Wouldn’t it be great to go to work every day and everything just … works? While that’s a lovely daydream, in reality, we face challenges from time to time.
And when it comes to challenges, one thing remains true: Having a team you can rely on makes whatever it is way easier to deal with.
It’s time to support your team in their personal growth and work on those problem-solving skills. The best way to do that is through some targeted team building activities.
We’ve compiled a list of the best problem-solving activities, sorted by duration and your team’s needs. Bonus point: A lot of them are free!
Effective team building problem-solving activities
One of the most daunting aspects of team building is looking up ideas for things to do, not knowing whether they work.
So we did the hard part for you and hand-picked the best team building activities to overcome obstacles.
1. Follow the GROW process
Time: 2-3 hours
Best for: Taking a tried and tested approach to problem-solving
Arguably the best way to tackle organizational problems is by applying a model already tried and tested in business coaching. The GROW model is precisely that. GROW is an acronym in which each letter represents a step in the problem-solving process.
How it works:
- G - Goal: Align on the goal(s) you want to achieve. Be as precise as possible and include numbers, time frames, etc.
- R - Reality: Observe where you are on the journey to achieve your goal. What still lies ahead of you?
- O - Obstacles & Options: Which obstacles does your team currently face, and which challenges do you anticipate in the future? Consider various approaches to overcoming the (possible) roadblocks.
- W - Way forward: Write down concrete action steps that you will take moving forward, including responsibilities and timelines.
Watch this role play video to see how you can put GROW into action.
2. Assess personality types
Time: 60-90 minutes
Best for: Increasing empathy and enhancing teamwork
If your teammates constantly clash with each other, chances are they have different personality types. Understanding differences within your team is critical for good collaboration and teamwork, the pillars of successful problem-solving.
To get going, take a personality test together and learn about each other's strengths and weaknesses. Have a follow-up discussion to talk about how you can collaborate better in the future.
Question starters for your discussion:
- Were you surprised by your results?
- Where does your personality benefit your work?
- How can you balance out each other's weaknesses?
- How can you build on each other's strengths?
- Have you found a new appreciation for your teammates?
3. Have a well-being talk
Time: 60 minutes
Best for: Making sure your team is mentally prepared to tackle problems
If you feel like your team is lacking motivation and not on the top of their game, it may be time for a well-being check-in. Have an open conversation about mental health and your employees' feelings. Identify triggers for stress in the workplace; these typically include:
- Content of the job
- Role within the organization
- Professional development
- Work relationships
- Company culture
- Working conditions
- Personal reasons
Once you have identified the most prominent issues, create an action plan to improve your team’s mental well-being.
4. Online hackathon
Time: 24-48 hours
Best for: Boosting teamwork and innovation; Solving a specific problem in your organization
A hackathon is an event in which people of different disciplines come together to solve a common, real-world problem. It is the perfect activity for quickly innovating processes within your organization. Hosting a hackathon online allows you to invite team members from all around the world.
There are already great resources about organizing virtual hackathons available. To get you going, here’s a quick rundown on the most important steps:
- Settle on the problem that your team should tackle, develop the deliverables, and invite industry experts to serve as a jury
- Choose a video conferencing platform so the participants can stay in touch throughout the hackathon
- Divide your team into smaller action teams. This works best if you involve different departments to mix and match different strengths and skillsets
- When the day of the hackathon arrives, hold a kick-off meeting to explain the process of the event
- Have fun and get excited about great results
Virtual team building problem-solving activities
If your team is working in a remote or hybrid setting and you’re looking for some fun games that strengthen problem-solving skills, the following activities are a match.
Related: The best team building software tools & apps.
5. Yes, and …
Time: 5-15 minutes
Best for: A quick game to foster creativity and flexibility
One of the best ways to strengthen your team’s ability to think quickly and adapt to unknown scenarios is through improv games. This one is perfect for beginners as it doesn’t require any acting, and your team can participate from the comfort of their home office chairs.
To play the game, one person begins to tell a story, and the rest of the team has to build on it by replying with "yes, and". One after the other, everyone contributes one or two sentences, but people have to react quickly to keep the flow of the story going.
You can determine the order in advance, for example, by first name or age, or keep it open to increase the difficulty level.
6. Flash of genius
Time: 15- 20 minutes
Best for: Quick thinking, boosting creativity, healthy competition
Have you ever had a flash of inspiration at a random moment? The one that prompts you to jot down your brilliant idea on a piece of paper or a napkin? That’s what this game is all about.
Before the game starts, you have to prepare several problem statements. These can be real, like ‘A team from another department constantly messes up your work. What do you do?’ or imaginative, such as ‘Aliens have landed on planet earth and kidnapped humans. What do you do?’. During the session, the participants then need to develop solutions to these problems.
How it works:
- Split the team into small groups and ask everyone to write down their approaches on a digital collaboration board
- After two minutes of brainstorming, every team gets one more minute to decide on their number one solution
- For the finale, everyone presents their approach to the rest of the group
Time: 15-30 minutes
Best for: Thinking outside the box, risk evaluation, communication
Codenames was initially released as a card game but is now also available as an online version. In this game, two teams must try to identify agents hiding behind codenames.
How it works:
- The playing field consists of 25 cards labeled with codenames (random words)
- Both teams assign one spymaster who gets to see under which cards the agents for their team are hiding. The spymasters take turns giving their team members clues to find the right cards, but with one big restriction – they can only say one word.
- The goal is to find all the right words before the other team finishes.
To be the fastest team, it is useful to give clues that connect different terms, but players have to be careful not to guess the cards that belong to the other group. Thus, the participants must find the right balance between risk-taking and passing on an opportunity to score.
8. Domino effect
Price: 0- 29€/person
Time: 1h +
Best for: Collaborating asynchronously and working together on one goal
The idea behind this activity is simple; you knock over one object that sets a second in motion, which is followed by a whole chain of reactions. What makes it difficult is that the team has to create this domino effect without being in the same place. Therefore, each team member has to create one part of the process and film it.
This is what it looks like:
- Person 1 begins the series by knocking over a random object and making a video of it; let’s say they choose a ball that knocks down a book
- They inform person 2, who creates a video of a book falling onto a bottle.
- Then, person 3 has to start their video with a bottle falling on the object of their choice and so on.
- In the end, all videos are cut together.
The activity requires strategic thinking and good communication to have a consistent string of domino effects and is perfect for teams who work across different time zones. You can either set it up yourself or get a professional agency to support you.
9. Escape room
Time: 15-90 min.
Best for: Refining attention to detail and logical thinking with a gamified experience
If you’re not already familiar with the concept of escape rooms, you’re missing out! In short, your team has to solve various puzzles and riddles while following a mystery tale. Only if they find the hidden clues will they reach the solution and escape the room.
This makes escape rooms an excellent problem-solving team building activity for adults. Participants have to practice their patience and logical thinking. Virtual escape games usually take place over a video conferencing tool so participants can discuss their ideas as the game proceeds.
One of our favorite escape room experiences is this Sherlock-inspired detective story.
10. Panel of Experts
Time: 15-30 min.
Best for: Helping team members to step out of their comfort zone through improvisation
Panel of Experts is another improv game that is great for fostering creativity and spontaneity as your team will have to create dialogues without any prior preparation and script.
How it works:
- You determine one show host and two to four ‘experts’; the rest of the team will act as an audience.
- Everybody in the audience can call in a topic they would like the group to discuss for two minutes. Collect all ideas and agree on a topic to start with.
- The actors now have to engage in a conversation in their respective roles.
- After each round, assign the roles to new team members.
Your team will have collaboratively put up some entertaining scenes, and who knows, maybe you will discover some actual special-interest knowledge.
11. Sort the group
Time: 10-15 minutes
Best for: Improving communication; Getting to know your team
Sort the group exercises are exactly what they sound to be: As a team, you have to get in order following different attributes like height, age, duration at the company; you name it. The difficulty lies within the fact that you aren’t allowed to talk or write. Team members have to develop other ways to communicate and get in order.
Pro tip: You can open a shared document, write down the names of the participants and rearrange them until everyone agrees on the final result.
Offline problem-solving activities for team building
If you’re pumped to do some team building in person, we’ve picked the right activities for you.
12. The minefield
Time: 15-30 minutes
Best for: Practicing communication and listening skills and advancing trust between team members
This classic team building activity works very well to build trust in your team without the awkwardness of trust falls or entangling human knots. You’ll have to prepare a playing field beforehand, consisting of a starting and finishing line, and put some obstacles (e.g., bottles) in between.
How it works:
- Divide the team into several small groups. Each team lines up at the edge of the playing field.
- Each participant is given a blindfold to put on when it is their turn. You can use face masks or anything else to cover the eyes.
- After giving the go, the groups must try to guide their 'blind' teammates through the minefield using verbal instructions alone. If a person touches an object, they have to start over. If they make it through the minefield, the next person can start.
- The fastest team wins.
Pro tip: To make the game more difficult, you can rule that players cannot give directions (front, side, back) but must think of a code to guide their teammates.
13. Picking up trash
Time: 30 minutes - 3 hours
Best for: Teams looking to make a real impact beyond simple games
What better way to connect with your team than simultaneously doing something great for the environment? Have your team walk around the area around your office and pick up trash together. Afterward, you come together and brainstorm ideas on how to tackle the garbage problem. Maybe your neighborhood could profit from some more trash cans? Higher fines for littering? A better deposit system? Get creative!
You can also turn it into a challenge. To do so, divide your crew into smaller groups and assign each one the task of collecting as much rubbish as they can. After some time, you evaluate who had the most original approaches and picked up the most trash.
Either way, you train your problem-solving skills on a real-world issue and do some good for nature.
Time: 10-20 minutes
Best for: Fostering 1:1 conversations around work issues
While speed dating is best known for finding new romantic partners, it can also be applied to the working environment.
Here is how it works:
- Divide the team into two groups, one of which positions itself in an inner and the other in an outer circle. There should always be two people facing each other. If you’re an uneven number, create one pair that always moves together.
- A game leader asks a question for which both partners have one minute to answer.
- Then the inner circle moves so that two new team members are facing each other.
- The game ends when everyone has returned to their original partner.
Some questions to inspire your own:
- If you could change one thing in your workday, what would it be?
- Would you rather have more time or more money? Why?
- What would you do if your laptop suddenly just stopped working?
15. Scavenger hunt
Time: 2-3 hours
Best for: Fostering cross-team collaboration and boosting team morale
Another classic team-building activity that is great for promoting problem-solving. You have to work together as a team to find clues that will ultimately lead you to a goal.
As far as preparation goes, you will have to decide between setting up the activity yourself or a professional provider. Depending on which option you choose, you will have to invest more money or time (yes, we are referring to the last game here).
Either way, your joint search will have your team think outside the box and socialize with others.
What are the benefits of problem-solving team building activities for businesses?
Problem-solving is an essential skill for every team. In particular, strengthening your team member’s decision-making and adaptability skills will ensure that your daily operations run a bit smoother; say a new process isn’t going as planned, or an essential co-worker falls sick, your team will be able to handle it. You also set out your organization for success when facing more drastic challenges, such as, uh, a global pandemic or changes in the company’s strategy.
Some of the skills your team will improve on when regularly engaging in problem-solving team building activities are:
- Out-of-the-box thinking
Using team building problem-solving games
Investing time into team building activities that support problem-solving is the best way to empower your team in their abilities to overcome work challenges. Whether you’re an experienced leadership team looking to boost your decision-making and critical thinking skills or a young team working on collaboration and communication, these activities set you up for success.