Team Building

Team Building

Team building is a critical part of the Odyssey of the Mind Program, and for some participants, being part of a team is their favorite part of the Odyssey experience. It takes time and conscious effort to truly create a “team” mindset, sort of an “all for one, one for all” mentality in which the team embraces and values its members, celebrating their individuality, and appreciating the team’s single the final solution. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

In this website’s Resource section, you’ll also find some good links for team building activities and strategies.
A Few Team Building Activities
Battle of the Airbands

What You’ll Need: Speakers, smartphone or mp3 player

Instructions: Ever seen a Lip Sync Battle? Expand the idea to a full battle of the airbands. Split your group up into teams of 3-4 people and let them decide who will be the singers, guitarists, drummers, etc. Give them some time to choose, rehearse, and perform a lip synced version of whatever school-friendly song they like. If they have a few days, teams can dress up or bring props. After the performances, teams can vote on the winner (with the caveat that no one can vote for their own band). Or, let another Odyssey team in on the fun and have them choose the winner.

Back-to-Back Drawing

What You’ll Need: Paper, pens/markers, printouts of simple line drawings or basic shapes.

Instructions: Split your group into pairs and have each pair sit back to back. One person gets a picture of a shape or simple image, and the other gets a piece of paper and pen. The person holding the picture gives verbal instructions to their partner on how to draw the shape or image they’ve been given (without simply telling them what the shape or image is). After a set amount of time, have each set of partners compare their images and see which team drew the most accurate replica.


Pick a team member to become a lighthouse and one to be a ship. The rest of the team members are rocks. Blindfold the ship. In the boundary area (ocean), have the rocks set in a spot and freeze. Sand the lighthouse at one end of the ocean and the ship at the other end. Have the lighthouse guide the ship, by giving verbal directions through the rock hazards to safety. Make sure the rocks spot the ship in case of it sinking on the rocks.

Team Coat of Arms

What You’ll Need: Paper, pens, markers

Instructions: Have teams create your company coat of arms. In the first space, draw something that represents a recent achievement. In the second space, draw something that reflects your team’s special qualities, talents, and values. In the third space, draw something that represents the team’s vision of their Odyssey Season. Bring out the finished coat of arms at some of the meetings, especially if the team needs a refresher about their special team attributes.

Standing Twister or Knots

Put the group in a huddle. Each person extends his or her right hand and grabs the hand of another person in the huddle. Each person then extends his or her left hand and grabs a different person’s hand. No two people should be holding the same hand. The object is to have the group untangle themselves slowly without ever letting go of hands. Some people will have to step over other people; some will go under people; some will get twisted and have to untwist and turn to unravel themselves. — It is important for your team to both work together and to laugh together. We hope your group is working well and that they – and you -are having fun.

Facilitating Teams

Facilitating a team can be quite a challenge, but it can also be very rewarding. In approaching this challenge it is important to remember that the facilitator provides the process through which the team develops the content. So, the facilitator cannot offer answers or solutions, but by guiding them through an effective process they can help the team make progress toward their goals.

Effective Team Process

An effective team process is one that leverages the strengths of the individual members into a results the individuals would not have achieved individually. This is sometimes referred to as synergy, where the results of the whole (the team) is greater than the sum of its parts (individual members). The key is to get participation from every member, keep them focused on the goal, and guide them by way of a formula or process, but not by providing actual content. We can accomplish this by using various techniques that are easily learned and can be readily applied.

3 Basic Process Techniques

There are many process techniques to facilitate teams, but the following 3 basic techniques are recommended for those who are building facilitation skills. These techniques can be used in the phases a team goes through in its normal progress toward reaching solutions or determining actions. In the use of these techniques it is recommended that ‘public recording’ be used so that the team can see their ideas and progress toward their goal. Most commonly, this is achieved through the use of a whiteboard or ‘flipcharts’ and colored markers.


The most straightforward technique for gathering ideas is brainstorming. The idea is to collect as many ideas as possible in a short period of time. You can go around the group in ’round robin’ fashion to make sure everyone participates evenly. Capturing the ideas and posting them on flip charts on the wall helps the group see the progress they are making. There is one rule in brainstorming: every idea is a good idea. Simply write them all down without discussion and in a few minutes you can have 20 or 30 good ideas. Stop when the group runs out of steam or you sense that the quality of the ideas is waning.

Facilitated Discussion

After gathering these ideas, it is a good idea to try to eliminate duplicate ideas, combine ideas that are related, and trim off ideas that might not move the team toward its goal. You can do this by explaining this objective to the team and then simply guide them through a discussion of the ideas. This discussion might even lead to adding a few new ideas to the list. Ask questions about the ideas to stimulate the group. For example:

Does everyone understand this idea the way it is written? How does this idea help us solve our problem? Is this idea one that we can combine with something else on our list? Can we expand on this idea to make it better?


This technique is most effective when you have a large list of ideas that you need to boil down to 5 or 10. With your ideas posted on the walls, you simply give everyone a certain number of ‘votes’. Each team member gets 10 post-it notes which they can use to ‘vote’ for the ideas they like best. After everyone has voted, the votes are tabulated and the ideas with the highest number of votes are the ones the team will consider as its final solution. If one solution is clearly the ‘favorite’ you can stop right there, or you can do another round of voting to ‘pick’ the final answer. You may want to have an in-depth discussion about the ideas prior to the ‘final’ round. Sometimes the top 2 vote-getters can be combined to make an even better solution.

Quick tips for facilitating:

  • Explain the process/technique before diving in
  • Maintain impartiality toward ideas
  • Keep the process moving
  • Make sure everyone is involved, especially quieter members
  • Ask probing questions if an idea is not clearly stated
  • Paraphrase if needed to clarify an idea
  • Encourage divergent views
  • Summarize before moving on to the next step/technique

Remember that facilitation is an art and it takes time and practice to perfect techniques. With new teams the challenge is even greater because the members are still trying to learn how to relate to each other. If the group is struggling with this you may want use the first 5 minutes of every session to ‘break the ice’. This can be a simple guessing game or practicing brainstorming something totally unrelated to your actual goals. There are entire books and websites devoted to “Icebreaker” activities that can help get your team working together through games.

Adapted from VOICES