Effective working groups thrive on healthy team dynamics.
Over the past month or so I’ve opened several different multi-day workgroup sessions with an activity that has gone over quite well with audiences that have ranged from executive teams to frontline staff.
Following are the guidelines for the activity. It includes teamwork, puzzles, lockboxes and the need to listen to instructions.
Activity Name: Puzzle Me This
Time: Approximately 30 minutes
- 1 puzzle for every small group (I used an image of our organization’s mission/vision/values statements and ordered a custom photo puzzle, but any old puzzle with approximately 50-100 pieces will serve the purpose)
- 1 lock box for every small group (I used these lockboxes that I found on Amazon)
- Fill the lock boxes with some sort of incentive or prize (or perhaps even a clue to the next activity)
- Set the combination for the lock boxes
- Write the combination for each lock box on the back of each completed puzzle
- Break the puzzle pieces apart and place each complete set of puzzle pieces into a separate envelope
- Create an instruction slide (or an instruction flipchart). Below is an image of the instruction slide I used:
- Break participants into groups that should not exceed 10 people per group.
- Give each group a lock box and a sealed envelope that contains the puzzle pieces (two items of note here: first, don’t tell the participants what’s inside the envelope… it’s more fun when they tear it open and realize they need to put together a puzzle; second, make sure you have given each group a set of puzzle pieces with the combination that corresponds to the lock box they’ve been given… this can turn into a very frustrating activity if teams are given a set of puzzle pieces with the wrong combination written on the back!)
- Show and/or read the instructions, making sure that participants know that everything they will need to open the lock box is contained inside of the envelopes they’ve been given. Keep a close eye on the time (the element of time adds pressure to the group dynamics!).
- Monitor the groups’ progress, giving periodic updates on how much time is remaining.
- As time begins to wind down, you may have a decision to make. Some groups may open the lock box quickly. Others may need a hint. As I give time warnings, I’ll often say something like: “You have five more minutes to open the lock box.” Some teams lose sight of the fact they’re supposed to be trying to find out the combination to the lock box and they get too focused on completing the puzzle (other teams realize very quickly that something is written on the back of the puzzle and solve the challenge right away without needing to complete the entire puzzle).
Possible Debrief Questions:
- What helped set your team up for success in this activity?
- What served as a barrier to success? What caused struggles or challenges for your group?
- How would you explain your group’s dynamics as you navigated this challenge? Were some people more active than others? How did that impact the end result?
- How might this activity relate to what we’re trying to do in this training program/working session?
If you end up using this activity, please drop me a line and let me know how it went!