Rocket Fuel for Group Collaboration

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How often have you pulled together a team for a brainstorm session or workshop, only to find that the group’s energy is low and it takes WAY too much time to get the creative juices flowing? It doesn’t matter if it’s first thing in the morning or early afternoon, teams often can’t get over the initial slump of group discussion and time is ultimately wasted.

There are many factors that contribute to this lackadaisical dilemma – individual guardedness, unclear meeting purpose and/or confusion around participation roles, to name a few. As such, you can always set proper expectations before, during and after the meeting, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to valuable discussion outcomes.

So, how can you get the most out of your time together? One way to get the blood pumping and mind nimble is by employing improv comedy exercises to start the meeting. These games bring individuals together and take the pressure off before you dig into the real work. Here are a few improv comedy exercises to prep the team for a fruitful discussion:

Pass the clap – great for energizing meetings

  1. Stand in a circle. Depending on the size of the group, you might want to break team members up into 2 or 3 groups.
  2. Choose a person to start the exercise. That person turns and faces the person to their left.
  3. They meet eyes and, without speaking, clap in unison. The goal is to only hear one clap.
  4. The second person then turns to the person on their left, and they repeat until the clap is moved around the circle back to the starting point.
  5. Once the team has the core idea, alternate passing the clap in a different order (e.g., first person passes the clap to someone across the circle, etc.). You can pass the clap in any direction or even a pair can pass it between themselves a few times.

This game is great for getting a group of people energized and “in the room” before starting a meeting, builds connections between individuals and increases team rapport. Plus, it’s super simple and doesn’t require a ton of explanation.

Building a story: “Yes, and…” – how to spark collaborative thinking

  1. Stand in a circle. Depending on the size of the group, you might want to break team members up into 2 or 3 groups.
  2. The first person begins a story by saying one sentence (e.g., “Bob went to the store yesterday.”)
  3. The person next to them says “Yes, (repeats what the person before them said) and…” They then add a new sentence to the story. (e.g., “Bob went to the store yesterday AND Bob picked up some power tools.”) NOTE: You only have to repeat what the person immediately before you said.
  4. Repeat around the circle until most group members have a chance to add to the story.
  5. Decide when to start wrapping the storylines up and finish.
  6. Everyone claps and you start a new story.

Overall, this game is a quick way to spark some collaborative creative thinking, as well as acknowledging that everyone has something unique to add to the story. Be sure to avoid editing or limiting the creativity that flows from this exercise. Saying “Yes, and…” is crucial to any successful group work session. Also, don’t think of things to say until it is your turn; truly listen to what the last person said and build on it.

Count to 20 – develops group awareness and unity

  1. Stand in a circle. Depending on the size of the group, you might want to break team members up into 2 or 3 groups.
  2. Everyone lowers their heads and closes their eyes.
  3. The goal is for the group to count to twenty, one person saying one number at a time. Anybody can start the count.
  4. Then, a different person says the next number – but if two or more people happen to speak at the same time, counting must start again from the beginning.
  5. It is possible to get to twenty if everybody really concentrates – try and be relaxed.
  6. Once you hit twenty (which might take a while), congratulate yourselves by clapping as a group.

Though it’s a simple exercise, it helps develop team awareness and gets people working towards a common goal. The game requires active listening and patience, both vital elements of successful group working sessions. If you don’t hit the goal in a designated amount of time, don’t worry about it. The point is the process, not the end (although, it’s surprising how good it feels to hit 20 as a group!).

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