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15 Team Building Problem Solving Activities

Problem-solving is a critical skill for professionals and with team building problem solving activities, you can sharpen your skills while having fun at the same time.
In the professional world, one thing is for sure: problem-solving is a vital skill if you want to survive and thrive. It's a universal job skill that organizations seek in new potential employees and that managers look for when considering candidates for promotions. Problem-solving skill needs to be practiced and perfected on an ongoing basis in order to be applied effectively when the time comes. And while there are tons of traditional approaches to becoming a better problem-solver, there's another (much more interesting) option: team building problem solving activities.

In this article you will find:

  • 15 problem solving activities for your team to master
  • Frequently asked questions about team building

Here are 15 problem solving activities for your team to master

15 Problem Solving Activities

1. A Shrinking Vessel

Why adaptability is important for problem solving:

Adaptability is highly associated with cognitive diversity, which helps teams solve problems faster , according to the Harvard Business Review. Innovation and disruption are happening faster than ever before . People, teams, and organizations that can adapt will come out on top.

What You'll Need:

A rope or string

Instructions:

1. Using the rope, make a shape on the floor everyone can fit into.

2. Slowly shrink the space over a time period of 10-15 minutes.

3. Work together to figure out how to keep everyone within the shrinking boundaries.

2. Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower

Helps with: Collaboration Why collaboration is important for problem solving: “Collectively, we can be more insightful, more intelligent than we can possibly be individually,” writes Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline . We can solve problems better as a team than we can alone, which means developing your team's collaboration skills will lead to better problem solving outcomes.

What You'll Need (per team):

20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti

1 roll of masking tape

1 yard of string

1 marshmallow

Instructions:

1. The goal of this exercise is to see which team can use the materials provided to build the tallest tower within an allotted time period. The tower must be able to stand on its own.

2. To make this exercise more challenging, try adding a marshmallow to the top of the tower. This team problem solving exercise helps teams think on their toes while building camaraderie and leadership.

3. Egg Drop

Why decision making is important for problem solving:

Making decisions isn't easy , but indecision leads to team paralysis, stagnant thinking, and unsolved problems. Decision-making activities help your team practice making quick, effective choices. Train your team's decision making muscle and they will become more adept at problem solving.

What You'll Need:

A carton of eggs

Basic construction materials such as newspapers, straws, tape, plastic wrap, balloons, rubber bands, popsicle sticks, etc., tarp, or drop cloth

A parking lot, or some other place you don't mind getting messy!

Instructions:

1. Each team gets an egg and must select from the construction materials.

2. Give everyone 20-30 minutes to construct a carrier for the egg and protect it from breaking.

3. Drop each egg carrier off a ledge (i.e. over a balcony) and see whose carrier protects the egg from breaking.

4. If multiple eggs survive, keep increasing the height until only one egg is left.

4. Stranded

Helps with: Communication, Decision Making Why communication is important for problem solving:

More employees work remotely than ever before. Good communication skills are vital to solving problems across increasingly virtual teams . Working on communication skills while your team is together will help them better solve problems when they're apart.

What You'll Need:

An office

Your team has been stranded in the office. The doors are locked, and knocking down the doors or breaking the windows is not an option. Give your team 30 minutes to decide on 10 items in the office they need for survival and rank them in order of importance. The goal of the game is to have everyone agree on the 10 items and their ranking in 30 minutes.

5. Legoman

What You'll Need:

Legos

Instructions:

1. Divide everyone into small teams of two or more.

2. Select an overseer who isn't on a team to build a random structure using Lego building blocks within 10 minutes.

3. The other teams must replicate the structure exactly (including size and color) within 15 minutes. However, only one member from each group may look at the original structure. They must figure out how to communicate the size, color, and shape of the original structure to their team.

4. If this is too easy, add a rule that the member who can see the original structure can't touch the new structure.

6. Escape

Collaboration

What You'll Need:

1 rope

1 key

A lockable room

5-10 puzzles or clues (depending on how much time you want to spend on the game)

Instructions:

The goal of this exercise is to solve the clues, find the key, and escape a locked room within the time allotted.

Hide the key and a list of clues around the room.

Gather the team into the empty room and "lock" the door.

Give them either 30 minutes or 1 hour to find the key using the clues hidden around the room.

7. Frostbite

Decision Making, Adaptability What You'll Need:

A blindfold

1 packet of construction materials (such as card stock, toothpicks, rubber bands, and sticky notes) for each team

An electric fan

Instructions: Picture this: Your employees are Arctic explorers adventuring across an icy tundra! Separate them into teams of 4-5 and have them select a leader to guide their exploration. Each team must build a shelter from the materials provided before the storm hits in 30 minutes. However, both the team leader's hands have frostbite, so they can't physically help construct the shelter, and the rest of the team has snow blindness and is unable to see. When the 30 minutes is up, turn on the fan and see which shelter can withstand the high winds of the storm.


8. Minefield

What You'll Need:

An empty room or hallway

Blindfolds

A collection of common office items

Instructions:

1. Place the items (boxes, chairs, water bottles, bags, etc.) around the room so there's no clear path from one end of the room to the other.

2. Divide your team into pairs and blindfold one person on the team.

3. The other must verbally guide that person from one end of the room to the other, avoiding the "mines." 4. The partner who is not blindfolded can't touch the other.

5. If you want to make the activity more challenging, have all the pairs go simultaneously so teams must find ways to strategically communicate over each other.


9. Blind Formations

What You'll Need:

Blindfolds

Rope

Instructions:

1. Have the group put on blindfolds and form a large circle.

2. Tie two ends of a rope together and lay it in a circle in the middle of the group, close enough so each person can reach down and touch it.

3. Instruct the group to communicate to create a shape with the rope a square, triangle, rectangle, etc.

4. If you have a very large group, divide them into teams and provide a rope for each team. Let them compete to see who forms a particular shape quickest.


10. Line up Blind

What You'll Need:

Blindfolds

Instructions:

1. Blindfold everyone and whisper a number to each person, beginning with one.

2. Tell them to line up in numerical order without talking.

3. Instead of giving them a number, you could also have them line up numerically by height, age, birthday, etc.

11. Reverse Pyramid

What You'll Need:

Nothing

Instructions:

1. Have everyone stand in a pyramid shape, horizontally.

2. Ask them to flip the base and the apex of the pyramid moving only three people.

3. This quick exercise works best when smaller groups compete to see who can reverse the pyramid the fastest.

12. Move It!

What You'll Need:

Chalk, rope, tape, or paper (something to mark a space)

Instructions:

1. Divide your group into two teams and line them up front to back, facing each other.

2. Using the chalk, tape, rope, or paper (depending on the play surface), mark a square space for each person to stand on. Leave one extra empty space between the two facing rows.

3. The goal is for the two facing lines of players to switch places.

Place these restrictions on movement:

Only one person may move at a time.

A person may not move around anyone facing the same direction.

No one may not move backward.

A person may not move around more than one person on the other team at a time.

13. Human Knot

What You'll Need:

Nothing

Instructions:

1. Have everyone stand in a circle, and ask each person to hold hands with two people who aren't directly next to them.

2. When everyone is tangled together, ask them to untangle the knot and form a perfect circle without letting anyone's hand.

Our last two problem solving activities work best when dealing with an actual problem:

14. Dumbest Idea First

Instant Problem Solving What You'll Need:

Nothing

Instructions:

1. "Dumb" ideas are sometimes the best ideas. Ask everyone to think of the absolute dumbest possible solution to the problem at hand.

2. After you have a long list, look through it and see which ones might not be as dumb as you think.

3. Brainstorm your solutions in Wrike. It's free and everyone can start collaborating instantly!

15. What Would X Do

Instant Problem Solving What You'll Need:

Nothing

Instructions:

1. Have everyone pretend they're someone famous.

2. Each person must approach the problem as if they were the famous person. What options would they consider? How would they handle it?

3. This allows everyone to consider solutions they might not have thought of originally.

Looking for more team building games? Check out these virtual icebreaker games Ultimate Guide to Team Building Activities that Don't Suck.

People also ask these questions about team building activities:

Here are the answers to the most common questions about team building activities:

What is the team building process?

This process of learning to work together effectively is known as team development. Bruce Tuckman, an educational psychologist, identified a five-stage development process that most teams follow to become high performing. He called the stages: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.

What is team building?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines team building as: “The action or process of causing a group of people to work together effectively as a team, especially by means of activities and events designed to increase motivation and promote cooperation.”

How often should you schedule team-building activities?

One of the most important aspects of team building is that it is an ongoing process. One team-building session can be effective, but your team could benefit more from multiple sessions. In fact, it may be beneficial to make it a part of your regular program. For team building to be effective, you should repeat it as often as you feel it is useful. This largely depends on the activity you choose. You can do quick activities on a more regular basis since they don't interfere with the regular work schedule. You will probably conduct longer, more elaborate activities less frequently so the team can get work done.

What you should do now

Whenever you're ready...here are a few ways we can help you:

1. Book a team social event. If you'd like to work with us to have more engaging team events, book an event. Don't know what activity to pick? Use the Team Building Idea Generator for options.

2. If you'd like to learn remote work strategies for free, head to our blog where you'll find several guides and posts.

3. If you'd like to create a offering for companies for a skill that you have, then contact us and let us know.

4. If you know someone who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

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