way?
Wouldn’t that be amazing? If the answer to all the questions posed above is ‘Yes’ and if you’re constantly wondering why employee engagement is slowly emerging as a sinking ship, keep reading.

Here are 15 team games that can inspire your team members and are – for all intents and purposes – a ‘fair game’ (pun intended) :

Top-15 Team-Building Exercises for an Inspired Team

According to definitive studies, ‘recognition’ is the number one thing employees cite that their manager could give them to inspire them to produce great work. In short, when it comes to inspiring people to be their best at work, nothing else comes close—not even higher pay, promotion, autonomy, or training.

1. Two Sides of the Same Coin

Primary Goal : To enable employees to change their perspective and view situations from different angles.

How It Works : Two people come together to form a pair. Let’s call them ‘Partner A’ and ‘Partner B’. Now, Partner A has to share something negative that’s happened in their life with Partner B. The type of problem can be professional or personal. However, it is essential that the incident shared be true.

Partner B has to ‘look at the bright side’ of the problem shared and help Partner A look at the silver lining. The roles are switched and the process gets repeated.

Handy tip: It helps to stock up on a hot beverage – tea, coffee, hot chocolate, etc. – so that people feel comfortable when upset or when sharing, ( as Dr. Sheldon Cooper from the ‘Big Bang Theory’ claims!)

You’ll be surprised to know that a little change in perspective can completely transform the way employees approach different situations and allows them to shatter any preconceived notions they may be harboring.

2. Warm Fuzzies for the Win

Primary Goal : To ensure greater bonding between teams by highlighting positive experiences and memories built on diverse work experiences.
This also encourages greater appreciation for each other – an important metric for employee happiness.
A study reveals that 79% of people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses – due to lack of appreciation.  Learn more about the surprising advantages of expressing appreciation and gratitude at work.

How It Works : You’ll need a whiteboard and some post-it notes for this activity. First, scribble down some work-related themes on the whiteboard like “My First Day”, “Work Travel”, “Team Celebrations”, “My First Solo Project”, etc. People need to pen down details related to the themes and share their inputs. You’ll be surprised at the power of memories and nostalgia, and how it can actually bring the team closer.

3. Three’s a Charm: “Dog, Rice, and Chicken”

Primary Goal : To stimulate creative problem-solving and lateral thinking within the team.

How It Works : One member is assigned the role of a farmer, while everyone else adorns the role of ‘villagers’.

The problem that needs solving: The farmer needs to purchase a dog, a bagful of rice, and a chicken by crossing a river in a boat. But here’s the kicker: At any given time, he is only allowed to carry one item. The end-goal is to bring all three purchases, safely back home. Rest assured that fun questions like these can get the discussions going and encourage greater team participation. It’s simple, effective, and requires no extensive prep.

4. The Game of ‘Taboo’

Primary Goal : To encourage communication and listening-skills among team members.
It also helps the team leaders to gauge if their team members can imagine and innovate in each other’s company.

How It Works : People are required to form two-person pairs and sit facing back-to-back. Let’s call them ‘Person A’ and ‘Person B’. Person A is given a picture of an object/thing. The person needs to describe the object without using ‘direct words’ relating to the object.

For example, if it’s a flower, they cannot say the word ‘rose’. They need to use indirect words to describe the object. Based on the description, Person B draws the object. The roles are switched. Needless to say, the end results are always interesting and fun to watch.

5. Three Truths & a Lie

Primary Goal : To challenge preconceived notions, empower introverts to open up, and encourage better understanding among team members – especially if they’re geographically dispersed.

How It Works : The first step is to create a group of three or more team members and sit in a circle. Now, every person has to state four facts about themselves – out of which 3 are true, and 1 is a lie. Remember that the lie has to be constructed in such a way that it seems true enough. The other team members take turns to single out the lie. Once everyone is done guessing, the right answer is revealed.

6. Spot the Difference

Primary Goal : To let the team members blow off some steam – especially after a long day at work. This re-energizes the team members while they have some fun.

How It Works : Ideal for a group of 10-20 people, this game requires good observation skills. Teammates form 2 lines of equal number of members each, facing each other. Let’s call them ‘Line A’ and ‘Line B’. Line A is asked to observe Line B for 15 seconds.

Then, Line A turns their backs to Line B, giving Line B 40-45 seconds to change 7-10 things about themselves. This could include a host of creative ideas, such as adorning a different hair-do, making changes to accessories ––removing earrings, watches, and ties, or putting on makeup, etc. Line A turns around after the 40-45 seconds and has to list the various changes that were done within that time. The teams switch roles, and the team with the most correct answers wins.

7. Let All the Questions Go Up in the Air

Primary Goal : To get a better understanding of other team members in a stress-free, fun, and interactive way.

How It Works : Every person is given a balloon, a small strip of paper, and a pen. They need to write a question on the slip of paper and place it in their balloon. It could be a general question that’s fun and entertaining. The balloon then needs to be blown up and tied.

Once everyone is done, they need to let go of balloons into the air. After a few seconds, each person grabs a balloon (other than their own) and sits in a circle. Then they need to pop the balloon and answer the question.

8. Entertainment at its Best: The Human Knot

Primary Goal : To test a team’s communication and creativity in equal measure.

How It Works :

First step: Participants need to stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, facing the inside of the circle.
Second step: Then, every person needs to extend his or her right arm and grab the hand of someone who is standing across the circle.
Third step: The same process is repeated with the left arm.
Fourth step: While doing so, two conditions need to be followed:

1. No one can hold the hands of someone who is standing directly next to them.
2. Everyone should hold the hands of two different people. The end-goal is to untangle everyone but without breaking the circle. If the chain breaks, the group has to repeat the exercise all over again.

Handy tip : Watch Tom Wujec’s TED Talk on “Build a tower, build a team” for some interesting insights on team-building exercises.

9. Bid Boredom Goodbye with Board Games!

Primary Goal : Go old-school, build a sense of partnership and instill team-building using board games.

How It Works : The idea is simple: Organize a board game tournament using any game of choice. Popular examples include Jenga, Codenames, Risk, etc.

Make sure to set prizes for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place so that the competition is healthy and spirited. Alternatively, if you have a sound-proof room somewhere in the office, a karaoke session works well too. Make sure to stock up on beer to loosen up some nervous nerves!

10. Lunch Date & Potluck: A Potent Recipe

Primary Goal : To encourage better team bonding over good food and great company.

How It Works : No, we’re not talking about taking your team to an expensive lunch. Instead, head to your local park and enjoy a picnic. Ask your team members to get one food item each and enjoy some quality time amidst nature. Make sure to carry comfortable blankets for everyone to sit on, and don’t forget to take selfies!

Did You Know?
Recruiting software company, Lever, ups their team-building game. This is what Kiran Dhillon, the Content Marketing Manager, has to say: “Our CS team recently, completely out of nowhere, started giving out ice cream during the middle of a workday. They had a cart with different flavors and toppings, were playing music, and were dressed up in colors of the American flag (this was during the Olympics). Each person’s ice cream came with a little toothpick flag that had a Lever value written on it. I think it’s organic moments like that that bring the team closer together and reinforce values. We all stopped work for a little bit and just chatted and bonded over ice cream. Now, we’re all excited to see what other teams will do.”

11. Hobby Clubs & Cultural Jam Sessions

Primary Goal : To bring like-minded people and innovative ideas together, so that people can unwind and de-stress the best way they know how.

How It Works : Ask your employees to make groups of 5 based on a mutual sense of admiration for any activity. From book clubs and photography enthusiasts to food-lovers and creative artists, the list is never-ending. The idea is to engage in small and simple activities every week and drive engaging conversations forward. For example, they can set up a ‘Book Corner’ in the office where people can contribute and borrow books. Alternatively, every Friday, you can screen movie-sessions on classic movies that actually entertain and educate. Citizen Kane comes to mind. Any takers?

As for cultural jams and events, the idea is to encourage employees to brainstorm on the kind of culture they want to create within the company and implement it with time.

Some interesting examples :

  • Cultural celebration : Shiv Sharma, Head of Content at Synergia One, explains: “At least once a week, every team member takes part in a cultural experience involving another member of the team. This has created a situation in the company where the French watch Bollywood movies, Germans understand cricket, Indians eat Hungarian food … and everyone loves Thailand.”
  • Cultural jam : Meredith Mejia, Director of Marketing at WorkStride says, “Recent ideas that were implemented from cultural jams included holding hackathons to encourage innovation, hosting healthy cooking classes, and scheduling brown bag lunches with leaders of departments other than your own to learn more about what they do.”
  • Interesting, right?

12. Get ‘Social’ for Better Bonding

Primary Goal : To encourage team members to engage in a charity drive and instill greater team bonding among members. Plus, it is known to boost employee morale and lead to greater emotional bonding.

How It Works : The idea is simple. You need to pick a cause that’s close to your team’s heart and invest a couple of hours in driving social responsibility. It could be volunteering at old-age homes, building homeless shelters, going on a plantation drive, mentoring at nearby schools, etc.

13. Bring Out the Marketer in You

Primary Goal : To view things in a new light and instill problem-solving during crunch-time.

How It Works : Make groups of 4-5 people. Give each group a random object from the room and ask them to prepare a marketing plan to sell it. They can be given 20-30 minutes for this. Remember that they need to create a brand name, tagline, logo, and detailed strategy to sell the object. The teams then have to present the idea, and the team with the most effective and entertaining plan wins!

14. Create an Office Documentary, ‘The Office’ Style

Primary Goal : To spark off creativity, strategizing, and collaboration skills among team members.

How It Works : Start the activity by dividing teams into groups of 4-5. The participants need to create a documentary featuring different office elements and team members. It can be humorous as well as informative and ensure that everyone’s on the same page…or in this case, the screen. Make sure to give the teams a couple of days and then ask them to present on a fruitful Friday.

15. It’s Photo Shoot Time!

Primary Goal : To encourage teamwork and task distribution in a fun manner.

How It Works : Divide members into groups of four and make sure that every group has one phone with a working camera. Provide the members with a list of items to take pictures of within 10 minutes. This list could be super-creative and innovative. Some examples include:

  • A yellow headboard
  • A red dustbin
  • A teammate serving in the cafeteria
  • A red arrow
  • An abstract painting
  • The team with the most number of pictures wins.

We’re in the ‘Endgame’ Now: Closing Thoughts

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” – The One Minute Manager Every organization – big or small – needs to focus on innovating its employee-focused initiatives. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, 58 percent of employees trust strangers more than their own boss. So try these team-building activities and make your dream work, with teamwork.

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