11 Problem-Solving Activities You Can Try With Your Team
What do you do when your team gets stuck? Or if there's conflict at work? Thanks to modern technology, we can access a world of team-building, problem-solving games and activities. These activities can help teams develop their communication skills, critical thinking skills, and just improve the ability to overcome obstacles and solve problems together.
Whether you work in remote, hybrid, or team settings, there are plenty of strategies or activities you can try to solve problems. We've put together a list of group problem-solving activities you can try, either virtually or online, with minimal construction materials, in large groups or small teams.
You can use any of these real-world or virtual problem-solving activities for real-life conflict resolution or to support your team's problem-solving skills.
- Problem-solving activities can improve team communication and critical thinking.
- Icebreakers set a positive tone, encourage participation, boost collaboration, and set expectations.
- The GROW process provides a structured approach to problem-solving.
- "Reverse Brainstorming" is an unconventional technique to generate innovative solutions.
The Benefits of Problem-Solving Activities
Problem-solving games are an engaging way to kickstart any group session, whether it's a virtual meeting, workshop, or training session. From escape rooms to building a human knot or playing word games, problem-solving exercises can bring group members together and promote logical thinking. They provide an effective alternative to the traditional, somewhat monotonous introductions where participants merely state their names or try to come up with interesting facts about themselves. These icebreakers serve several essential functions, such as:
1. Creating a Positive Atmosphere
Icebreakers set a positive tone for the session, helping to reduce any tension within the group. As participants engage in lighthearted conversations and laughter, they feel more at ease, especially for hybrid teams that don't work together in person very often.
2. Encouraging Participation
A well-designed icebreaker makes participants feel like active contributors rather than passive listeners. It piques their interest and primes them for the upcoming group activities, and improves their problem-solving abilities as a team.
3. Boost Collaboration
Icebreakers, much like team-building exercises, can help break down existing cliques within groups. They encourage participants to interact with colleagues they might not typically engage with, ultimately promoting stronger work relationships. These activities can be conducted over a video conferencing platform to accommodate remote workers too.
4. Setting Expectations
Icebreakers can be used to gather participants' thoughts and expectations for the session. This insight ensures that the session is tailored to meet their needs, increasing engagement and relevance.
The Best Activities to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills
Now that we've highlighted the benefits of in-person and virtual problem-solving activities, let's delve into some of the best group problem-solving activities your office team can try.
1. Virtual Team Challenge
Materials Needed: None
The Virtual Team Challenge is a popular problem-solving activity that encourages your team to put their heads together to solve a given issue. In this challenge, team members brainstorm, discuss, and create solutions for the problem at hand, solving problems, both individually and collaboratively.
Virtual Team Challenges offer a fantastic way for teams to come together, collaborate effectively, and develop creative solutions to complex problems. This activity is not only enjoyable but also educational, making it a perfect choice for virtual teams. You can also try a variation of this game, e.g. a virtual escape room experience where teams look for hidden clues and try to outwit the other team in order to win a prize. It's a great way to study the problem-solving process and your team's analytical skills!
2. Follow the GROW Process
Duration: 2–3 hours
Best for: Taking a structured approach to problem-solving
The GROW model is a tried-and-tested approach used in business coaching and strategic thinking exercises. The acronym GROW stands for Goal, Reality, Obstacles & Options, and Way forward. It involves the following steps:
- Goal: Clarify the goals you want to achieve, specifying them as precisely as possible, including numerical targets and timeframes.
- Reality: Assess where you currently stand in relation to your goal, identifying what still needs to be accomplished.
- Obstacles & Options: Identify the obstacles your team faces and anticipate potential future challenges. Explore various approaches to overcome these roadblocks.
- Way Forward: Develop concrete action steps, including responsibilities and timelines, to move closer to your goals.
The GROW model provides a structured framework for problem-solving and perfecting listening skills, ensuring that all aspects of the issue are considered and that a clear plan of action is created.
3. Dumbest Idea First
Best for: Creative problem-solving
In the Dumbest Idea First problem-solving exercise, participants are challenged to come up with the silliest, most absurd solutions to a given problem or moral challenges. After generating these ideas, the group reviews them, often finding that some ideas, initially considered foolish, may have merit.
This activity encourages out-of-the-box thinking and demonstrates that sometimes unconventional ideas can lead to innovative solutions. It's a great way to boost creative problem-solving within a virtual team.
4. Egg Drop
Duration: 15–60 minutes
Best for: Creativity and decision-making
Materials Needed: Multiple eggs, various other building blocks, supplies (newspaper, sticky notes, rubber bands, balloons)
Egg Drop is a classic problem-solving activity that challenges participants to protect an egg from a fall using unconventional building materials. This activity encourages creativity and decision-making as team members collaborate to design a protective structure for the egg.
Egg Drop not only enhances creative thinking but also ensures that your team is ready to tackle challenges by thinking outside the box.
Duration: 30 minutes
Best for: Communication and decision-making
Materials Needed: An office and your team
Stranded is a problem-solving activity that can help identify communication issues within a team. In this scenario, your team is stranded in an office with locked doors, and the challenge is to decide on the ten items needed for survival and rank them in order of importance within a 30-minute time frame.
This activity promotes communication, teamwork, and decision-making as participants work together to determine the essentials for survival. It provides valuable insights into how your team collaborates under pressure.
6. Virtual Code Break
Best for: Remote teams
Virtual Code Break is a virtual team-building activity designed for remote participants. Teams face off in challenges like puzzles and trivia. This activity supports communication and problem-solving skills as teams rely on one another to win the crown.
How to Get Started:
- Have a brainstorm to determine your team's needs.
- An event facilitator will handle all the setup and logistics.
- Provide logins and a play-by-play guide to participants.
- Sign in to the virtual platform and join your pre-assigned team.
Virtual Code Break is an effective problem-solving group activity that can be played by small or large groups, promoting teamwork and collaboration.
7. Assess Personality Types
Duration: 60–90 minutes
Best for: Increasing empathy and enhancing teamwork
If your team experiences frequent clashes with only one person, it's possible that differences in personality types are contributing to the discord. Understanding these differences is crucial for boosting collaboration and effective teamwork, essential components of successful problem-solving.
To start, have group members of your team take a personality test together to learn about each other's strengths and weaknesses. Follow up with a discussion on how you can collaborate better in the future, addressing how each team member can balance out each other's weaknesses and leverage each other's strengths.
8. "Yes, And... "
Time: 5–15 minutes
Best for: A quick game to improve creativity and flexibility
You can play this popular improve game to help your team learn to think on their feet and build on one another's skills. There are no acting skills required - and you can play this game virtually.
How to Play:
- One person begins to tell a story or describe a scenario.
- The rest of the team's challenge is to build on this narrative by replying with "yes, and."
- One after the other, each team member contributes one or two sentences to the story.
- The key is to react quickly to keep the flow of the story going.
You can make the game more challenging by determining the order in advance, for example, by first name or age. This can add an extra layer of complexity to the game, as participants must adapt to the changing sequence of responses.
9. "Picture Perfect Puzzle"
Price: Low (cost of purchasing puzzles)
Time: 30–60 minutes
Best for: Team bonding, and problem-solving exercises over-solving, creativity
"Picture Perfect Puzzle" combines problem-solving with creativity and teamwork. It involves building problem-solving activities and completing jigsaw puzzles, but with a creative twist. Teams work together to complete a puzzle, but each team receives a puzzle that has been mixed with pieces from other puzzles.
How to Play:
- Prepare the Puzzles: Before the game, mix the pieces of several jigsaw puzzles. Ensure that each puzzle is a distinct image or pattern.
- Team Setup: Divide your team into smaller groups.
- Distribute Puzzles: Give each team one of the mixed-up puzzles.
- Task: The challenge is for each team to complete their puzzle within a set time frame. They must communicate and collaborate to identify the correct pieces and assemble the puzzle.
- Creativity Component: To add a creative element, encourage each team to name their newly formed puzzle and present a short story or description related to the image.
- Collaboration: Teams must collaborate to sort through the mixed pieces and assemble their puzzles.
- Problem-Solving: Participants need to identify the correct pieces, boosting problem-solving skills.
- Creativity: Teams can get creative in coming up with names and stories related to their completed puzzle.
- Team Bonding: The shared challenge of completing a puzzle supports team bonding and cohesion.
10. "Innovation Scavenger Hunt"
Price: Low (cost of prizes or rewards)
Best for: Innovation, creativity, collaboration
The "Innovation Scavenger Hunt" is a dynamic and creative team-building activity designed to inspire innovative thinking. It encourages participants to seek out novel solutions and ideas while working together.
How to Play:
- Define the Theme: Select a theme or challenge related to your organization's goals or a specific problem you want to address.
- Team Formation: Divide your team into smaller groups.
- Scavenger Hunt List: Create a list of items, concepts, or solutions related to the theme. These items should be things that can be found or developed, either physically or conceptually.
- Hunt Commences: Each team must race to find or create as many items from the list as possible within a set time frame.
- Presentation: At the end of the hunt, teams present their findings and solutions to the larger group, explaining their choices and innovative ideas.
- Winners Announced: Recognize and reward the most creative and innovative teams.
11. "Reverse Brainstorming"
Time: 20–30 minutes
Best for: Problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking
Reverse brainstorming is an unconventional problem-solving technique that encourages participants to think about problems from a different perspective. It's a valuable activity for teams looking to overcome challenges and generate innovative solutions.
How to Play:
- Identify the Problem: Start with a specific problem or challenge that your team wants to address.
- Reverse Thinking: Instead of brainstorming solutions, reverse the process by brainstorming potential causes or exacerbating factors of the problem. In other words, think about what could make the problem worse.
- Generate Ideas: Encourage participants to think creatively and generate a list of factors that contribute to the problem or hinder its resolution.
- Discussion: Once you have a list of reverse ideas, discuss each one and consider how reversing these factors can lead to innovative solutions.
- Regular Brainstorming: After the reverse brainstorming, switch back to conventional brainstorming to generate solutions based on the insights gained from the reverse perspective.
Effective problem-solving is crucial for any team, whether they are co-located or distributed globally. These challenges can be addressed with appropriate problem-solving activities.
Such team-building activities serve practical purposes and promote team unity, a vital aspect when working remotely. Therefore, when organizing meetings or workshops, consider incorporating these engaging problem-solving activities to enhance productivity and teamwork.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Problem-solving Games Work?
Yes, problem-solving games are effective for improving problem-solving skills and team collaboration.
How Can Team Improve Problem-solving Skills?
To improve team problem-solving skills, consider training, encouraging collaboration, diversifying the team, setting clear goals, breaking down problems, and emphasizing data-driven decision-making.
What Are the Best Team Building Problem-solving Games?
Some effective team-building problem-solving games include escape room challenges, scavenger hunts, tower building, brain-teasers and puzzles, role-playing games, crossword or word search, and problem-solving challenges.