The Simple Stuff


Team building can be as extravagant as a week-long retreat and as simple as a 5-10 minute activity.  Today, I’d like to share some simple, quick, and cheap activities:

This is an easy icebreaker for a meeting; toss the ball to everyone in the room, they read the saying that their thumb landed on out loud and answer the question.  The one featured below is the “Meet and Greet” thumball.

They have a variety of other thumb balls – things to get creativity flowing – “Describe It” Thumball; as well as “Best, Worst, First”; and “Virtues and Values”.  And, as a coffee drinker, I’m quite excited about the new product, the “My Favorite Things” Thumb Ball Cup (shown below).


And for retreats, or trainers, they have a Thumb ball series they produce every year!


  • JUST THE FACTS – Using a grease board or butcher paper to brainstorm about a topic you wan to address.  Go around the room and ask each participant to name a fact about the subject; continue until you run out of facts and participants begin to assert opinions instead of facts.  As group members begin to insert more opinions, encourage group members to call them out by saying “Just the Facts”.  This works great to brainstorm and get the creative juices flowing.  A simple example is “A carrot” – Facts could include: it’s orange; grown in the dirt; contains vitamins; a non-fact would be it tastes good.
  • ME TOO! – Have everyone stand up in from their chairs.  Begin with the person on your left and ask them to state a fact about themselves,  (e.g. “I love chocolate.”).  For all those that also love chocolate, they can say “Me too” and take a seat silently.   Continue until everyone is standing or only one person is standing.  You may want to repeat the activity a few times to get to know more people, depending upon the size of your group.




Why Team-Building Activities?

So, I’ve decided to develop my blog around team-building activities.  The majority of my career I have worked in non-profit organizations, and the team-building exercises in this sector, often were reliant on the leadership, the budget, and the staff’s enthusiasm for the cause.  Nonetheless, team building activities were rather frequent, sometimes weekly.  For the last seven years, I’ve been working in the public sector…wow, what a difference!  Team building activities in the public sector can sometimes be frowned upon, considered a mis-use of public funds, but there’s that seldom opportunity to slip a few in here and there…

I realized, after I chose my topic that team-building activities in the private sector probably have stereotypes associated with them as well.  I imagine these lavish and expensive two or three-day sessions; led by a trained facilitator (or team); and hosted at the conference room at the local name-brand chain-hotel.   But, perhaps I’m mistaken…I’ll need to do some research.

Another reason I chose team building activities was to discover the reach and realm of how far organizations (e.g. non-profit; public-sector; private-sector; etc.) will go.  My most interesting team-building experience by far was put on by a feminist organization that encouraged different staff members to adjust the scope of their jobs, based on where they were in their menstrual cycles.   One of the activities we did over the day-long team building was a web exercise.  Everyone stood in a large circle, filling the whole room; one person held the end of a ball of yarn and threw it to someone across the circle.  That person pinched the yarn and threw the ball to another person across from them.  We continued until everyone had a piece of yarn, and the final recipient threw it back to the first person, who held two pieces; which created a giant web.  Then came the fun part…untangling the web, until we formed one large circle of yarn, again filling the room.  The take-away was that we are each part of the web that molds the organization.

Here’s a path to a simple explanation of the activity:Team Building Yarn Activity | eHow