What game were we playing?
April 18, 2014 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Trying to remember a team-building game I played maybe a decade ago, so I could maybe re-construct it and play with friends.

From ~2004-2008 I worked with a Big Name management consulting firm (hint: used to be a part of Arthur Anderson). Said firm has a training center outside Chicago for their staff, and it was at this training center where one evening we had some team-building activities that were being run by a 3rd party vendor (no idea who they were).

What I remember - vaguely - was that we (a team of maybe 10-15?) were all placed in an empty conference room and given a set of parameters and some props/tools. An example of parameters was that I remember either a subset or all of us not being allowed to talk. An example of the props and tools is that I remember a length of rope being used to define an "island" on the floor on which some number of the team members were "stuck" and needed to be rescued from.

All I remember is it being a really interesting and fun problem to figure out, requiring creative thinking to come up with innovative solutions based on the parameters and objects at our disposal. And that's it. (sorry!)

Does the game I was playing have some name I could Google? I'd be happy to pay to take a course to learn this game if that was some kind of option. Alternatively to tracking down the exact game, finding companies that specialize in delivering these kind of experiences (i.e. who was the 3rd party vendor I learned from) would be helpful.
posted by allkindsoftime to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't find exactly what you're describing, but this google search led me to some helpful-looking results, including some companies which offer this sort of thing.

You might also try googling "ice breaker games," as there seems to be some overlap between that and team-building exercises.
posted by jessicapierce at 2:43 PM on April 18, 2014

I think of these as "low ropes course" games.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:10 PM on April 18, 2014

Thanks, that got me started, and when I added the consulting firm's name, I found this.

If you scroll all the way to the second to last page, you find a brief description of the game in question:

Three Islands: A Team and Leadership Initiative
The team is split into three sub-groups, each with its own limitations, objectives and resources. One of the groups has their eyes covered so they can not see, one is not allowed to speak, and one is given an overwhelming set of tasks to accomplish. The groups must discover, coordinate and complete a sequence of complex and independent tasks to move toward completion of the activity and overall team success.

The complexity of this activity allows a wide variety of learning goals and debrief topics to be addressed. Typically, post-activity discussions focus on some or all of the following: transfer of a common goal to all members of a team, team communication processes, emergence of leadership, how a team manages its work and assumptions that inhibit team effectiveness.

Of course, I'm still interested for more details on how the game works, but now I know who to write to at least.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:21 PM on April 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

My old company sent us all to a team-building day at Irons Oaks in Olympia Fields. We did a lot of team-building exercises such as you describe, only we were outside all day.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:56 PM on April 18, 2014

I did something like this at a leadership training seminar over the summer of '93. Each team consisted of ~8 people each with a different set of disabilities. Some people may have one, two or even three disabilities. Generally the disabilities were picked as self identified strengths of each member.
1. No speaking
2. No vision
3. No hands
4. No use of one/two leg(s)
5. A white noise machine designed to prevent you from hearing.

Each team had to collect a set of information about various members of the group, perform a few simple tasks, and then navigate an obstacle course / scavenger hunt with all members of the group together.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:29 PM on April 18, 2014

A long time ago, I facilitated groups like you are talking about. I worked with school kids but it is the same deal. What you are describing sounds like the equivalent of what is called a low ropes element (or a low challenge course element). We had permanent structures in a beautiful rainforest but I'm guessing you were doing the portable equivalent (ie. the rope on the ground that defines the lake).

I don't know if I can picture the particular challenge that you are describing (don't call it a game, it would be an element or a challenge or something). I also wouldn't call it an icebreaker...icebreakers are more like tossing a ball around in a circle to learn each other's names...the challenge you describe would likely come after an icebreaker. Was it something like this http://www.ultimatecampresource.com/site/camp-activity/alligator-crossing-low-ropes-course.html
Where the group has to construct a bridge to cross to different islands? The whole deal with having some folks be blind or not be able to speak is just something that is added to many element/challenges to force people to help each other or quiet a leader, etc.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:20 PM on April 18, 2014

If you like this kind of stuff, check out the book Silver Bullets. It was a classic in the field when i was doing this work. I used one of Rohnke's other books, Quicksilver, extensively. You might enjoy buying and reading one of these - a library might have it. Project Adventure is probably the biggest name and maybe started the whole thing, I'm sure they offer train the trainer classes but I doubt it is cheap.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:38 PM on April 18, 2014

You could also contact your local challenge or ropes course and talk to them about training. I'll stop now, I'd forgotten how much I like some of this stuff. Please memail me if I might be able to help.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:41 PM on April 18, 2014

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