Team-building and problem-solving activities to try at work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 1 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Problem-solving is an essential skill beneficial to employees of all levels within a company. Various challenges can occur daily within the workplace, which is why it's important that you are adequately equipped with the skills needed to resolve the issues that arise. Fun activities are an excellent way to not only enhance your problem-solving capabilities but also to build better relations within a team. In this article, we explore some engaging team-building and problem-solving activities to undertake in the workplace.

What are team-building and problem-solving activities?

Team-building and problem-solving activities refer to any exercise a group of people engage in with the purpose of improving skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking and innovation. Additionally, these activities serve a dual purpose in bringing participants closer together; in doing so, they can forge new relationships and strengthen existing ones. Undergoing these activities may result in a more cohesive and collaborative work environment in which colleagues are more intuitive with one another.

Related: Outdoor team-building activities

What are the benefits of participating in team-building, problem-solving activities?

Undertaking team-building, problem-solving activities can have several benefits. These benefits occur on both a personal level and a company-wide level. Here are some of the key benefits you might notice following the completion of a team-building problem-solving activity:

  • Enhance workplace unity: When a group of individuals work together to solve a problem, it requires them to understand each other and their respective strengths and abilities. By going through the steps of problem-solving, they can work as a unified team.

  • Encourages critical thinking: Solving problems requires you to use your critical-thinking skills. By engaging in these activities, you can both use and enhance your critical-thinking skills alongside others.

  • Improves productivity: When teams work together to solve problems, the sense of achievement can increase their motivation, which can improve their productivity. It also helps you to develop important soft skills, which can likewise make you more productive.

  • Builds rapport: These activities can be beneficial when a team of individuals don't know each other very well or has a few newer members. Working together towards a common goal can help you develop rapport and can even encourage workplace friendships.

Related: What is coaching? (Benefits, uses and average salary)

List of team-building, problem-solving activities

There are a number of popular team-building, problem-solving activities businesses have invested time and energy into. It's worthwhile to try one or a combination of these activities to improve problem-solving among colleagues. Below are several team-building, problem-solving activities to try out with employees or colleagues:

1. Blind formations

Blind formations is a great game to improve participants' coordination and teamwork. All you need for this activity is ropes and blindfolds. A large, open space is also helpful for maximum participation among team members. Rules for blind formations:

  1. Begin by dividing the group into teams. This game works best with three or more people per team, ideally four.

  2. Take a rope and tie the two ends together to create a circle. Lay this on the floor in close enough proximity for all team members to be able to touch the rope.

  3. Repeat step two for every group so that each group is standing around their own tied rope.

  4. Dictate a shape for each team to create using the rope. You may wish to give each team a different shape or give them the same shape. The teams recreate their shape using all members and only the rope.

  5. The team that recognisably recreates its shape quickest, wins. Repeat as many times as you wish.

Related: What makes a good team and how to build one

2. Worst idea first

Worst idea first is an activity that not only assists in critical problem-solving but also offers humorous situations. Further, it can help improve participants' creative-thinking abilities. All that is needed to play this game is a pencil or pen and paper. Rules for worst idea first:

  1. Either divide the group into smaller teams or keep it as it is, depending on the size of the group.

  2. Give the group/each team paper, a writing apparatus and a scenario or problem. This scenario can either be a made-up situation or inspired by real-life events.

  3. Next, give members five to 10 minutes to think up the worst possible idea to solve the established problem. Encourage creative thinking.

  4. Members now take turns presenting their worst idea to the rest of their group as elaborately as possible.

  5. Everyone works together to order each idea, from the most likely to work to the least likely.

  6. Repeat with different scenarios as desired.

Related: Teamwork skills: definition, types and tips for improvement

3. Marshmallow spaghetti tower

Marshmallow spaghetti tower is a classic team-building exercise that also requires problem-solving. All that is needed to play this game is plenty of uncooked spaghetti, marshmallows, masking tape and an ample amount of string. This game encourages creativity and collaboration alongside problem-solving. Rules for marshmallow spaghetti tower:

  1. Split into smaller teams or remain as one group, depending on the number of participants.

  2. Designate an amount of time for the task; as a standard, the optimal length is five to 15 minutes.

  3. Instruct each team to construct a tower using only the provided materials. The only caveat is that someone successfully balances the marshmallow atop the tower when the task comes to an end, which makes the tower top-heavy.

  4. The highest tower with the marshmallow successfully remaining on top is the winner.

Related: Team building skills: definition and examples

4. Human knots

Human knots is an easy game to play. It requires collaboration and communication among participants to be successful. All you need for this game is an open space and full concentration from participants. Rules for human knots:

  1. Instruct all of the participants to stand in a large circle.

  2. Next, they proceed to hold hands with any two people, but these two people can't be next to them but rather elsewhere in the circle. For instance, they may hold hands with someone that is facing them either front-on or diagonally.

  3. When they have completed step three, the team members are now all tangled up. Now they untangle themselves to form a perfect circle without any hands being let go.

  4. The game ends when a group successfully forms a circle.

Related: How to build a successful team: a step-by-step guide

5. Shrinking vessel

The shrinking vessel is an activity that requires quick thinking and collaborative efforts from all participants. All that is needed to play this game is an open space and a rope or string. Alongside problem-solving, the shrinking vessel also helps to improve innovation, creativity and adaptability among team members. Rules for the shrinking vessel:

  1. Make a shape on the floor using a rope or string large enough for all participants to stand inside comfortably.

  2. As the game progresses, gradually reduce the size of the shape so that participants have less space to stand. They then work together to find ways that allow everyone to remain in the shape.

  3. This game can ideally last between 10 and 20 minutes. During this time, continue to shrink the boundary for as long as possible, until participants either last the allotted time or can no longer remain within the shape.

Related: 20 fun team meeting ideas to boost engagement and productivity

6. Building blocks

Building blocks is a game that enhances levels of communication between team members. All you need for this problem-solving activity is some willing team members and a set of building blocks or a variety of other easily stackable objects. If you choose to use random objects, diversify the range to increase the difficulty of the activity. Rules for building blocks:

  1. Begin by dividing the group into smaller teams. Ideally, you require teams of at least three, with one impartial member that doesn't belong to any group, who can be yourself or another individual.

  2. The impartial member now needs to construct a structure using the building blocks or other designated items. They hide this structure from the view of the teams so that nobody else can see what they are building.

  3. Each team then has only 15 minutes to recreate the hidden structure.

  4. The caveat to this is that only one person per team has permission to see the structure. Everyone else stays unaware of what it looks like, while the permitted player dictates back to their team members what the structure looks like, building the structure based on these instructions.

  5. The team with the structure that most resembles the example at the end of time wins.


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