Team-Building Activity: Master Architects

I found this month’s team-building activity at Leadership Geeks (formerly Leadership with You) – a website dedicated to developing amazing leaders. It’s got a lot of great information and resources and a TON of free icebreakers and team-building-exercises. So, if you like what you read below, be sure to check out all the other amazing stuff Michael and Liza have to offer!

I have edited and embellished the original version of this activity to add my own ideas and make the wording more my own. The essence of the activity remains intact.

Purpose: Master Architects helps participants experience the importance of planning, teamwork, and problem solving. It’s also useful for observing group dynamics.

Team Size: The Geeks suggest groups of 10 or more, however I think you could still do this activity with six people by creating two teams of three. If there is an odd number of team members, ask for volunteer observers so that teams can be equal in number.

 Time Required: The suggested time for this activity is 30 minutes (3-5 mins to divide into groups and review the instructions, 15* minutes for tower building, 10 minutes for the debrief). If you have a smaller group (under 10 people) or are short on time, you can eliminate the instruction time by handing out written instructions and condense the building and debrief time (10* and seven minutes respectively) to shorten this activity to 20 minutes.

Materials Required for each team:

  • Approximately 30 sheets of newspaper
  • One roll of masking tape
  • One pair of scissors
  • One single-serving juice box (unopened)

 Facilitator Resources

  • One measuring tape
  • Watch or egg timer to monitor time
  • Prizes for the winning team (optional, e.g. mini chocolate bars, gift card for free coffee, dollar store trinkets)

Instructions

  1. Divide the group into even-size teams of no more than 5-6 people.
  2. Provide each team with the materials outlined above and a dedicated space to build their tower that does not interfere with other teams.
  3. The teams will have 10-15 minutes* to construct the tallest tower they can with the materials provided. Towers must be able to support the weight of the juice box.
  4. Give teams a two minute warning before the clock runs out.
  5. When the timer goes off (or you indicate time is up), halt the building and ask the teams to place their juice box at the top of their tower structure to test its strength.
  6. The team that builds the tallest tower that can hold the juice box wins. Encourage a round of applause for the winning team and hand out prizes if using.

Debriefing Questions

Once the group quiets down, lead a debrief discussion using the questions below to identify the lessons learned and how this manifests itself in the work place. Be sure that all teams contribute to the discussion, not just the winning team.

  1. How did your team decide on the structure you were building?
  2. What challenges did you encounter? How did you overcome them?
  3. How much time did you spend planning? Building?
  4. What did you learn about yourself as a result of this activity? What did you learn about your team-mates?
  5. What have we learned today that we can apply in our daily jobs?

And if you had ‘observers’ be sure to ask them what they observed in terms of:

  • Planning styles/actions
  • Team dynamics
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Team roles (planner, facilitator, trouble-shooter, drop-out/observer, etc.)

Apply the Lessons Learned:

End the discussion by asking each person to identify one thing they are going to do differently or be more aware of in the coming week as a result of what they learned today. Encourage the group to notice these efforts and support one another as they apply the lessons learned in the workplace.

If you try this ice breaker with your team, come back and let us know how it went and what your team discovered about itself as a result of the activity.

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