Some people see problems as roadblocks, others see them as opportunities! Problem solving activities are a great way to get to know how members of your team work, both individually and together. It’s important to teach your team strategies to help them quickly overcome obstacles in the way of achieving project goals.

The Importance of Developing Problem Solving Skills in Today’s Workplace

Problem solving skills are the most commonly lacking soft skill among recent college graduates, according to a 2016 Payscale.com report. A company or team’s success weighs heavily on the willingness of managers to help employees improve their problem solving abilities. Team building activities targeting focus areas like communication and collaboration, adaptability, or strengthening decision-making techniques help.

All problem solving processes start with identifying the problem. Next, the team must assess potential courses of action and choose the best way to tackle the problem. This requires a deep understanding of your team and their core strengths. A problem solving exercise or game helps identify those strengths and builds problem solving skills and strategies while having fun with your team!

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Problem solving games aren't for just any team. Participants must have an open-mind and accept all ideas and solutions. They must also have an Agile mindset and be open to different structures, planning, and processes. Problems usually arise when we least expect them, so there's no better way to prepare than embrace agility and flexibility.

Another aspect to keep in mind when engaging in problem solving games and activities: There are no winners or losers. Sure, some games might end with a single winner, but the true goal of these exercises is to learn how to work together as a team to develop an agile mindset. The winning team of each game should share their strategies and thought process at the end of the exercise to help everyone learn.

Here’s a list of fun problem solving activity examples to try with your team. From blindfolds to raw eggs, these problem solving team building activities will have your team solving problems faster than Scooby and the gang.

 
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Classic Team Building Problem Solving Activities

1. A Shrinking Vessel

Helps with: Adaptability

Why adaptability is important for problem solving: Adaptability is highly associated with cognitive diversity, which helps teams solve problems faster, according to the Harvard Business Review. Innovation and disruption are happening faster than ever before. People, teams, and organizations that can adapt will come out on top.

What You’ll Need:

  • A rope or string

Instructions:

1. Using the rope, make a shape on the floor everyone can fit into.

2. Slowly shrink the space over a time period of 10-15 minutes.

3. Work together to figure out how to keep everyone within the shrinking boundaries.

2. Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower

Helps with: Collaboration

Why collaboration is important for problem solving: “Collectively, we can be more insightful, more intelligent than we can possibly be individually,” writes Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline. We can solve problems better as a team than we can alone, which means developing your team’s collaboration skills will lead to better problem solving outcomes.

What You’ll Need (per team):

  • 20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 roll of masking tape
  • 1 yard of string
  • 1 marshmallow

Instructions:

1. The goal of this exercise is to see which team can use the materials provided to build the tallest tower within an allotted time period. The tower must be able to stand on its own.

2. To make this exercise more challenging, try adding a marshmallow to the top of the tower. This team problem solving exercise helps teams think on their toes while building camaraderie and leadership.

3. Egg Drop

Helps with: Collaboration, Decision-Making

Why decision making is important for problem solving: Making decisions isn’t easy, but indecision leads to team paralysis, stagnant thinking, and unsolved problems. Decision-making activities help your team practice making quick, effective choices. Train your team’s decision making muscle and they will become more adept at problem solving.

What You’ll Need:

  • A carton of eggs
  • Basic construction materials such as newspapers, straws, tape, plastic wrap, balloons, rubber bands, popsicle sticks, etc., tarp, or drop cloth
  • A parking lot, or some other place you don’t mind getting messy!

Instructions:

1. Each team gets an egg and must select from the construction materials.

2. Give everyone 20-30 minutes to construct a carrier for the egg and protect it from breaking.

3. Drop each egg carrier off a ledge (i.e. over a balcony) and see whose carrier protects the egg from breaking.

4. If multiple eggs survive, keep increasing the height until only one egg is left.

4. Stranded

Helps with: Communication, Decision Making

Why communication is important for problem solving: More employees work remotely than ever before. Good communication skills are vital to solving problems across increasingly virtual teams. Working on communication skills while your team is together will help them better solve problems when they’re apart.

What You’ll Need:

  • An office

Here's the setting: Your team has been stranded in the office. The doors are locked, and knocking down the doors or breaking the windows is not an option. Give your team 30 minutes to decide on 10 items in the office they need for survival and rank them in order of importance. The goal of the game is to have everyone agree on the 10 items and their ranking in 30 minutes.

Creative Problem Solving Activities

5. Legoman

Helps with: Communication

What You'll Need:

  • Legos

Instructions:

1. Divide everyone into small teams of two or more.

2. Select an overseer who isn't on a team to build a random structure using Lego building blocks within 10 minutes.

3. The other teams must replicate the structure exactly (including size and color) within 15 minutes. However, only one member from each group may look at the original structure. They must figure out how to communicate the size, color, and shape of the original structure to their team.

4. If this is too easy, add a rule that the member who can see the original structure can't touch the new structure.

6. Escape

Helps with: Collaboration

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 rope
  • 1 key
  • A lockable room
  • 5-10 puzzles or clues (depending on how much time you want to spend on the game)

Instructions:

The goal of this exercise is to solve the clues, find the key, and escape a locked room within the time allotted.

Hide the key and a list of clues around the room.

Gather the team into the empty room and "lock" the door.

Give them either 30 minutes or 1 hour to find the key using the clues hidden around the room.

7. Frostbite

Helps with: Decision Making, Adaptability

What You’ll Need:

  • A blindfold
  • 1 packet of construction materials (such as card stock, toothpicks, rubber bands, and sticky notes) for each team
  • An electric fan

Instructions: Picture this: Your employees are Arctic explorers adventuring across an icy tundra! Separate them into teams of 4-5 and have them select a leader to guide their exploration. Each team must build a shelter from the materials provided before the storm hits in 30 minutes. However, both the team leader’s hands have frostbite, so they can’t physically help construct the shelter, and the rest of the team has snow blindness and is unable to see. When the 30 minutes is up, turn on the fan and see which shelter can withstand the high winds of the storm.

8. Minefield

Helps with: Communication

What You’ll Need:

  • An empty room or hallway
  • Blindfolds
  • A collection of common office items

Instructions:

1. Place the items (boxes, chairs, water bottles, bags, etc.) around the room so there's no clear path from one end of the room to the other.

2. Divide your team into pairs and blindfold one person on the team.

3. The other must verbally guide that person from one end of the room to the other, avoiding the "mines."

4. The partner who is not blindfolded can't touch the other.

5. If you want to make the activity more challenging, have all the pairs go simultaneously so teams must find ways to strategically communicate over each other.

9. Blind Formations

Helps with: Communication

What You'll Need:

  • Blindfolds
  • Rope

Instructions:

1. Have the group put on blindfolds and form a large circle.

2. Tie two ends of a rope together and lay it in a circle in the middle of the group, close enough so each person can reach down and touch it.

3. Instruct the group to communicate to create a shape with the rope—a square, triangle, rectangle, etc.

4. If you have a very large group, divide them into teams and provide a rope for each team. Let them compete to see who forms a particular shape quickest.

Quick & Easy Problem Solving Activities

10. Line up Blind

Helps with: Communication

What You'll Need:

  • Blindfolds

Instructions:

1. Blindfold everyone and whisper a number to each person, beginning with one.

2. Tell them to line up in numerical order without talking.

3. Instead of giving them a number, you could also have them line up numerically by height, age, birthday, etc.

11. Reverse Pyramid

Helps with: Adaptability, Collaboration

What You'll Need:

  • Nothing

Instructions:

1. Have everyone stand in a pyramid shape, horizontally.

2. Ask them to flip the base and the apex of the pyramid moving only three people.

3. This quick exercise works best when smaller groups compete to see who can reverse the pyramid the fastest.

12. Move It!

Helps with: Adaptability, Collaboration

What You'll Need:

  • Chalk, rope, tape, or paper (something to mark a space)

Instructions:

1. Divide your group into two teams and line them up front to back, facing each other.

2. Using the chalk, tape, rope, or paper (depending on the play surface), mark a square space for each person to stand on. Leave one extra empty space between the two facing rows.

3. The goal is for the two facing lines of players to switch places.

Place these restrictions on movement:

  • Only one person may move at a time.
  • A person may not move around anyone facing the same direction.
  • No one may not move backward.
  • A person may not move around more than one person on the other team at a time.

13. Human Knot

Helps with: Adaptability, Collaboration

What You'll Need:

  • Nothing

Instructions:

1. Have everyone stand in a circle, and ask each person to hold hands with two people who aren’t directly next to them.

2. When everyone is tangled together, ask them to untangle the knot and form a perfect circle—without letting anyone's hand.

 

Our last two problem solving activities work best when dealing with an actual problem:

14. Dumbest Idea First

Helps with: Instant Problem Solving

What You'll Need:

  • Nothing

Instructions:

1. "Dumb" ideas are sometimes the best ideas. Ask everyone to think of the absolute dumbest possible solution to the problem at hand.

2. After you have a long list, look through it and see which ones might not be as dumb as you think.

3. Brainstorm your solutions in Wrike. It's free and everyone can start collaborating instantly!

15. What Would X Do

Helps with: Instant Problem Solving

What You'll Need:

  • Nothing

Instructions:

1. Have everyone pretend they're someone famous.

2. Each person must approach the problem as if they were the famous person. What options would they consider? How would they handle it?

3. This allows everyone to consider solutions they might not have thought of originally.

Looking for more team building games like this? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Team Building Activities that Don't Suck.

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Additional Resources On Problem Solving Activities

Have a problem solving activity that everyone loves?

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