team building exercises redux
October 3, 2012 9:10 AM   Subscribe

What are some creative team-building exercises or problem-solving scenarios that could be used at a development/fundraising retreat for a staff of 35? Not looking for cheesy icebreakers (to minimize eye-rolling from the terminally cynical), but rather exercises that actually entail collaborative thinking and strategy. Previous MeFi questions have been useful but looking for more ideas from the Hive mind...
posted by tandemrepeat to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Break the staff into groups of 5-6 and ask each group to come up with one activity that meets certain objectives and constraints you establish in advance: ie promotes collaborative thinking and strategy, helps people get to know each other, minimizes eye-rolling, does not involve leaving the room, can be done in 30 minutes, etc.

Each team presents their idea to the group, with specific justifications for why their strategy meets all the established criteria and constraints.

Everyone then votes (in secret) on which proposal they think best meet all the criteria and constraints and the spirit of the exercise. (If you want to get fancy, there are various methodologies for ranked preferences.)

The staff then does the activity that got the most votes.

That activity may turn out to be something pretty normal, or something completely unexpected and great, or something like lets see who can eat the most donuts in 60 seconds. But by then you've already gotten what you wanted.

Its meta-teambuilding using the hive mind in the room.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 10:12 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm terminally cynical and have done this type of activity before and found it useful and not annoying. It was both fun and informative.
posted by urbanlenny at 11:40 AM on October 3, 2012

Unfortunately I still do this for a living. Current fave activity:
1.Divide group up into 7 tables of 5 or 5 tables of 7.
2.Tell them you will soon be showing them an image of all 26 letters of the alphabet, all mixed up, in a triangular formation with 6 rows, 1 letter on top and 7 on the bottom. They will have ten seconds to view the image. They can't have a writing instrument in their hand. At the end of 10 seconds the screen will go blank and each individual must write down as many letters as they can, in the correct place and order.
3.After everyone is done writing, show them the answer, and have each person write on their piece of paper, the number of letters they got correct. Have each table come up with their average score. (add up the scores and divide by the number of people at the table.) Give a shout out to the table with the highest average score.
4.Tell the group you will show them a new image for 10 seconds, with letters still in triangular formation, but mixed up differently. Tell them that their table now has 15 seconds to come up with a strategy to approach this task as a team. Show them the image for 10 seconds, same rules. Have one person at each table coordinate the team data into the image. Show them the image and have the coordinator write on the sheet the team's score. Most groups will go from an individual average score of around 7 to a perfect team score of 26.
5.Have a discussion about the difference between individual performance and team performance and the value of strategic thinking.
posted by Xurando at 2:09 PM on October 3, 2012

We do this kind of thing every year (this year's is tomorrow!). They always follow the same format: The whole group assembles and an externally sourced "expert" in the subject matter stands in front of us all and gives us some basic instructions, then we break into groups of 5 or 6 and come up with our own effort at creating an example of the subject matter.

In the last few years, the subject matters have been:
- Cooking.
- Group drumming!
- Painting (in a graffiti mural style)

The cooking was probably the best for collaboration. We were guided by professional chefs, and when we broke into teams, each person was assigned a role as is done in proper kitchens (head chef, assistant chef, dish hand, etc...)

The drumming was a bit of a mess, but quite fun.

I missed out on the graffiti one.
posted by Diag at 2:44 PM on October 3, 2012

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