Team-building activities can be a powerful way to unite a group, develop strengths, and address weaknesses – but only if the exercises are planned and carried out strategically. In other words, there has to be a real purpose behind your decision to do the exercise – for example, improving the team's problem-solving or creativity skills – rather than because you felt like giving your people a nice day out of the office. There are many different reasons why companies use team building activities. A small sampling of these reasons include: Improving communication, boosting morale, motivation, ice breakers to help get to know each other better, learning effective strategies, improving productivity, learning about one’s strengths and weaknesses and many others. Team building activities can be used by any business, large or small, to promote better teamwork in the workplace, and as most business owners and managers know, great teamwork is one of the key factors associated with a company’s success. Let's take a look at a few team-building activities are most commonly used:

Improving Communication

  • Back-to-Back Drawing – Divide your group into pairs, and have each pair sit on the floor back to back. Give one person in each pair a picture of a shape, and give the other person a pencil and pad of paper. Ask the people holding the pictures to give verbal instructions to their partners on how to draw the shape – without actually telling the partners what the shape is. After they've finished, ask each pair to compare their original shape with the actual drawing, and consider the following questions:

    • How well did the first person describe the shape?
    • How well did the second person interpret the instructions?
    • Were there problems with both the sending and receiving parts of the communication process?
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  • Survival Scenario – This exercise forces your group to communicate and agree to ensure their 'survival.' Tell your group that their airplane has just crashed in the ocean. There's a desert island nearby, and there's room on the lifeboat for every person – plus 12 items they'll need to survive on the island. Instruct the team to choose which items they want to take. How do they decide? How do they rank or rate each item?

Eliminating Stereotypes and "Labeling"

  • Stereotype Party – This is a fun exercise for a medium-sized or large group. Write on nametags many different 'personality types (see the list below), and pin or tape one tag to each person's back. Don't show people which tag is on their back – they'll be able to see everyone else's tag, but not their own. Now, ask each person to figure out which personality type is on his or her back by asking stereotype-based questions of other people – “Am I a man?” “Am I an athlete?” “Am I an entertainer?” and so on. Allow group members to answer only yes or no, and encourage participants to ask questions to as many different people as possible.

    Here are some personality types you could consider:

    • Auto mechanic.
    • Olympic medalist.
    • Professor.
    • Fast-food restaurant worker.
    • Postal worker.
    • Movie star.

Building Interdependence and Trust

  • Human spring Ask group members to stand facing each other in pairs. Their elbows should be bent, with their palms facing toward each other. Instruct them to touch their palms together, and gradually start leaning toward each other, so that they eventually hold each other up. Then, instruct everyone to move their feet further and further back, so that they have to depend solely upon their partners to remain standing.
  • Mine field – This is a great exercise if you have a large room or outdoor field. Set up a 'mine field' using chairs, balls, cones, boxes, or any other object that could potentially be an obstacle and trip someone up. Leave enough space between the objects for someone to walk through. Next, divide your group into pairs. Pay attention to who you match with whom. This is a perfect opportunity to work on relationships, so you might want to put together people who have trust issues with each other. Blindfold one person, the 'mine walker' – this person is not allowed to talk. Ask his or her partner to stay outside the mine field, and give verbal directions, helping the mine walker avoid the obstacles, and reach the other side of the area.

    Before you begin, allow partners a few minutes to plan how they'll communicate. Then, make sure there are consequences when people hit an obstacle. For example, perhaps they have to start again from the beginning.

  • Zoom
    This problem solving activity requires the wordless, picture book entitled, “Zoom” by Istvan Banyai. This book features 30 sequential pictures that work together to form a narrative. The book should be fairly easy to find, as it’s been published in over 18 countries. The pictures can even be laminated to prolong their usage. Hand out one picture to each participant, making sure a continuous sequence is being used. Explain to the participants that they can only look at their own pictures and must keep their picture hidden from other participants. Time should be given for the participants to study their pictures because each picture will contain important information that will help the participants solve the problem of putting them into order. The ultimate goal is for the group to place the pictures in sequential order without looking at one another’s pictures. The participants can talk to each other and discuss what is featured in their picture. This activity brings coworkers together and gets them communicating with the common goal of solving a problem, but it also allows for leaders to emerge and take control of the task

Source: www.mindtools.com, www.huddle.com