Initiatives for Group Problem Solving Activities

Problem-solving initiatives are activities that build teamwork, communication and creativity. Initiatives require a group to work together to solve an imaginary problem. They can be played as part of an extended team-building challenge course, or a single initiative can help a group practice acting as a team before moving on to other activities.

Mental Challenge Initiatives

Mental challenge problem-solving initiatives require no props and can be done in any setting. The team works together to solve a mental problem, such as a question, through discussion. These initiatives are good for groups that prefer less physical activity, and for initiatives in which there is not enough space to set up a physical initiative. When facilitating a mental challenge initiative, pay attention to which team members are participating; good teamwork will involve all the members of the group in the solution. Most mental challenge activities focus on communication and decision-making, and usually the decision must be reached by consensus. One example of a mental challenge initiative is Island Survival, in which the group is given a list of items and must rank them from most to least important for surviving on a desert island. A similar initiative is People Survival, in which each member of the group is assigned a role and the group must choose a few members of the team to be saved after a nuclear disaster.

No Props Initiatives

Initiatives that do not require props or set-up are portable and easy to play. They are good to use as early initiatives in a day of team-building or as a single initiative to help a team function well in a day of other activities. Many require little space and can be played in almost any setting. An example is Human Knot. To play, have participants stand in a circle. Everyone puts their right hands into the circle and grasps hands with another player. Everyone then does the same with their left hands, without letting go of their right hands. Once all the players are holding hands, the group must untangle itself and reform a circle so that everyone is holding hands around the circle instead of through the centre of the circle. Human Knot is an excellent early initiative because it promotes communication and teamwork and helps break physical barriers among players.

Another example of an initiative that requires no props is Diminishing Load. The goal of this initiative is for the entire team to be carried across a specified distance, from the starting point to the goal. After carrying another member across, the carrier must return to the starting point so he can be carried. Anyone who touches the ground must return to the starting point. This initiative requires planning and communication. It should not be attempted until after the group has learnt proper safety precautions for spotting and carrying team members.

Few Props Initiatives

Many initiative problem-solving games can be played with minimal set-up and props. Many of these initiatives are relatively portable, and they can be adjusted to be easier or more difficult to create the right challenge for a specific group. One example is Helium Hoop, which requires only a hula hoop as a prop. To play, participants stand in a circle and hold their index fingers out as if they were pointing at the centre of the circle. Place the hula hoop so it is resting on top of everyone's fingers. The goal of the game is for the group to lower the hula hoop to the ground without anyone ever allowing his finger to lose contact with the hoop. This initiative requires concentration and communication, because unless all the participants lower their hands in perfect unison, the hoop will tend to go up instead of down.

Another example of a simple initiative requiring few props is All Aboard. The goal of this initiative is for all the participants to fit into a small square by standing on a wooden board. The initiative is usually played progressively with several different sizes of boards, so the group can start by fitting onto a larger board and progress to smaller boards.

Ropes Course Initiatives

Ropes course initiatives are constructed as part of a challenge course. They are usually played in a series from easier to more difficult challenges, and each initiative is flexible, so rules and goals can be adjusted to challenge a specific group. One example is Spiderweb, a collection of ropes strung between two trees to look like a spiderweb. The goal of the initiative is for all the participants to go through the spiderweb without touching any of the ropes. If a rope is touched, the entire group must go back to the beginning. Once a participant has gone through a specific opening in the spiderweb, that opening is "closed" and cannot be used by any other participants. Some of the openings are large and close to the ground, so a participant can climb through without help, but others are high or small so participants must be lifted through. This initiative requires a team to plan which opening to use for each participant. It should not be played until after a group has learnt safety practices for spotting and lifting participants.

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About the Author

Lisa Baker has been a professional writer since 2001. She has published articles on parenting, environmental issues and religious topics in a variety of print and online venues, including "HomeLife Magazine" and "Pink & Green." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Sweet Briar College.