“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
Setup Time: 10 minutes
Activity: 20 minutes
Debrief: 30 minutes (minimum)
Group Size: 10 – 40 participants
Space: 20 x 40 (minimum room size)
Open space – no chairs, tables, etc.
In this activity, you will be divided into two teams, Team A and Team B (divide the room). Each team will be given a set of Toobeez. Your instructions are to win by building the longest bridge with the materials provided in the time allotted. You will have 20 minutes to complete this activity.Any questions on the material covered? (Answer any questions, and get the teams situated with their Toobeez). Begin.
1) The language you choose may influence how the instructions are interpreted. Consider using “group” or no distinction, “A’s over here, B’s over there” instead of using the word “team”.
2) How the teams are chosen may impact this activity. There are many ways to divide the room (i.e., counting off, using characterizations such as hair color, company level or division, gender, etc. or picking random individuals).
In this activity, people get to communicate with their body, as well as with language. People may have open discussions about what the point of the activity is, or they may jump right in without even questioning their interpretation of the instruction. Listen and watch to notice:
When the time has passed, stop the activity abruptly. If they have not yet used all their pieces and “completed” a bridge, stop them wherever they are and ask them to take a seat. If one or both teams have “completed” before the time, let the time pass and observe how participants use the time. Notice whether it occurs to anyone to join together with the other team.
Variations are optional and will highlight additional skill sets.
1. Highlighting: Creative Thinking, Diversity, Influencing Others, People Development
In addition to the instructions above, there will be limited communication for certain members of your team. Specifically, the designated group will be mute (that is, not able to speak throughout the entire exercise). They must participate fully and communicate without using spoken words.
To see skills in others, choose individuals who have so far been talkative, outgoing, or emerged as leaders and mute them.
2. Highlighting: Creative Thinking, Decision Making
In addition to the instructions above, there will be limited direct contact with the Toobeez. Those individuals chosen on each team will be the only ones who may touch the round connector spheres. Everyone else may only touch the tubes. No one will be able to touch both the connector spheres and the tubes.
3. Highlighting: Decision Making, Influencing Others
In addition to the instructions above, as a team you must choose by vote a design/building strategy before putting the bridge together. The team must determine what guidelines (%) constitute a “passing” vote. You may not proceed with building until everyone votes. In order to change the design of the bridge once building has commenced, a new vote must be taken and counted – the same voting guidelines apply to any additional votes.
By not voting, any individual may stop the process. This tool could empower an otherwise quiet person to be heard, but only if that person has listened carefully to the instructions.
4. Highlighting: Diversity, People Development
In addition to the instructions above, divide the room by age or gender.
When using variations #1 and #2, use nametags or color stickers to differentiate people. For instance, put a sticker/nametag on the people who are mute or connector spheres, so everyone is clear as to who is in which category.
The debrief should be an interactive discussion. Lead it by offering a series of questions and soliciting responses from the participants. To begin, ask questions about the activity itself and continue with specifics related to the skills you want to address or highlight. You may stick to one area of focus or choose to cover many topics. Suggested questions are offered below to guide you as you facilitate this debrief.
The debrief is organized with an Opening and Closing and then by Learning Intention, and it may be used in a variety of ways. You may use just the Opening and Closing for a basic debrief or add the Learning Intention-specific debriefs in between. To include the Learning Intention specifics in your debrief, either pick one or two questions from each areas in order to touch on many topics or work in depth on one or more area of learning and go through all of the questions for that topic(s). Look through the questions, TIPs, FCs, and Transitions prior to the training session in order to choose which ones you will cover (See “How to Use this Book”).
The intention of this activity is to enhance communication among team members and encourage and realize the value of cooperation. This activity provides participants with an opportunity to see how they work together, whether they lead or follow, what roles they assume, how they influence and are influenced by others, and how they interact in a potentially competitive situation. The activity offers an alternative to competition – the win/win.
This activity offers many lessons, so let the participants share with you what they learned and think the activity is about. As you ask questions about the instructions, listen to the responses to be sure the participants understand the instructions (i.e., someone can repeat them word for word, answers precisely, or there are no hands remaining in the air.
People may use the restrictions in the variations as excuses or explanations for why they did what they did and their levels of leadership, cooperation, and communication. Challenge them on those assumptions. Ask: “Is there an alternative?”
This activity is a platform for new actions. In all variations, the way to build the longest bridge is for Team A and Team B to cooperate. Any other solution leaves both teams with, at most, half of what they could have created by working together.
People are always engaged in many levels of communication. The following questions offer participants the opportunity to become aware of their communication, the impact it has on others, and the results it creates. Through this awareness, people will then get to choose the alternatives that serve their goals.
Anonymity may impact people’s willingness to be open and honest. Have people close their eyes and ask them to raise their hands indicating their answers to questions regarding being listened to, satisfaction with the results, etc. Use a scale of 1-5 (represented by holding up fingers) as appropriate to facilitate this process.
When using Variation #1
We’ve just had the opportunity to recognize how each of us has been communicating as well as to identify role models and pitfalls. Now you can put that information into action to create clear and comprehensive mutual understanding. So, what do you think the results will be in your organization?
Transition to Cooperation and Teamwork…
“Now that we have an idea of the impact of our communications, we’re going to get into more depth regarding how we work together by focusing on Cooperation and Teamwork.”
Transition to Creative Thinking…
“One of the outcomes of excellent communication is an environment which fosters creativity and generates new ideas. Now that we’ve spent some time on the communication piece, let’s turn our attention to creative thinking and what you’ve learned about yourself and others from this activity.”
Teamwork and cooperation includes how people interact with each other, the roles people take in group settings, and how people perceive situations – as competitive or collaborative.
When Using Variation #2
When people work together in an empowering way – one in which everyone is listened to and respected as a contributing member of the team – results are impacted. We often interpret situations as “us versus them,” when all parties would benefit by working together. As we expand our interpretation of “our team”, we also expand the possibilities for success and achievement.
Transition to Influencing Others…
“What happens when we want to work in a cooperative manner and other people resist? How do you create a team amidst resistance? There are many ways to influence others. Think again about the activity we just completed, this time reflecting on what influenced you and how you influenced others in your group.”
It is useful to examine what influencing tactics you’re currently using, what tactics you respond to in others, and expand the options to include other influencing strategies. (For a comprehensive discussion of specific influencing methods, see Activity 8: Trading Game.)
How we make decisions has an impact on others and the organization. Empowering decisions, those that value others’ opinions and leadership abilities, allow you to collectively move forward with direction and purpose.
When Using Variation #3
While we may share many similarities, each of us thinks in a unique way. Encouraging people to listen to and share their own ideas keeps organizations fresh and innovative. Use the following questions to generate a discussion about creativity, its value, and how to tap into each individual’s creative ideas.
When Using Variation #3
Transition to People Development…
“Whose creativity surprised you? Did you tell them? Why or why not? How would you feel if someone told you your thinking impressed them? How often do you share feedback with your colleagues?”
The fundamental tool for successful people development, including for ourselves, is feedback. Excellent managers carefully observe people and communicate clearly. Outstanding employees are those that look for and listen to feedback on their own as well.
The term diversity suggests a mix of people with perceived differences. There are many ways a group can be similar and many ways it can be diverse. For instance, a group of investment bankers may all have MBAs and six-figure salaries. At the same time, they may be different ages, different genders, different religions, different nationalities, have different likes and dislikes, and different political ideologies. Everyone interprets “diversity” a little differently; so begin by exploring what it means to this group. Encourage people to listen to each other openly as they consider differing points of view. What did you notice about how other people participated in this activity?
When Using Variation #4
It is valuable for people to recognize that, in general, groups of men andwomen have different dynamics. However, it is also important to caution people against over-generalizing. This is an opportunity to identify possible differences and explore ways to communicate with others, not an invitation to apply them to all individuals or groups of men or women.