Learning with games and fun on the agenda

Team building is seen as a serious endeavour. So why would you want to add games and fun to this environment?

According to Maarten van Aalst, the director of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, “Games are an excellent means to get through often complex messages of scientists and can help bring about real change”. When playing games, the participants are learning.

In 2009, Volkswagon initiated thefuntheory.com program. They have created a contest and a web site which has the aim to:

This site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.

In the video below, a research team decided to use fun as a means of increasing the use of the recycling bin on the street.

Games add an element of fun to your team building program. Through this fun, you can lighten the serious mood and re-engage the participants with the subject matter. In addition games help the team members to both create and strengthen social ties with their fellow team members. This is turn helps to unite them in their learning.

Here is another way that a fun theory team found to alter human behaviour. This is a new way to do an old behaviour. Putting rubbish in the bin has not always been top priority for everyone. But add a bit of fun and it can become so.

We may not want the games in training sessions to radically change behaviour but we do want them to change into effective team members. How well we achieve this goal depends on:

  • the quality of the games being played
  • the fit of the games to the needs of the team members
  • what games are best for that stage of the team development cycle
  • the choice of game based on the goals of the team and/or the training session during which the game is played
  • the participation level of team members.
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Why use games in team building

There are many reasons for using games in your team building program. The most important reason for most facilitators is that games can add an element of fun. In the other training activities, fun may not be the foremost goal. Games can entice team members to become involved. Team members will interact with each other in a different type of activity from the rest of the training program. Thus, games bring them together in a new situation. While participating, they get to know another side to their team mates.

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Some of the other reasons are listed below.

  • Participating in games provides team members with an opportunity for movement that can be sadly lacking in the daily training/school routine.
  • Physical activity/movement promotes an increase in brain activity and re-energises the body.
  • Both increased brain, muscle activity lead to increased blood flow that will both refocus attention and improve the individual’s mood.
  • Any change in activity level will refresh participants and offset boredom. This is often called a brain break.
  • There is some evidence that goes further to say that if the games require movement that encourage participants to be active they can improve learning, concentration and memory.
  • Interactive games  build relationships between team members.
  • Games can provide a structured, interesting activity where participants are unconsciously learning team building concepts
  • In the developing of relationships, team members can get to know one another and start to trust one another while having fun.
  • Games can be educative in subtle but effective ways.
  • All games can help develop a range of communication skills and some require use of literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Good educational games can be motivational and promote a range of higher order thinking skills such as:
    • creative thinking (as found in the energiser and team bonding games)
    • problem solving and analytical thinking skills (icebreakers, energisers, team bonding and trust games)
    • collaborative, cooperative thinking plus negotiation skills (team bonding and trust)
    • reflective, evaluative and critical thinking (closure games).

What makes a good team building game

Before starting this discussion, lets agree that games are beneficial to your team building program. Then how do you find appropriate games to use. There are lots of games available on the Internet, in books and passed on through oral traditions. But not all these games are going to be beneficial to your team building program.

Lets face it. You don’t have unlimited time to build your team. In fact you probably don’t have any time to waste. So each activity and game the team members participate in must help to achieve your goals. So what criteria should you use when selecting games? (There are extra criteria for trust games.)

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If you keep these seven criteria in mind it will help. The games should involve:

social interactions – To increase the opportunities for the team members to build relationships the games should involve communication. It is fairly hard to play any game without some form of communication. So there must be more than just that. You want the game to get them talking to each other or discovering more about each other’s skills, personality, values and reliability. How the members should be involved the game depends on the teams working arrangement. It may be that these interactions should be as a whole team, in sub groups, triads or pairs.

thinking – Games should involve a range of thinking skills. The main ones used in team building games are analytical, creative, lateral, logical and systemic thinking skills. An improvement in the use of these skills will lead to enhanced problem solving skills and innovation. These are two highly valued skills of team members.

fun – This is a given. Games should be fun. If they are not fun then why would the team members want to participate. Just remember that fun comes in various levels from hilarious fun to deep satisfaction.

movement – To take a break from formal learning a success, you need to get the body moving and doing something different. The amount of movement in games will differ by the type of game you want to use. Energisers should stress movement. Whereas, team bonding and closure games may limit the amount of physical movement but expand the amount of movement within the mind with social interactions and different thinking skills.

engagement – There are two levels of engagement – captivate their interest in achieving the goal; inclusion of all team members irrespective of physical or mental impairment, gender, cultural beliefs or language fluency. All members of the team need to be engaged in each of the games. If someone is excluded they can feel less important and loss confidence in their role in the team.

risk taking – Any games that are designed to achieve the above goals will require some risk taking behaviour on the part of the participants. It may be talking to someone you don’t know (ice breakers) or doing something silly in front of others or invasion of personal space. Your task in selecting games for your team is to determine what level of risk the team is prepared to undertake at the time that are going to use the game.

speed – The game should quick: preferably completed in 10 – 15 minutes. The team members need to have a break and refocus but you don’t want to use too much time for this. The games should have goals that are accomplished quickly so there is a feeling of achievement or success at the end of this short time.