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Problem-Solving Team-Building Activities

by Dr. Kelly S. Meier

Empower your group to engage in collective decision-making by facilitating special team builders. Team problem-solving helps break down barriers and gets group members to work together to accomplish tasks. The result is improved communication, an understanding of individual strengths and weaknesses and increased respect for one another. Use these activities during meetings, or take time for a special retreat to help your group gel and develop.

Survival

Take your group on a fictitious trip to a desert island. Tell them they will be stuck for 30 days and must survive together with only a few supplies. Their task is to work together to pack a suitcase with 10 supply items. Allow several minutes for discussion and then ask them to share their selections. Go further into the problem-solving process by asking them to discuss what it was like to work together on a solution. Connect the problem-solving team builder to real tasks the group may encounter. If your group is large, use a sub-group structure and compare results.

Step Lightly

Introduce your group to supportive problem-solving by having them work together to cross a minefield. Use chairs, tables, paper and other office supplies to mimic obstacles in the room. Partner group members and ask one participant to close their eyes or wear a blindfold. The other must use only their words to help their partner navigate the obstructed room. If an obstacle is touched, the pair is out or must start over. Have group members discuss their strategy for completing the task and how it felt to work together to solve the problem.

Sticky Situation

Use spaghetti and gumdrops to entice your group to learn more about team problem-solving. Give small groups a handful of candy and a box of spaghetti, and ask them to build the tallest structure possible. Assign parameters to small groups, such as nine minutes to plan and one minute to build, one minute to plan and nine minutes to build or 10 minutes to use freely. After the activity, discuss how they created the structure, the process of working together and similarities to tasks they encounter as a group.

Puzzling

Ask your group to work a puzzle with a twist. Cut large sheets of paper into pieces to create puzzles. Break your group into sub-groups of no more than five people, and give each group an envelope with puzzle pieces that equal one puzzle. Tell the team to work as fast as possible to assemble their puzzle. Let them know they can use anything in the room as a resource. If your group is ready for a challenge, swap one puzzle piece between sub-groups in advance of the activity. To assemble a full puzzle, sub-groups need to talk to each other and collaborate. Liken the experience to the importance of working together as one team and using each other as resources.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly S. Meier is a professor and college administrator for a large public institution in Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree from Western Illinois University and her master's degree and doctorate from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has published more than 15 books on education, group development and diversity.

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