This is an awesome activity for developing cooperation among team members and to gain problem solving experience. It works best with groups of four to eight people and requires 10 to 15 minutes.
You will need a space large enough for the team to separate into smaller groups and the following materials:
- One entire issue of a newspaper per group
- Masking tape
- Bowl of candy (disposable bowls work really well!)
Introduce the purpose of the exercise: to experience the importance of paying attention to work processes and team relationships, as well as results.
Explain the desired results of the exercise: the state or local transportation department needs a new bridge design and the group has been assigned the task. The available materials are newspaper and masking tape.
The criteria for building a successful bridge are to: (1) be able to stand up on its own, (2) be wide enough at the base for the bowl of candy to slide through (like a boat going under a bridge); and (3) be strong enough to support the weight of the bowl of candy (like a car traveling over the bridge).
Ask if there are any questions and if they all understand the process – then let ’em go!
When a group finishes the bridge, check for success and then celebrate by clapping and allowing the team to eat the candy!
Debrief and Summarize
After the teams have successfully constructed the bridges, debrief the activity:
- What did you like most about this activity?
- What made the team successful?
- What process, if any, did you use to “design” the bridge?
- Who emerged as the group leader(s)? What characteristics did the leader(s) display?
- Did everyone participate? If not, why not?
- Describe the group dynamic.
- How did individual team members help each other?
- How did you make decisions?
- What would you have done differently?
- What did you learn from this activity?
- How might you apply these lessons to our team’s work?
Contributed by Kay Freidinger
If you like this activity, check out my book, Team Energizers, for 49 other team activities!
Kristin Arnold is a professional meeting facilitator and international speaker who is passionate about helping leaders and their teams think things through, make better decisions and achieve sustainable results. The Extraordinary Team’s approach to building high performance teams combines consulting, coaching, training and process facilitation within the context of working real issues.