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Teams working together activity


Good morning everyone,

I'm developing an internal training session, with an objective of having different teams and departments within the company review our core company values, and also realise the importance of teamwork (especially between teams) of working together.

Several years ago I undertook a group activity where we were split into two teams and we were given no real objective other than to chose between two colours. If I remember correctly, you were given some extra information on each choice, such as:

  • If you choose black and the other team choose black, you will each lose ten points
  • If you choose black and the other team choose red, you will earn thirty points
  • If you choose red and the other team choose black, you will lose five points
  • If you choose red and the other team choose red, you will earn ten points

A big part of the activity was to see how a team worked together to decide which choice to go with (and their reasoning behind it. However, the main learning point comes at the end when you reveal that the two teams aren't actually in competition with each other, they are two teams within the same organisation and therefore should have each time been choosing the safest possible way for each team to earn points (i.e. in the case above, both choosing red).

I think that this would be a perfect activity for this session, as the overall learning point is that we all have to work together. Unfortunately I have no idea what it's called! Does anyone know, or have an alternatives to try?

Thanks in advance all!

39 Responses

  1. Teams

    Hi Chutspah

    My experiences with internal team building is that it is usually done very badly and doesn’t achieve much apart from wasting everyones time.

    Not sure what your colour activity is but it doesn’t sound very effective.

    I would recommend this guy who is a former Police trainer who has some really good, interesting and very effective activities that actually work…


    Who killed the Baroness is really good!

  2. Thanks Sue!

    Thanks to Sue for providing exactly the correct activity I was thinking of!

    Steve, I understand your objections to internal team building exercises, but this is the brief I’m working to directly from the boss…. Not to sound like I’m not offering my opinion in meetings with him, of course I am. But this is the route he wants to try on this occasion.

  3. self fulfilling prophesy?

    Hi Chuzpah

    I’m not arguing with Steve’s comment but just because things "usually" aren’t well run and don’t usually produce the benefit intended shouldn’t put you off trying to make it work well.

    So long as the in house people learn from TZ rather than "The Office" it can be done!

    have a good weekend


  4. Shopping
    Afternoon Russ- is it that time already!

    I just think that Teambuilding is a much bigger subject than it’s ever given credit for.

    An “exercise from a book” is not really much use at all. You could send the team off to the seaside for the day and get the same results with much less effort.

    Far better to spend 500 quid on an expert who Team Builds for a living. That way your event has value and staff are for more receptive to an outsider than to someone they see in the lift every day!

    Have a great weekend!

  5. oh Steve….

    ….I couldn’t agree more, especially if the expert in question to whom the £500 is coming is me!


  6. Millitary

    Rus…I think you are ex army? (I am not ex military but have lots of experience with working with them)

    And I have to say…nobody does Teambuilding better than Military, Police and Fire Service…you would not find the Royal Marines playing the "red and black" or the "desert island"  thing where you have to decide what to take or leave…You might say "we are not the Roral Marines so why would we do this?"

    …by focusing on how the experts in teamwork do it we will eventually see the end of "desert island" and "read and black" type games…


  7. military teambuilding………

    Indeed I am ex Army (technically speaking I’m not "ex" yet since my Reserve commitment lasts til 2016, but who is splitting very short hairs?)

    Whilst I agree that the military is very good at teambuilding there are some aspects of military teambuilding that simply don’t transpose into the civilian world;

    1. The military consists almost exclusively of fit, healthy and able-bodied people; therefore their activities tend to reflect that factor and this may be completely inappropriate for a civilian context where the physical capacity of the team members may be far more varied.

    2. The shared values and ethos of the military team tend to be naturally stronger and more aligned; so you start from a different baseline.

    3. There is generally a higher acceptance of physical risk in the military environment so activities can be more challenging than in many civilian applications.

    4. There is a more natural situation of "all in the same boat"; in Afghanistan the officers and Senior NCOs also live in tents and ISO containers, they eat pretty much the same rations and they are just as susceptible to a roadside bomb or bullet as their troopers.  In the civilian world the CEO can say "we are all in the same boat" but it is the senior managers who decide which of the lower echelons get the P45, a pay freeze hurts those on a national average wage far more than those on £100k.

    5. The military generally has the facilities for the more physical teambuilding activities, which are somewhat less available to civilian organisations (at least not for no extra cost!)

    I also have to say that in the military we did engage in teambuilding activities of a purely cerebral nature, we did use simulation exercises with no physical aspects (or assets) but I have to say I can’t remember a single clappy-hand or tennis ball being used

    (It is worth noting that the survival exercises (rank the items to keep in order of importance) generally originate from places such as the Coast Guard (Lost At Sea) and military survival schools (Desert Survival) so…….)



  8. Shouting

    Rus…a fine answer if I may say so.

    I wasn’t suggesting that a military chap goes in to a civilian company and starts shouting and balling and gettiing little old ladies to do press ups!

    However…the kudos of having been in a service (military or otherwise) alone would give the event more credibility than a "trainer" who you often see at the bus stop shows up with an "exercise out of a book"…says "today we will have some fun" and asks everyone to stand in a line if your name begins with A or can all the Gemenis get together etc etc…all very jovial but completely pointless.

    We are in the middle of a very deep recesion so the strength of the team could mean sucess or failure…it deserves more than choosing whether you want to take a radio or your favourite lipstick to the desert island!


  9. Alternatively

    Steve Robson wrote: “I wasn’t suggesting that a military chap goes in to a civilian company and starts shouting and balling and gettiing little old ladies to do press ups! However…the kudos of having been in a service (military or otherwise) alone would give the event more credibility than a "trainer" who you often see at the bus stop shows up with an "exercise out of a book"…says "today we will have some fun" and asks everyone to stand in a line if your name begins with A or can all the Gemenis get together etc etc…all very jovial but completely pointless.”

    This is interesting isn’t it? From my experience and perspective the fact that the team related event is being run by existing or ex military personnel wouldn’t influence my view of its credibility at all. I have experienced both good and bad facilitation by (in all my cases) ex army personnel and it’s led me to believe that what matters is the up front analysis and the development of the programme to address the performance issues. Followed by the skills and talents of the individual running and delivering the event.

    I have observed that an event facilitated by ex armed forces might not have The ‘Desert Island’ exercise but the ‘Get The Barrel Across the Gap’ has certainly raised its head just as frequently. Can both of these exercises be of benefit? In my opinion; yes definitely, but that’s reliant on whether these exercise was relevant and pertinent to the target group’s issues and challenges and then how the activity was reviewed and debriefed and the learning then carried through in to changes in work place behaviour.

    There was one event I was involved with down in the Brecon Beacons with a major truck manufacturer which was facilitated by two ex RMA Sandhurst Training Officers, it was pitiful. They’d projected army values and working methods into a context and culture without recognising the mismatch and the result was shambolic. As a counterpoint to this with one of my previous employers The Impact Development Group up in the Lake District I worked with an ex army colleague and to say her sensitivity skills and ability to focus on the real issues was exemplary is to do her a disservice, she was remarkable. It has also been my pleasure to work with civilians who were more than capable and equally exceptional in designing and working on team events.

    Just by way of showing off, the attached photograph is one of my favorite shots which I took during an ex army facilitated event I worked on.

  10. The Military Way

    Gary, you make some good points and I too have experienced the very best and the very very worst of practice when dealing with Military (ex or otherwise)

    One particularly memorable incident was when "George" kicked a table across the room when the poor student wasn’t listening…nice touch!

    However…I have worked with some Royal Marines who were excellent, in manner, skills and rapport with the course attendees.

    The point I was making was that "Teambuilding" is so often seen as a bit of fun anyone can do from a book but if it’s worth doing then it’s worth doing properly.

    Wonder where "George" is working these days… :-/

  11. In for a penny

    Great debate,

    It strikes me as with the majority of topics, including Teambuilding.  That it all comes down to the Trainer / Facilitator and what they can bring to the table.

    Being ex forces myself, I would love to get my participants onto the old Trainasium at Aldershot however this isn’t going to happen.  So it’s up to me to bring the topic to life with exercises / examples that relate to the company culture and issues being experienced within.

    In my opinion there is a place for the Desert Island and Red / Black game if it can help highlight what isn’t working within a team and more importantly, how to attempt to resolve it.

    I’m now having flash backs to the good ol’ days in Browning Barracks.

  12. Challenge

    Ok heres a challenge…especially to those that support the red and black game, desert island game or can all the leos go and stand in the corner game etc etc

    I witnessed an ex Metropolitan Police trainer deliver a really interesting session.

    The scenario involves a murder, numerous possible culprits, numerous challenges to our perception of guilt and most importantly a scenario that will ensure that by the end of it we are all working together to solve the mystery of "who did it"

    The session is extremely thought provoking and designed to ensure that everyone involved explores their own prejudices and emotions and takes the time to explore the prejudices and emotions of the rest of the team…resulting in a much better understanding of how our colleagues think and behave…

    So…go stand in the corner with all the Leos, choose which lipstick you will take to the island or… be challenged?

    Lets throw out all the silly games and call in the experts for teambuilding!


  13. question to your challenge…

    who gets the right to decide the "game" is "silly"……I know one or two people in this world who would take one look at your cludo-style example and simply dismiss it as a "game" when they have "work" to do….in the Army we used to call it "fighting the pink"; an oppositional reflex to virtually anything that isn’t a mirror of what they find at their desk.


    Yes, sometimes some trainers do use silly games and your example of "all the Leo’s" is clearly silly (unless it is simply a 10 second way of getting a random group out of the class, which will actually be quicker than asking for a random group!)


  14. Interesting Thread

    Interesting thread to cactch up with, with some useful input. 


    I have to challenge you on this one.  In your first response, you state:

    "Not sure what your colour activity is but it doesn’t sound very effective."

    And in your final post you end with:

    "So…go stand in the corner with all the Leos, choose which lipstick you will take to the island or… be challenged?

    Lets throw out all the silly games and call in the experts for teambuilding!"

    Whilst respecting your right to your opinion, I’m not sure how you can throw something out that you are not sure what is involved in. 

    All the best,




  15. Geminis to Experts

    That certainly sounds like a very interesting session and I completely agree that all training should be delivered by the ‘Experts’.

    However my one niggling thought is, how did they become experts ?  I would hazard a guess that way back when, it involved holding a lipstick, standing in the corner with other Geminis.

  16. Red and Black


    If I was asked to do this…

    • If you choose black and the other team choose black, you will each lose ten points
    • If you choose black and the other team choose red, you will earn thirty points
    • If you choose red and the other team choose black, you will lose five points
    • If you choose red and the other team choose red, you will earn ten points

    I would make my excuses and leave.

    The days of throwing tennis balls, fluffy toys, "who wants to be a millionaire" are long gone…if trainers and training want to be taken seriously then "we" have to raise our game and stop delivering exercises from a "book of 100 tried and tested icebreakers" "energisers that really work" etcetc etc etc…

    It doesn’t have to be a military thing or a police thing but it does have to be better than choosing lipstick!

  17. Game theory

    Sorry Steve, I am going to call you out as wrong on the Prisoner’s Dilemma poo-pooing. Just google Prisoner’s Dilemma to find out a whole raft of reasons why this is a valuable activity, based on good solid scientific research.

    I find few things as useful for highlighting behaviours within a team. No it doesn’t solve the teamworking issues but it does help turn a spotlight onto individual’s behaviours and how this impacts on the wider team. The real skill of course is then how to take this realization and mould into something beneficial for the team.

    Sometimes some of us within organizations don’t have the benefit or luxury of calling in the consultants or specialists, we just have to play with the hand we’re dealt. And the majority of us are pretty damn good at it. Please remember that when challenging the efforts of alot us battle-weary L&D folk.


  18. Specialists?


    "Sometimes some of us within organizations don’t have the benefit or luxury of calling in the consultants or specialists"

    By "specialist" I am assuming you are refering to the self employed trainer who charges between £300 and £700 / day depending on what he/she is doing. The majority of people who read these posts are self employed trainers so not sure what your problem is with that?

    If the alternative is a "do it yourself teambuilding" from a book from Amazon then quite frankly I wouldn’t bother.

    As for "Prisoners Dilemma"…I just googled it and it sounds like Golden Balls on Channel 4…I could think of many things I would do before I got that one out of the cupboard.

    I’m sure there are many stories from people who have different opinions but I just cringe when I see such activities…

  19. Nice debate I’ve started!

    All that I can say is that I’m glad I’ve sparked such a discussion! 🙂

    Whilst I see the merits in bringing in an ‘expert’, it’s naive to assume that this will always be the perfect fit in every situation. There’s obviously the cost issue, and whilst I’m sure we disagree  on this, it’s not as simple as saying "if the company isn’t willing to pay this then it’s not worth bothering with doing anything at all", especially if you are training more than one group across more than one day.

    There was also a point made about most on here being self employed trainers on a similar daily rate anyway – also not true in all cases!

    Final point I will make for now is that I think different people will react in different ways to any training approach/exercise you attempt. I know I do! Every time I’ve ever had to do some sort of trait analysis on myself (i.e. "I am usually an active person"…. "I handle stress well"….) I despair as I spent ages studying and debunking them at university, yet I know others who absolutely love doing them.

    So maybe this activity won’t work. But within the context of our organisation it’s the first time anything like this has been tried, the boss is willing to give it a go and hopefully with the feedback mechanisms we have in place will report back if it was really hated and not useful. Then maybe next time I’ll have some ammunition to get some more budget! 😉

    I’m sure they’ll be plenty on here who disagree with a fair wedge of what I’ve said, maybe I’m the naive one, but hey the debate is healthy!

    Take care everyone.

  20. Good Luck

    Morning Chutspah

    Thank you for taking my ramblings in the manner in which they were intended…and good luck with your event.

    I hope you will let us know hoe it went!

    Best wishes



  21. Red and Black Activity

    I have followed the discussion with interest.  What really caught my attention was the suggestion that a trained facilitator would charge between £300 – £700 per day.  If this is really what a company is being charged, I would suggest that, in itself, indicates that the person in question probably has:

    •  No experience: a rookie,  just starting out
    • Not invested sufficiently in their own skills and qualifications
    •  Is not up to the job and may well have purchased their activities online or copied them out of a book
    •  Has no commercial/ business sense
    •  Is desperate for work
    • Or is working as a hobby or doing it for charity
    • Add your own…….

    I certainly would think twice if someone was charging me such low rates for a day’s facilitation.  This does professional facilitators no favours as it is unlikely that any company paying such a low daily fee will achieve their desired outcomes. 

    Hoda Lacey

  22. How Much


    So Bazzie…how much do you charge and for what? 

    Its no good saying I posted something wrong when you don’t offer to tell me what the figure for a days training (talking about Teambuilding, not anything more here)

    Of course you can pay up to £2000 / day + but certainly not for anything at the level this post is about!

    (I can get a world leading expert for a lot less than £2000 a day with more qualifications than they can fit on their business card so very much looking forward to your reply)

     PS: I am guessing that there are now quite a few Freelance Trainers glued to the screen to see how they could improve their daily rate!

    PPS: I have a freind who works for a leading city bank who pays about 3 times the going rate for trainers that we would…same trainer, same course, different budgets!

  23. teams working together

    Hi, I hope I understand your question and reasoning behind it.  However, it’s a bit like asking someone to reveal her/his salary. 

    What I can say is that, depending on the preparation behind the delivery, I would start my charges at £997 plus expenses (plus VAT).  My prices are going up this year. 

    In order to design and deliver a full day’s development, I allow a good 12 hours of preparation.  Even if I am delivering a programme "in stock", I update, personalize, change case studies and activities according to the new client.  It takes time to research the client, their mission, their values, the time taken in pre-delivery meetings.  I am not even charging what it actually costs me in time but that’s calculated as part of my business plan.

    I should also add that I used to work as an associate for a number of organisations in the past (say, 10 years ago) who were charging me out (then!!!) at starting from £1500 per day and paying me a fraction of that.  Although they were clearly doing all the marketing, I quickly learned to value my own contribution to their profits.

    So, where are you at, Steve?  Are you also prepared to be as open as I am?  If you wish to reply off-line you can find me at

    I think we could have a really positive discussion and learn from each other.


    Smiles from Hoda

  24. Money

    Hi Hoda

    I certainly wasn’t inquiring about your rates but the rates you describe seem perfectly reasonable, depending what you are delivering.

    One thing I would add is that the amount you pay is no relation to the quality you get, in fact the more technical the subject I would suggest the more you pay would certainly result in poorer quality training as extremely technical people are not the best trainers usually. (but they do get high rates because there are so few of them)

    The activity that this post is about from the ex police trainer costs between £300 and £700 because he does it day in day out…it’s his bread and butter and requres vitually no preparation.

    However…if I went on to the open market for a Teambuilding / Motivational Trainer / Soft Skills I don’t think I would be spending much more than £700 or £800 / day. (Unless I was in Carnary Wharf where £700 is the new £2500!)

  25. A potential clients response

    Hi all

    Having followed the debate I am appalled at the arrogance of some of the comments made.

    Some internal L&D professionals happen to be highly qualified and competent in their specialst areas.   Many have better qualifications and experience than a lot of freelance training consultants, and are more than capable of running a teambuilding session. 

    Did you really mean to be quite so insulting to your potential client base Steve? 









  26. Insulting


    Please give 1 single example of me being insulting to anyone?

    Please don’t make accuasations without substantiating them…thanks.

    Every "bad practice" I have referred to I have actually seen…and apart from "George" the culprits remain nameless!

  27. team building

    "My experiences with internal team building is that it is usually done very badly and doesn’t achieve much apart from wasting everyones time."

    Comments along the lines above are actually quite insulting to those of us working within organisations –  the implication being you consider us incompetent.    As an corporate L&D director I was insulted.  

    Take the feedback Steve – perception is after all reality.  Networking on sites such as TZ can be a very positive sales tools and build reputations,  equally you can alienate potential clients through misjudged comments.







  28. Huh?


    "My experiences with internal team building is that it is usually done very badly and doesn’t achieve much apart from wasting everyones time."

    I stick by this…if you do not fall in to that category then good on you and I’m glad your sessions are successful.

    How you can take a general opinion from me and make it personal to you is beyond me?

  29. feedback

    Its feedback Steve – its up to you if you want to act on it.  I am not going to waste time arguing the validity of my perspective with you.



  30. Very sad

    This discussion has been a real eye opener for me. Until Bridget entered the debate, I thought I was on a different planet (perhaps I am). Three points from me:

    1) I thought Chutzpah gave a very good repsonse / summary at 20.10 on whatever day it was (yesterday?)

    2) As a former Head of L&D and now a provider, I can fully understand where Bridget is coming from and the negative feelings this thread has created.

    3) I have been both astonished and shocked by the amount of ‘judging books by covers’ in many of the posts. Very sad. 


  31. Feedback


    Thanks for the feedback but I didn’t ask for it. Your opinions about the subject would be fantastic particularly if you have a good team building activity you would like to share but please do not make comments about "me"…not allowed!

    In response to your feedback…I am not self employed, don’t need clients, am absolutely certain that outside trainers are better at certain types of training than internal trainers (I am an internal trainer!) and am as entitled to my opinions as you are.



  32. Team Building internal v external facilitators

    Hi, the discussion seems to have taken a dramatic turn, and I’m not quite sure how or why! 

    Anyway, Steve, I agree with you that if someone is delivering bread and butter training, day in and day out, rather than tailor made, course notes, training aids, marketing, before and aft reports etc. then that is indeed a great daily rate.  I wish I had that luxury!

    And, Bridget, your title speaks volumes.  You are a L & D professional.  My experience coincides with those of Steve only when I am dealing with a team leader, or line manager, who undertakes to deliver training., without any train the trainer or facilitation skills.  It’s the old "unconscious competence" model.  An excellent driver is not necessarily an excellent driving instructor.

    I am currently working with an internal training executive in order to improve her design and delivery skills.  She has recently qualified as an NLP practitioner and will make a really good internal resource. In time,  she can replace much of what I do for her company and, although it hits my pocket, I am delighted to be able to help them up their skill levels and save them money.  I know I will get other referrals from such a satisfied customer.

    Incidentally, my user name was borne of frustration at one point when I couldn’t get the website to accept my password.  I re-registered as Bazzie (my cat) as I never thought it would appear on all my posts!  Now I need to find a way to change my user name back to my own 🙂 

    Hoda Lacey 

  33. Sad?

    "Very sad"

    Not as sad as I am when I take a train half way up the country to be met by a "Trainer" who says "today we will have some fun"…ppt slide with "domestics" written on it…a pencil with a funny plastic animal on the top…"tell us something funny about yourself"…I could go on…

    Of course "you" don’t do this but so may do…the above is just the start of the bad practice that is out there!

    Huge recession…high demand for improving performance…which lipstick shall I take to my Island?


  34. Slightly Worried

    This thread has certainly caused a few ripples and I for one have enjoyed it.

    I genuinely respect all posters who are prepared to put forward their own stance on topics, however I am finding the level of personal bashing quite uncomfortable. Particularly at the regular posters who take the time and effort to share their experiences.

    As professionals, surely we accept that our own opinion is just that and whilst we may try to educate and influence others, it isn’t our place to dominate them.

    It seriously concerns me that if posters can be this opinionated on here, what are they capable of in a Training environment where they are seen as the ‘expert’. Which again goes back to the main crux of this discussion.

    Do you get what you pay for? Sometimes

    Can we learn from others experiences? Yes

    Is there a place for a lipstick in the corner? Yes, for some.

    Does the Red / Black exercise work? Yes, if it’s appropriate.

    Am I about to get bashed? Probably

  35. even more worried…..

    I very much hope that none of the comments that I have made on this thread have caused any offence to anyone: if they have I’d like to offer my humble apologies and to assure all that no offence or insult was intended in any of my comments to anyone.

    As a self employed associate I have the utmost respct for the people who ultimately pay my mortgage, feed my children and subsidise the work I do for charities either for very little money or nothing.

    IF anyone has been insulted by any of my comments and they’d like to berate me in private rather than a public slanging match please feel free to email me direct; rusdotslateratskydotcom and provide me with some feedback, I’d welcome the chance to improve my public image.


  36. Help Wanted
    Rus, Gary

    Nobody has been insulted as far as I can see so as far as I am concerned an apology isn’t necessary.

    If ideas have been criticised (mostly by me) then by all means tell me why I’m wrong and more importantly, which particular
    sector the “what to take on the island game” would be best used as there is no better alternative. I can’t think of one and I have worked in many.

    I do find it amazing that all those professionals who claim to have been insulted are not trying to help the many people on here who post “how can I do this…” messages instead of focusing on this one.

    The person at the top of this page has had 74 reads but only 2 responses…I for one would love to hear what these people have to
    say and maybe learn some new ways of doing things…

  37. Car Crash TV

    Hey Steve,

    I like your and others criticism / suggestions, as this allows me to challenge my own viewpoint, ultimately ‘Up my game’ and benefit my participants.

    Without the likes of You, Rus, Gary, Nick, Mike and countless others. This site wouldn’t be the resource that so many of us need and enjoy on a daily basis.

    When discussions start mentioned fees and what people are ‘worth’, I personally find it fascinating and amusing at the same time. I would rather have a full calendar at one rate, than feel superior to others because I charge a higher rate, yet not have as many bookings. Maybe some believe I’m selling myself short but that’s MY decision.

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