Many employees view the phrase ‘team building’ with scepticism or distrust. However, the truth is that a well-designed programme has the ability to both engage and grow your team. The benefits can range from a specific skill that you would like to develop, to simple team bonding and unity; it all depends on what team building activity you opt for.
Here at Catalyst Team Building, we have spent many years researching what makes a team building activity effective, designing over 130 of our own programmes in the process. Using this knowledge, we have formulated a shortlist of 15 team building activities that will get your staff involved and help them develop their skills through fun.
Within our shortlist are both organised programmes and smaller activities, which you can implement in your own office. So, no matter what you’re looking for, you should be able to find a team building activity that works for you.
Scavenger Hunt Bingo
This is a classic approach to the team building exercise and offers you plenty of freedom to create a focus. The general concept is to create a bingo list filled with different tasks, then split the participants into teams and ask them to complete the bingo list. For a quicker option, you can only ask teams to complete one line of the tasks, instead of the whole grid.
Scavenger hunt bingo is primarily focused on team engagement and unity. However, its capacity for learning is huge because you can make the bingo tasks whatever you choose. If you’re hoping to develop your team’s ability to engage with the public, create tasks centred around speaking to strangers. Alternatively, if you want to practice team cooperation and problem-solving, make one of the tasks to solve a puzzle together. The sky is the limit with this team building activity.
Beat the Box
Beat the Box is an innovative team building activity that combines strategic thinking and time management with team collaboration and problem-solving. Not only does it test a team’s unity, but their knowledge of each other’s abilities too.
Participants are given a box filled with four cases. Each case is brimming with puzzles and mysteries that must be solved to crack the combination to the next case, all within a strict timeframe. This activity can be competitive or collaborative, depending on how you want the team to develop, and is designed to holistically challenge the participants, drawing on multiple different skills at once and teaching invaluable lessons.
Watch a short video on Beat the Box and find out more.
A Knot of Hands
This activity is very short and perfect if you want to bring your team together and help them loosen up. Set up is very simple – ask the participants to stand in a small circle facing each other, then, have each participant reach out and grasp the hand of someone on the opposite side of the circle. After this has been done once, ask participants to do the same again with their other hand, this time clasping a different individual’s hand on the opposite side of the circle. Now challenge the team to unravel themselves without letting go of each other’s hands.
This is a surprisingly difficult challenge that calls for team organisation, exceptional communication and good leadership whilst simultaneously forcing all participants to get involved. Perfect for building team unity, encouraging leadership and giving employees something to talk about for the next few days.
Bridging the Divide
A wider take on the classic team building exercise, Bridging the Divide takes bridge building to the next level. Participants are split into teams and tasked with building a section of a bridge based on their specific customer’s specifications, with limited resources and strict timelines. Each team takes the role of both customer and supplier, adding an extra layer of depth to the task as all attendees experience both sides of the transaction.
After the time limit is up, each team comes together to combine their sections into one complete bridge which is then tested using a remote-controlled car. Success is shared by the company, whilst the construction process demands effective communication, teamwork and organised planning.
Watch a short video on Bridging the Divide and find out more.
Global Innovation Game
Based on the iconic television show and sometimes called “Shark Tank”, in reference to the American counterpart, Dragon’s Den. Global Innovation Game is a team building activity that challenges participants to create innovative new products and ideas and pitch them.
The potential of this activity is incredible depending on the time and resources that you have available. Participants can be asked to design assets to accompany their pitch, emphasising the use of creativity and team resources. Alternatively, groups can be tasked to create a product that could develop the business as a whole, enabling you to use the team building activity as a fun brainstorming session. In all iterations, this activity demands exceptional presentation and communication skills, combined with great planning, organisation and innovative thinking.
It’s simple, versatile, effective and fun – everything you need. Check out Global Innovation Game.
Chain Reaction Table Top
Chain Reaction Table Top combines the beautiful satisfaction of creating intricate systems with a methodical approach to design, testing and development techniques. Participants are charged with using supplied idea cards to create an elaborate chain reaction machine that ultimately achieves a simple goal.
To succeed, teams must be patient and methodical in their testing of the different systems, utilising each other’s skills to effectively build the contraption from the ideas on their idea cards. This team building activity demands attention to detail, project management and precision, whilst unifying the team under a common goal.
Watch a short video on Chain Reaction Table Top and find out more.
Negative to Positive
This activity requires very little equipment and takes a much more reflective approach to development. Negative to Positive is about noticing the good things and lessons that arise in situations we would otherwise see negatively. To run the activity, participants should be paired up with another member of the team who they have shared a work-related experience with – such as a previous project, task or activity. Then, one participant should mention a negative aspect of their shared experience and their partner should highlight the positives. Afterwards, the pair should switch roles.
This task is best used with a large team that has shared many different experiences, as it helps team members get to know each other better, whilst encouraging positive thinking in the face of adversity. For extra growth, have partners switch after each shared experience.
Escape the Maze
Escape the Maze brings together GPS tracking with puzzles and problem-solving to create a very interactive and engaging challenge, where participants physically navigate a virtual maze, solving clues along the way.
This activity is brilliant for encouraging the involvement of all team members. It requires excellent communication, leadership skills and cooperation, developing these abilities through the medium of healthy competition. Throughout the activity, participants must utilise multiple skill sets to solve problems, locate key facts and clues, and combine their learnt knowledge to succeed in the greater goal – all skills which are invaluable in the workplace.
Watch a short video on Escape the Maze and find out more.
The primary goal of this team building activity is team unity. Curious Combinations involves writing each item of a pair on a separate sheet of paper – for example, ‘salt’ and ‘pepper’. Each participant then has a sheet of paper stuck to their back and they must each discover what they are by asking other attendees ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. Once they have ascertained what they are, they must search for their pair.
The true value comes after the participants have located their pair when they must discuss how they complement each other and what similarities they share. This team building activity emphasises how even people with vastly different personalities are similar in one way or another. It’s also very easy and quick to set up, making it one of the most versatile options on this list.
Orchestrate! plays upon humanity’s innate tendency to limit ourselves based on what we believe we can do. In Orchestrate!, participants must cooperate to learn an instrument over a 90-120 minute period, after which the entire team will come together to play a symphony like an orchestra.
To help your team reach this level, an expert team of musicians are employed to teach the basics and help your staff practice. The power of this team building activity is the fact that the task seems borderline impossible at the beginning, making the result even more impressive when your team succeeds. This is a brilliant activity for boosting team morale through collaboration and ensuring that everyone participates and gets involved.
Watch a short video on Orchestrate! and find out more.
Wordsmiths is simple and effective. Task your team with creating a specific word using only their bodies. This team building activity is easy to scale, depending on the size of the team, as for larger groups you can try to create a whole sentence instead of a specific word. The only requirement for this to succeed is lots of free space and camera to take a photo at the end!
This task requires teamwork, leadership and planning to succeed, which positions it as a great starter activity for any brainstorming session or meeting.
Flat Out Formula One
Flat Out Formula One requires excellent organisation and planning to succeed, as each team is asked to build a Formula One car from a flat-pack set of cardboard sheets. This means detailed measuring and focused team leadership. To further develop staff, after each Formula One car is built, it must be decorated and branded with the team’s identity. Finally, the Formula One cars are raced and the winners are presented with a prize.
Every step of the way, this task demands effective cooperation and detailed planning as one wrong cut can cause real problems for the car’s structure. If you’re looking for an all-encompassing and challenging team building activity, this is the one for you.
Watch a short video on Flat Out Formula One and find out more.
Another short and extremely affordable team building activity is the personal logo challenge. Participants are asked to empty their pockets of change and knickknacks, then, utilising all the items they have, they must create a personal logo. The value of this activity is not in the creativity but in the self-awareness and discovery.
After all the attendees have created their personal logo, they must present it to the group, explaining each part of it, why they chose it and how it represents them. Give out prizes for the best and most creative logos that represent their owners most accurately. Through this, the team can get to know each other much better, without the need to invest in countless resources or lots of time.
The Infinite Loop
Utilising high-tech VR headsets and intricate puzzles, The Infinite Loop is a communication, time management and problem-solving challenge that requires teams to work their way through a set of puzzles to free a prisoner. With only one member allowed to use the VR headset at a time, the key to success in this activity is the concise and accurate sharing of information, as well as great decision-making on what to do next.
With a steep learning curve and a focus on discovery through mistakes, The Infinite Loop isn’t an easy programme, but it is an extremely rewarding one that demands the best from the participants. Creating complex issues that can easily be applied to the finicky business world, this is an invaluable and utterly engaging team building programme.
Watch a short video on The Infinite Loop and find out more.
The Classic Egg Drop
Finally, we have the Egg Drop challenge. By utilising simple office items and stationery, participants are charged with creating a cage for their uncooked egg that will protect it when dropped from a fixed height of one metre.
This is an infamous team building activity that requires planning, organisation and the effective use of limited resources to achieve a greater goal. It’s simple, it’s cost-effective and it’s proven to develop staff skills. Sometimes the classics aren’t that bad.
Hopefully, this post will have given you some new ideas for your next team building activity or programme. Here at Catalyst Team Building UK, we have spent decades refining our challenges to create new and engaging programmes that develop staff through the medium of fun.