This is an easy and relatively simple way to build team relationships while finding creative solutions to organizational challenges. Involving groups of people in the decision-making process can be tricky. Different people have vastly different ideas and sometimes individuals become emotionally attached to their ideas. Here is a team building idea for making the activity fun and non-threatening.
Time: 15 minutes but 30 minutes is better
Materials: Easel, easel paper pad and a variety of colored markers (best option for team involvement) or computer and projector where someone types and projects the results on-screen (less desirable option)
Size of group: Divide the group into teams of at least three people. It’s best to have no more than four teams. Too many teams can be difficult to manage and ensure everyone has input in the process.
Step 1: Brainstorm
As part of the decision-making process, brainstorming is often a good place to start. Brainstorming is the process of generating as many ideas as possible. This phase focuses on quantity and not quality.
How to brainstorm
- Clearly state the problem or goal for which you want a solution
- All ideas are accepted without comment or editing
- Encourage participants to build on the ideas that are generated
- No discussion takes place until later
- Ensure everyone participates and louder people don’t dominate
To make it more fun, I offer a reward for the group that generates the most ideas
To playfully introduce the decision criteria exercise, I have them brainstorm what they perceive as a reward. At this stage I don’t introduce any constraints. I also tell them I will reward the team that has the most answers with a shiny sticker. For this stage I give them up to 10 minutes.
They will usually start listing things like money, promotions and benefits and eventually branch out into categories like food items, lottery tickets, etc.
After the allotted time, have them count the number of answers and write the total on their sheet. If I have time, I have each team look at the other teams’ lists and add any items they like. This is not an important step and can be omitted for time’s sake.
Step 2: Introduce the decision criteria
Once the teams have completed the brainstorming and stickers have been awarded, it’s time to introduce the decision criteria. What are the constraints? What are the available resources?
For this example activity I list the following criteria:
The solution must:
- Be readily accessible within a 5-mile radius of the training center
- Cost less than $20
- Be something everyone on your team will enjoy (e.g. candy may not be a good option for diabetics)
- Be legal and not violate company policy
I also tell them that I reserve the right to add to this list of criteria at any time.
The teams then eliminate any options that fail to meet the criteria. Once this is done, I have the groups consolidate the answers on one sheet of easel paper; eliminating any redundancies.
Once you verify that they have properly applied the decision criteria, tell each person they have been awarded three votes or check marks.
They can spend their check marks however they choose. They can spend all three on one option or spread them out among various options. To avoid confusion, make sure each member of the team has a different color marker.
I prefer easel and paper because it’s easier for team members to interact and strategize about where to place their check marks. Depending on the topic, there may also be some entertaining negotiating and healthy arguing for certain rankings.
Count the check marks and declare the winner based on which item has the most votes. If there is a tie, again, depending on time, I may allow a spirited debate where teams or individuals can argue for their favorite option. Another variation is to allow them to determine how to break the stalemate; drawing straws, flipping a coin and rock-paper-scissors are a few stalemate breakers.
If there is a real organizational need to be addressed, you can use this process to explore solutions. At this stage, I will usually assign new teams so the individuals have an opportunity to work with different people.