Cooperative Group Activities – 
Team Challenges to Inspire You

When it comes to cooperative group activities, we’ve got lots of options for you to consider.

From music-based and artistic tasks to mental and physical challenges,no stone has been left unturned!

Here, we look at quick team challenges that take up to an hour each.

If you decide this isn't for you, make sure you look at our index of corporate team building activities. 

What Are They?

Team challenges are a particular type of team building exercise. The temptation is to put everything into the same camp. Resist!

You’ll get more out of cooperative group activities if you understand what different types of activities can achieve.

The clue is in the name: team challenges. You take people out of their usual environment and give them tasks designed to test each team member in a multitude of ways. 

Cooperative group activities team challenges

It’s all about developing teamwork synergy through a little thing called experiential learning.

This term may sound like a management buzz phrase. In short, experiential learning theory simply says that people learn best by doing.

During a team challenge, team members will experience teamwork in action.

As they strive to complete the challenge - which can be anything from building a ‘bridge’ to juggling to solving a puzzle - they’ll discover the secrets of effective teamwork for themselves.

Different Types of Team Challenges

There’s a huge variety of different challenges, but the focus in all of them is firmly on team collaboration.

Some revolve around problem solving. Test your creativity by figuring out how to drop an egg out of a window without breaking it (see You Tube video on this page). Or try a task such as ‘Toxic Waste’, one of the classic small group activities. It simply requires a bungee cord, bucket and a rope. The team has to work out how to safely move a bucket of ‘toxic’ waste to the detox area.

Other team challenges are about achieving a specific goal. Take’ All Aboard!’, for example. The aim is simple – teams have to support each other physically to ensure everyone stays within an ever-decreasing space. For more ideas for these kind of cooperative group activities, see 'Cups Up' on our free team building exercises page.

There are also games where teams compete to get the top score. On a team building day I did with my team, everyone enjoyed a team juggling exercise. We were split into three teams of about ten people. The concept was easy to understand….we had to keep a ball in the air for as long as possible, but no-one could touch the ball more than once in a row. The team with the highest number of touches without the ball hitting the ground won.

I found the challenge deceptively simple. It actually tested strategy development, plus how the team made decisions and allocated roles to team members.

A Team Challenge Event?

Team challenges are by nature cooperative group activities that depend on clear communication and collaboration.

However, if you want to introduce more of a competitive element, you can create a half or full day event where teams compete on a series of team challenges. You can award teams points based on their performance and the success or partial completion of the tasks. As teams progress through the challenges, their success as a team should also increase as they experience what works for them. Tally up the results at the end of the event to work out who was the winning team on the day.

Many external team building companies can assist you with this type of event. If you live in a major city, there may even be venues permanently set up to deliver this form of corporate team building.

What Do They Achieve?

Choose your team challenge carefully and you’re onto a winner. Here are just some of the possible benefits:

  1. Improve collaboration techniques – teams will experience elements of cooperation in working together to complete the task at hand.
  2. Enhance creative problem solving skillss – team challenges often require imaginative thinking to overcome an obstacle.
  3. Illustrate the importance of teams and teamwork. Sounds obvious… but sometimes people benefit from trying a task specifically designed to enhance teamwork quality.
  4. Surface hidden issues – team challenges can highlight strengths or weaknesses of a team, and allow group conflict to be observed in a safe environment
  5. Understand where the team is at as a group - cooperative group activities can help team members understand their communication patterns and diagnose how the team is functioning

Can Team Challenges Be Tailored to Suit Specific Needs?

Absolutely. The beauty of using these activities is that they’re incredibly adaptable.

For example, they can be tailored to tackle a specific teamwork issue. Maybe you’re experiencing issues with workplace cooperation. Perhaps group decision-making skills could use someimprovement.

An experienced external consultant will be able to advise you on the suitability of specific challenges. Discuss the specific areas you want to address with them before the day. If you want to tackle some tough issues like poor teamwork, or are expecting some team conflict, I’d highly recommend having an experienced professional on hand to facilitate.

Can I Organise Team Challenges Myself?

Yes you can.

If you have limited or no experience in cooperative group activities, it won’t take you long to get up to speed on some basic team challenges. Just make sure you allow:

  • 5-10 minutes for understanding the challenge, communicating and planning

  • The recommended time for teams to implement their plan and perform the challenge. Tasks usually take a minimum of 15-20 minutes to perform

  • 10-15 minutes for assessing how the team went. Review team performance in an indirect, non-judgemental manner. Consider what was and wasn’t achieved, how the team communicated and made decisions and what could have been improved.

The debriefing and evaluation is a vital part of the process. Be sure you don’t leave out this part.

There are heaps of resources to help you.

Many take the form of kits that come complete with equipment. These are really good if you’re on a budget. The tools inside these kits are designed to be used in multiple games and come with books that explain how to run them. Nice and adaptable, they’re usually portable and can be used at all sorts of venues.

They include everything from clip together tubes for bridge building to blindfolds, juggling balls,magic sticks, ropes and barrier tape.

I quite like Teamwork Cards too. You'll find a video which shows a sample game from the accompanying book.

And I just couldn’t resist sharing this! The humble roll of duct tape is now used for cooperative group activities. Who knew?

Looking for something longer?

Ideas for longer team challenges include activities like:

  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Tournament-based events like the crazy ‘It’s a Knockout’
  • TV based team challenges such as Team Apprentice
  • Military-style cooperative group activities such as Survivor.

More cooperative group activities are available on 
the Corporate Team Building Activities index page.

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