This past week, I had a project team meeting. The project had a number of people on it that I hadn’t worked with before.
When the project began, we all had very divergent ideas on how we were going to accomplish our end goal.
I’ve found over the years, that the less clear something is on a project, the more apt there is to be a misunderstanding and/or miscommunication. Along with the many different ideas, I was working with many different personalities.
And some were quite stronger than others!
I decided that to get the best results for our project it was necessary to begin by building an “Atmosphere of Collaboration.”
I wanted to initiate an activity that demonstrated our need for clarity and the need for teamwork. I thought about the many diverse “collaboration ice breakers” I had read about and researched and found a few possible ideas. But when they didn’t seem to fully apply to the task at hand, I was inspired to create my own activity.
Breaking the Ice in Style
Not only did the activity generate some really thought-provoking and idea-inducing conversation, but it turned out to actually be fun!
I called it the “Jungle Survival Challenge.”
Here’s a quick overview of how the activity is played:
- Divide the group up into small teams (2-4 people each)
- Pass out the “Survival List.” This is a written list that catalogs 60-80 items and keeps them face-down until the timer is set.
- Read the instructions to the participants and ensure everyone understands.
- Begin the timer and provide notice of the half way point, two-minute warning, one minute, and then count down from 10 seconds until the time expires.
Read the following “instructions” to the group:
You and your team have been flying in a small plane and encountered a small storm that has forced the captain to land the plane. There was not a clearing for a runway so the pilot was forced to try to land in a jungle. Unfortunately, the pilot did not survive the crash, and you and your team are uncertain where you are.
You all must gather your supplies quickly and get away from the plane though, as fast as you can because the plane is on fire and it will likely explode within minutes!
You and your team have five minutes to agree on what supplies you need to survive and get out of there! Unfortunately, you failed to prepare for a disaster in advance, so you need to pack your Bug Out Bag with the 10 items that you think you will need most.
NOTE: Let the team members collaborate on which items they will need to choose together to survive in the jungle.
Inspect What You Expect
Here is the suggested debrief of the activity:
- Have each team review/discuss the 10 items they selected and why.
- Point out the similarities and the differences.
- As you recap the activity, you may want to say something like the following:
This activity is much like a team project. We all have differing ideas on what we need, and most of the teams made different selections, but they all still contained the four basic types of supplies. (Most teams will select a source of light, a form of shelter, some type of fire, and some food.)
As with a project, there were clearly some differing thoughts about what supplies were needed. Yet, most of you were able to come to an agreement as to what your team needed in a relatively short period of time, set clear expectations, and discern the common goal. (If a team does not have a smooth experience, then use that as a teachable moment of the dangers of a project failing if everyone doesn’t work together.)
Not Just Another Icebreaker!™
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Leading Through Variables
Participating in this activity helped to align the project team and allowed them to begin to realize all the variables of a project. I found that it also went a long way to committing us to work together to make the project a success.
If you consistently promote an atmosphere of collaboration, it is exceedingly likely that your project will run smoothly and efficiently and it will lead your team to a successful outcome.
So, what type of success have you had using things like icebreakers, interactive activities, or problem-solving exercises to increase collaboration and teamwork? Which ones have been most successful? Which ones flopped? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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