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25 Problem Solving Team Building Activities
While we are in lockdown (transition to or from) and acclimating to virtual life, these activities will engender trust, create strong bonds, and improve the problem solving abilities of everyone that plays them!
Benefits of Team Building Problem Solving Activities
Problem solving skills are one of the most essential components of a competent workplace. When we attempt to solve problems within a group, we need strong communication skills, adaptability, and collaborative clarity. The team building activities in this list house a smattering of interactive and creative approaches that can help foster these skills in any healthy team.
25 Problem Solving Team Building Activities
Making decisions isn’t always easy, but the inability to make decisions can stagnate a team and lead to thought paralysis. Decision-making team building activities help your staff make quick and effective choices, and oftentimes their gut instinct is the correct way to go.
Play this game using a carton of eggs, construction materials (newspaper, tape, rubber bands), and take the party out to the parking lot. Give each team an egg, and let them select whatever they wish from the construction materials. Allow everyone twenty minutes to construct a special egg carrier, then drop the egg off a ledge and see which carrier works. Repeat until there is only one egg left! If you want to, you can discuss the thought processes that went into the egg carriers afterward.
A Shrinking Vessel
Adaptability is an important aspect of problem solving, the feature that allows us to understand shifting needs in real-time. Adaptive teams can solve problems quicker and innovate in the middle of a crisis. Those of us that can adapt on the fly will come out on top in the long run.
Using a piece of rope or string, make a shape along the floor that your team can comfortably fit into. Over the space of fifteen minutes, gradually shrink the space. Your team should work together to figure out how to keep within the shrinking boundaries, communicating in real-time to figure out how to best make everyone fit.
The goal of the scavenger hunt is for each time to navigate a list of items and bring them all back within a set time frame. Whoever comes back first, wins. You can mix up your scavenger hunts by utilizing different items and locations, and include time limits or windows to increase the challenge. Having scavenger hunts outside can be a fun and interesting way to break up the workday.
This cityHunt Scavenger Hunt is a fantastic way to get your group problem solving together!
Virtual Team Building
Remote work can be daunting, and many of us still haven’t adapted to this new way of life. Luckily when it comes to team building activities, there are tons of options! The virtual world is filled with fun games that can easily be adapted to this new format.
Whether it’s virtual scavenger hunts, game shows, trivia, challenges, or other team-based games, there are many ways to enjoy problem solving activities together. Virtual team building games can be hosted on the virtual conferencing platform of your choice, where teams can tackle different events and games together.
Virtual scavenger hunts are a great way to get your team working together.
Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower
Sounds messy, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, we aren’t going to cook any of it.
A critical component of good problem solving is collaboration, and the team that learns how to play together will know how to work together. We can achieve truly great things if we work together, and what better way than to build a tower out of dry spaghetti noodles and tiny marshmallows?
Each of your teams is going to attempt to build the tallest tower they can by using nothing but marshmallows and dry spaghetti noodles (okay, you can also provide them with tape and string, we aren’t monsters). Give them a timeframe and see who can become more accomplished! The tallest tower wins!
Dumbest Idea First
What’s more fun than a dumb idea? For this game, encourage your team to unify and quickly think of the dumbest ideas they can to solve a specific problem. Once accomplished, consult the list and flesh out the ideas that aren’t actually dumb so you can serve up a good solution to your problem. You might find that these so-called “dumb” ideas are actually fairly creative and host some original solutions!
This game helps everyone build strong communication standards and enhances the foundations of decision-making among your employees. It’s imperative that your teams learn proper communication strategies, especially when it comes to problem solving. In our remote-work world, communication skills are extremely important to mitigate frustrations and smooth the channels that lead to impactful problem solving.
To play Stranded:
- Your team is stranded in the office!
- The doors and windows are locked and cannot be opened.
- Give your team half an hour so they can choose up to ten items necessary to survive.
- Rank their ten items in order of necessity.
- The goal of this game is that at the end, each team member of each team will agree on the ten items needed and their ranked order, coming to a conclusion that will rescue them from being stranded.
End in Mind
This brilliant problem solving activity lets your team backtrack toward a proper solution. Begin with the end in mind, considering how your team must move backward in order to accomplish the task. Set up some milestones, dates, and steps within a task that would be useful but show them in reverse order. Begin with the end of the project and work toward the beginning, tasking your team with effectively putting things together in the right order and having them think outside the box on how the totality of a project might come into existence.
Another team building activity that will help with communication, Legoman is a fun game that will task everyone with playing with their favorite childhood toy.
Divide your team into small groups, typically around two or three people. Task another person who isn’t on any of the teams with building a random lego construct within ten minutes. Ask the teams to create the structure exactly within the same time frame, only give them an aside: only one person can actually look at the structure, and they must describe it to the rest of the team in order to build it!
This fun game enhances collaboration amongst your staff. Utilizing clues and tools, they will attempt to unlock a room within a given time frame. You will need a room that you can (safely) lock, a key for that room, rope, and a set of puzzles and/or clues.
The basic idea of this game is to solve all the clues presented and find the key so that they can unlock the room. Hide the key somewhere in the room, and make sure that the list of clues and puzzles that lead to the key are solvable and not too obtuse. Once your team is ready to go, you can give your team a time limit to complete the activity.
This game truly shows why team building is important!
Let’s take a break from the communication problem solving activities and play a game that requires decision making and adaptability. To play Frostbite, you will need an electric fan, some card stock/sticky notes/rubber bands, and a blindfold.
Your team is out on an exploration of the arctic. Separate them into groups of about four or five people, and have them choose a leader for the adventure. Your teams need to construct shelters that will protect them from an oncoming storm front that will ruin them in thirty minutes. Like the name of the game, your team leaders are suffering from frostbite, and the rest of the team is blinded because of the snow. Using the provided materials, team leaders and team members must rely on one another to build shelters that can endure the “high winds” when the storm hits (the electric fan). When the time comes, turn on the fan and see whose shelter can weather the storm!
This is another fun adaptability game that encourages collaboration and communication among your staff. To play this game you will need at least one item that can “mark” a space, such as tape, paper, chalk, etc.
- Divide the group into two teams, and align these teams so that they’re facing one another.
- Using your space marking item, label an area for each person to stand in.
- Make sure you leave some space between the rows of people facing each other.
- To solve the objective, have the two lines of facing team members swap places.
Caveats: Only one person can move at once, moving backward isn’t allowed, a person can only move around the people from the other team one at a time, and a person can’t move around anyone if they’re both facing the same direction.
What Would X Do
Is your team stagnating on new ideas? This problem solving activity might stimulate your staff toward innovation.
In order to play What Would X Do, allow your teams to pretend to be someone famous. As a famous person, address an issue at hand. Have them ask themselves, what might they do in this particular situation? What might they consider? What choices would they make? This helps your team consider things in a new light.
For this game, divide your groups into five participants, binding them together with tape or rope in order to limit their movements. You want the teams to go from designated Point A to Point B, and make sure you record the time. Each team will work together in order to beat their previous scores.
To play Minefield, we are going to place items around the room in a randomized fashion so that the path from one side to the other is properly occluded and confusing. Divide up your team. Blindfold one team and have the other team serve as the guides.
The guide team then navigates the blindfolded team through the minefield, being certain that players don’t touch (any players that touch are out!). This is a team building activity of trust and survival, one that requires concise communication and collaborative problem solving.
Direct your team to stand together in the shape of a pyramid. What you want to do here is “flip” the base and apex of the pyramid, limiting who can move to only two or three people. Your team will want to work together in order to flip the pyramid successfully, and this game works as a great communicative device that will need a lot of proper decision making.
Direct your team to stand in a circle, where each person holds the hand of a person that is not standing directly next to them. When the entire team is sufficiently connected, attempt to untangle without letting go of anyone’s hand. You may have played this game before at summer camp, and it remains an effective method of group problem solving.
Dog, Rice, and Chicken
This is a fun, silly problem solving activity that might help your adult staff cut loose. Direct one team member to play the role of the farmer, and the other team members are the villagers that advise them. The farmer will get three items: a dog, some rice, and a chicken, which they take across a river via boat.
You may have played this game before, or maybe you’re aware of the narrative device: only one item can be taken across at a time, and there are limits. The dog will eat the chicken. The chicken will eat the rice. Your team will have to work together to figure out how to properly bring everything across the river.
Crack The Case
Have you ever played a classic murder mystery group game? These virtual “Whodunnits” force employees to work collectively to crack a case or solve a murder. Remote games are super fun, and everyone from commuters to remote workers to in-house staff can play together.
Virtual Clue Murder Mystery Games use video conferencing platforms and apps to let coworkers solve cases together. They can study case files, look over clues, and work together to parse out motive, method, and everything else behind classic mysteries. It’s a great time.
What Would You Do
This hypothetical question game will favor communication and brainstorming efforts by gathering your team together for a problem solving activity that is intriguing and silly. This game works by asking absurd questions and getting thoughtful answers.
For example, you could ask someone “If you didn’t have to breathe, what would you do?” or “If you never had to eat, what would you accomplish?” Your hypothetical questions should be fairly optional and open, and they need to get your team talking. Try to come up with an inventive, fun list that garnishes thoughtful responses.
Can You Tell What I Changed?
This great communication-based problem solving activity doesn’t take too long and is fun for everybody. To play it, divvy up your team into groups and have them face each other in a line. Observe the individuals standing across from one another, giving them a minute or so to look. Then have them close their eyes.
Instruct the other line of people to make a bunch of quick changes to their appearances. They can put their hair up or down, take off their jackets, turn out their ties, and whatever else they might come up with in that short period of time. Have the other group open their eyes and identify each change as quickly as they can. Play this game as many times as you want, making it more and more complicated.
This is a fun problem solving activity that makes a great team icebreaker or just a quick break from office work.
You may need to buy a Jenga game to play this one, or at least search out some blocks that can serve as Jenga pieces. Label the blocks in hierarchical order, according to your company. You might have blocks labeled for HR, management, IT, support staff, etc. The blocks themselves should match your office’s general composition, each block amount matching the department it’s representing.
Divvy up your team and give them equal amounts of the labeled blocks. Provide guidelines for the structure they must build, set a time limit, and start removing blocks without ruining the structure similar to Jenga. Challenge them to build a structure that can last longer as blocks are removed. This exercise is great to show the necessity of departments within your workplace, and that removing even an individual can make everything fall down. This is a conversational game, one where your teams must face the necessity of your office’s diversity.
Web of Wools
For this game, divide your team up into equal parts. Have your team form up a “web of wools,” one that should be as intricate as they can manage. Using yarn or string, your teams should entangle themselves together. Then switch the teams up so that everyone has a different web. Have one team member on each side be blindfolded and attempt to untangle each web only by the provided instruction of the other team members. Whoever does it first is the winner!
This is a fairly difficult game that can come with its own unique frustrations. The blindfolded person will have to balance their own preferences and instincts with the instructions of their teammates. This is a great team building activity that balances communication with problem solving.
The Barter Puzzle
How well do your teams and departments perform under pressure?
Divide each group into teams of about five people. Provide differing jigsaw puzzles of various complexity. Instruct them that the puzzles are actually mixed up, each puzzle containing pieces of the others. The goal here is to have one team complete the puzzle first, but the only way to accomplish this is through negotiation, bartering, and assigning important roles. This needs to be done as a team; don’t let individuals strike out on their own in an effort to quickly solve the puzzle. This problem solving activity shows who the best negotiators are, and tells you who needs work on their communication tactics.
Create your own
This is a unique version of the above games. The point of this game is for the team to brainstorm and come up with their own problem solving activity that is unique to your business and supports your values, ideals, and needs. By conquering this team building game, your team will build creativity and decision making skills.
Give them an hour to craft a team building exercise that is based on problem solving. Divide your staff into teams where they will be encouraged to develop new exercises that fit into your organization. The exercises should be unique, fun, and engaging. Then, have each team show off their created activities to everyone else. Have the others show the pros and cons of the created activities, and discuss how they came to the idea and what the benefits are.
No matter what you decide to play, we are certain that there are enough ideas on this list to get your group up and problem solving together! These team building activities are such a great way to get your team to communicate and negotiate, and best of all these games will bring your staff together during this tumultuous time. Problem solving is one of the backbones of any successful, growing business, and these games are sure to be celebrated by your staff for years.
If you’re looking for ways to bond beyond the rigors of the office, consider these virtual happy hour ideas that will bring your staff together in a relaxing way.