Team-building exercises are games and activities that facilitate cooperative learning and problem-solving in groups. Some business owners schedule retreats at which all employees spend a day or longer participating in these activities and processing the experience both together and on their own. The goal of these exercises is to help employees develop cooperation skills and respect for each other's abilities and talents. Ideally, employees bring these new skills to the workplace.
Group discussions are often held after team-building activities to help the group get the most out of the experience. Questions asked in these discussions fall into three main categories: "What," So what" and "Now what?" The "What" part of the discussion asks the group members to discuss what just happened. The literal discussion of the recent events may segue into the "So What" part of the discussion. During "So What," participants discuss what they learned and observed during the activity. "Now What" focuses participants on how they can utilize what they learned when they return to work or school. These questions may also be explored by participants in private in a journal.
An afternoon of team-building activities often begins with simple games known as "ice breakers." These are short games that simply warm people up and get them comfortable with each other. A good example is the beach ball game. Prepare for this by purchasing a large, inflatable beach ball. With a permanent marker, write as many questions as you can fit on the ball. The questions should be designed to make people laugh and get to know one another; they may be both humorous and ask simple truths about a person. Participants will toss the ball to each other, and a person who catches it states his name and answers the question that his left thumb is touching. Examples of questions include, "What is your favorite jelly bean flavor," "What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning," and "If you were invisible for one hour, where would you go?" It is not always necessary to ask processing questions after ice breakers.
Listening-skills games work well with when participants are grouped in pairs. There are two rounds to this game. For the first round, one participant gets a diagram, and the other a paper and pencil. The one with the diagram describes it, and the other draws what she hears. The drawing person may not look at the diagram nor ask questions. They may then switch roles with a different diagram. At the end, they can compare the drawings with the original diagrams. During round two, the person drawing is allowed to ask questions. Again, each person should play both roles. They may see different results after round two.
Problem-solving games also build a sense of teamwork among participants. The human knot is a great example of a game in which the only way to succeed is to work together. People stand in a circle facing each other. Everyone grabs a right hand with their left, and a left hand with their right. There should be a tangled mess of arms reaching around the clump of humans. They must unwind the knot without letting go, until everybody is standing in a circle.