2 Games to Get Your Team in a Creative and Collaborative Mindset
Getting teams to collaborate is not easy, especially under high uncertainty and pressure, such as when you urgently need their input to design a new strategy or product feature.
Some managers possess creative leadership skills, and know what to do. But the ones who don’t are stuck in a condition where they need a tool of sorts to trigger their team to communicate more and provide useful input.
Often, their first place to turn for advice is corporate trainers or Learning & Development (L&D) professionals, hoping they’ll be able to give them something. If you’re like me, you’d think that, in general, the best option is to provide intensive training to everyone on creativity, communication, and interaction. That takes time, though, and you may not have much of it, plus it can be a hard sell to upper management.
What you can do instead is provide leaders with specific tools and activities they can use out of the box with their teams to get everyone in the right mindset in a short time.
Here are two examples: two games that take only 5 to 10 minutes and are a perfect way to get everyone in the same creative and collaborative mindset before a meeting. The first one is called “I have a gift,” and the second one is called “convergence.”
I Have a Gift
Start by dividing everyone in your team in pairs (if they’re an odd number, three people can play together).
We’ll label them A and B.
- A starts by telling B, “I have a gift for you,” and mimics passing a box to B.
- B then takes the imaginary box, opens it, and reveals what’s inside. For example: “Oh, it’s a corkscrew.”
- At that point, A needs to justify why he or she gave that gift to B. For example, A could say “I gave it to you because I know you always lose them around the house.”
- Then A and B invert roles, and B starts again by offering a gift to A.
This is a fun and quick game to play, and while simple on the surface, it taps into complex team dynamics that are conducive to co-creation and communication.
The basic idea is that everyone is forced to act as if each gift were real and each justification planned—even though this is obviously not the case: B came up with the object on the spot and A had to justify it as best he or she could.
In doing so, participants get used to:
- Focusing on and paying attention to what others are saying
- Accepting the other person’s input and building on it instead of challenging it
- Letting go of their positions and mutually cooperating to create something instead
These attitudes turn out to be very effective in meetings where everyone is supposed to cooperate. What’s more, they are often exactly the opposite of the attitudes people bring into a meeting if their mind is still on their other tasks.
Sure, you could explain all these concepts and make a big deal out of them, but by presenting it all as a game, you can pass them on without encountering resistance—and no resistance is precious when you don’t have much time.
Place everyone in a circle, and have them think of a word, any word.
- The first person who wants to share their word with others says, “One”—this lets everyone know they have something.
- The second person who wants to share their word says, “Two.”
- Those two people then make eye contact and count to three in unison, and then say the word they thought of at the same time. They probably will be completely unrelated—for example, “banana” and “blue.”
Those two words now become a reference for the next turn: The goal of the whole team becomes to find a word that somehow connects “banana” and “blue.”
To get there, everyone will think of what could be between “banana” and “blue” (it could be “yellow” or “sky,” for example—there’s no right or wrong).
As soon as one person has a word in mind, they will say, “One.” Someone else will follow with “Two,” and then they’ll count again in unison and say their words.
The cycle then starts again, trying to find the word that connects “yellow” and “sky” (such as “sun,” for example) and the game finishes when two people say the same word after counting up to three.
Again, an apparently basic game, but one that is able to bring 100 percent of the team’s focus to what is happening in the room and to what others are thinking about.
It helps people connect and use words that others could easily build upon, and most importantly, it helps everyone break away from their thoughts and tasks outside of the room.
In my experience, people often are skeptical about this game in the first round, but as soon as they realize how quickly they can get to saying the same word together, they become enthusiastic about it and very engaged in the process.
I have used these games for several years and they have never failed me, so I encourage you to use and share them.
If you pass them on to your leadership team, and encourage their use before every meeting when they need input from others, you will make a strong impact on the effectiveness of those meetings and also indirectly heighten the leadership skill level throughout your organization.
Edoardo Binda Zane of EBZ Coaching has been working in and heading seven-figure business and policy projects for a large part of his career. He now combines that experience with other areas to develop skills in teams and individuals. Binda Zane is also the host of the Snippets of Leadership Podcast.