A Team Building Activity showing Collaboration and Strengths

When working on a team, collaboration is often difficult to achieve. Different personalities, backgrounds and expectations, complicate how to best work together. However, when a team is built on a foundation of strength, each member knows exactly their role and plays it in a generous way.

We collaborate because the greater the team diversity, the more likely we will achieve a catalytic breakthrough. Collaboration is not just a partnership where you simply exchanged resources. Rather, it is about shared goals and objectives, where each member gives of themselves to the greater good.

Below are instructions to create a simple activity that will force your team to collaborate in real time. You’ll get to see team members tackle a problem, react to changing variables, and plan in a “crisis” situation.

The Water Tube Challenge

The objective of this challenge is to get ping pong balls out of a long, PVC tube using only a few pitchers of water. It always bring out the various behaviors behind strengths.

The water tube challenge is one of my favorite to watch. It’s the only activity that has real, immediate consequences if not done correctly. It is collaboration at its finest!

Get started in three steps.

Step 1. Get Supplies

This activity can be built rather inexpensively. This activity is designed for 6 – 8 people per tube. If you have more, simply build another tube.

  1. 1, 4 ft X 4 inch PVC tube.
  2. 2 – 4 ping pong balls
  3. Duct Tape
  4. Cardboard
  5. Scissors
  6. Drill
  7. Large pitchers
  8. Water source
This is what the finished product will look like.
This is what the finished product will look like.

You will need some sort of water source for this, like a river, fountain, whatever. If you don’t, you can always fill up a couple of 5 gallon buckets with water. Just know that with this one, you might get a little wet!

Set 2. Build It

You will need a power drill, with a 1/4” drill bit.

  1. Seal one end of the tube using the cardboard and tape (alternately, you can purchase a PVC cap for one end).
  2. Mark 40 – 50 holes along the tube with a sharpie, approximately mirroring where your fingers would be if you were holding it, hand over hand, all the way up. There isn’t an exact right number of holes to drill. The more you have, the harder it will be!
  3. Drill holes corresponding to each mark.

Step 3. Setup

As the facilitator, drop 2 ping pong balls down the tube. The team must get the balls out only using the water. To do this, they have to fill up the tube, and float them out.

You probably guessed, they will need to plug the holes to do this. If done correctly, the ping pong balls will float to the top.

Water tube
A team keeping the water in!

Suggested Debrief Questions

You can see some behaviors of strengths from the moment this activity begins. Thinkers sit back and contemplate, action orientated people jump in without a plan, and the relational folks talk about what might happen. Inevitably, someone makes the first move, and sets the rest in motion.

Here are some questions you can use during the debrief.

  1. Did you see any of your strengths in action during this activity?
  2. How did you work together as a team?
  3. What role do you play on this team?
  4. How do your strengths help you play that role?
  5. What unique contribution are you making?

Often, once the ping pong balls are out, almost everyone lets go, and all that water shoots out like a sprinkler. It is a great visual for how important it is for everyone to play their part, all the way through the end of a project.

Good luck, stay dry, and have fun!