Custom Built Team Building and Leadership Initiative Training


Cowboy Up – A Free Icebreaker

The majority of the Paradigm Shift team is from Oklahoma, so we like a good cowboy activity from time-to-time. This activity gives your participants options on how they want to proceed as a cowboy.

Cowboy Up

Number of Participants: 5-15
Time: 5-10 minutes
Activity Level: Moderate
Props: None

Description: This activity is a last participant standing activity that will get your group laughing and thinking at the same time (what a great combo).

Circle your group up! All participants can choose to do 1 of 3 things each round:

  1. Load: Take your hand pistols out of your holsters and raise them in the air, thus loading your gun.
  2. Shoot: Point your hand pistols at another participant in the circle and imitate your best pistol noises.
  3. Defend: Place your hands across your chest (mummy-style) to defend from a pistol shot.

Play this activity in rounds until you have a lone ranger in the group. Following the rules below, the facilitator will count to three and then each participant will choose one of the three options. If a participant is shooting, they must clearly point to another person in the circle. This activity is played on a level of trust, and therefore if someone says you are shot, by golly, you are shot.


  1. A participant cannot shoot unless they have loaded their gun.
  2. If a participant shoots, they must reload before they can shoot again.
  3. If you are defending yourself, you will not be eliminated from the activity.
  4. If you are shot, you are eliminated from the game.

Let us know if we can help you implement this into your program’s curriculum.

Ryan Eller
Founder, Paradigm Shift

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Trashball – A Leadership Team Building Activity Focused on Integrity

Have you ever had a group find the “gray area” of the rules? A group that tries to skirt around the edges of the activity to get a competitive advantage?

I come across groups and teams like this all of the time, and it always comes back to integrity…doing the right thing when no one is watching. This activity is perfect for processing and encouraging integrity within a group. Don’t give the group any instructions except what is written below, and then let them play. Let the play go on longer than they expect, and then call it when things get intense. Typically I have groups who will continue throwing even after I ask them to stop.

It is after this when I can discuss integrity and following the rules with the team. Try it out and let me know what you think!



Number of Participants: 5-75
Time:  5-10 minutes
Activity Level: High
Props:  Throwables, Boundary Line

Objective:  To get as many pieces of trash in your neighbor’s lawn as possible.

Divide the group into two teams and scatter an equal amount of throwables on their side of the boundary line. Tell them that the other team is up to no good and keeps throwing trash on their perfectly manicured lawn.

Their goal is to throw as much trash from their lawn onto their neighbors before the end of the activity. Don’t tell them how much time they have to complete this activity.

The issue is that the neighbors dislike each other so much that they have placed a 20-30 foot tall fence in between the two lawns, and the teams must throw the trashballs over the fence to get to the other side.

Sources: The Bottomless Bag Again by Karl Rohnke – pg. 73.

What types of integrity activities do you use with your group? Have you ever played Trashball?

Chicken Noodle Circle – A Great Way to Round Up a Group

Have you ever had a hard time getting your group into a circle? We all know that circles are the best way for a group to communicate, and sometimes we need the group to get into different sizes of circles depending upon the activity. I picked this fun way to circle up a group on a day at the ropes course at OSU Outdoor Adventure.

I typically will introduce this activity as an opportunity for the group to learn a valuable tool in group communication…forming a circle. I will introduce on circle, practice it a few times, and then introduce a new circle. Each time we playfully form the different circles until the group has learned the different ways to circle up.

Chicken Noodle Circle

Ryan Eller

The most common and effective way to organize your group is to round them into a circle. Use this quick and fun activity to help your participants learn how to efficiently circle up.

Number of Participants: 5-75
Time:  5 minutes
Activity Level:  Moderate
Props:  None

Objective:  To get into a circle quickly and effectively.

Description: Teach the participants these five circles:

  1. Chicken Noodle: Ask your participants to get into a circle “Chicken Noodle Style,” which is a shoulder to shoulder circle (this is a small circle).
  2. Chicken Wing: The participants place their hands on their hips and elbows out as they imagine being a chicken wing. The participants will touch elbows around the circle. (This is a medium circle)
  3. Chicken in Flight: Participants spread out for this large circle by stretching their arms out wide, standing on one foot, and leaning over like a chicken flying through the air. (This is the largest circle)
  4. Free Range Chicken: Everyone finds their own spot in the room, sticks their hands straight out to their sides, and spins in a circle. If they have enough room to spin without touching another person, they have officially became a free range chicken. 
  5. The Great Chicken Turnabout – Everyone stands in a Chicken Wing circle, and at count of three everyone turns around and faces the outside of the circle. 

Ask the participants to learn the five circles, and then randomly challenge the group to get into the circles as quickly as possible when you yell out the type of circle. At any point in the day you can ask the participants to get into any of the types of circles depending on the needs of the group.

I have seen a couple different types of Circle Up activities in different books. Check them out for new ideas and references. 

The Hundredth Monkey by Nate Folan and friends – Circle Up pg. 54
Raptor and other Team Building Activities by Sam Sikes – The Great Roundup pg. 103 

Do you have any circle up activities that work with small – large groups? 

Avalanche – A Perfect Way to Mix Up a Group During Team-Building

I work with teams of all ages and backgrounds from many different cultures, and I find that all groups do the same thing: line up next to their friends while standing in a circle. This activity is a fun way to break up cliques without the participants realizing that it was your ulterior motive.



Number of Participants: 5 and up
Time: 2-3 minutes
Activity Level: Moderate-High
Props: None

Objective: For participants to find a new spot in the circle.

Anytime the group is in a circle, and the facilitator yells, “Avalanche,” all of the participants find a new spot in the circle. However, the participants find the new spot in the most creative way possible.

Example ways to move around the circle:

  • Riding a Pogo Stick
  • Pushing a Shopping Cart
  • Walking Across a Balance Beam
  • Rolling on the Ground

What tools do you use to break up a group? What is your favorite way to move around the circle during Avalanche?

Human Javelin – A Loud and Entertaining Team Building Energizer

There are times as a facilitator when you need a go-to activity that will let your group let out some noise and energy and Human Javelin is a perfect energizer for the times. It is perfect for all sizes of groups and all ages of participants. There is something to be said about the power of yelling. Check out the videos below for instruction on how to do this easy and loud activity.

I hope this activity helps you on your quest to create a fun and engaging atmosphere for growth with your group. Have you ever attempted this activity? Do you have a Human Javelin world record?

Thumb Wrestling in Stereo – A Classic Icebreaker and Group Energizer

Paradigm Shift TRiO Workshop

I first learned this great activity from Ryan McCormick at Project Adventure in Boston. It is now one of my “go-to” activities with groups of all sizes. My friend from Australia, Mark Collard, demonstrates this classically fun icebreaker that helps groups break down physical barriers and creates a huge sense of FUNN (Functional Understanding Not Necessary).

For more activities just like this one, check out Mark’s great work on playmeo, the largest online database of group games & activities in the world. You can also buy his two awesome books, No Props and Count Me In, two books that should be in every facilitator’s game bag.

Below you will find my explanation on how to lead this activity with your group:

Thumb Wrestling in Stereo

Number of Participants: 2-200
Time:  5-10 minutes
Activity Level:  Moderate
Props:  None

Objective: To become the Thumb Wrestling Champion of the world.

I love this old school activity with a new twist. Use a creative way to form partners and ask them to place their left hand behind their back. Instruct them to extend their right arms, curl their fingers into each other’s fingers, and stick their thumbs into the air. Their goal is to now pin their partner’s thumb down. That’s right, old school Thumb Wrestling. Play three rounds and declare a winner very loudly.

After round one, invite the participants to challenge each other with a two-person, two-handed thumb wrestle. Do this by clasping right hands together, just as in round one, and clasp left hands together underneath or above the right hands. Play both hands simultaneously.

For round three, group the participants into groups of three and ask them to place their left hands behind their back. All three members of the group will then extend their right hands, curl their fingers inside the palms of the other participants, creating a three-handed thumb-wrestling match.

In round four, invite the participants to play three-person, two-handed thumb wrestling by combining their right hands like before, and mimicking the action with their left hands.

If you would like help implementing this activity or any other activities into your curriculum, don’t hesitate to contact us at Paradigm Shift.




The Who, What, Where, When, and Why of Icebreakers

I love a good icebreaker, and the best icebreakers are group-generated ones! Use Who, What, Where, When, and Why? To create conversations amongst participants and encourage group presentation skills.

Who, What, Where, When, Why

Number of Participants: 4-25
Time: 10-25 minutes
Activity Level: Low
Props: None

Objective: To get to know another participant better.

Description: Group the participants in twos, threes, or sevens (depends on the size of your group, obviously). Ask the groups to find their own space, get comfortable, and ask their partner(s) five questions:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?

Leave the instructions open-ended and vague, encouraging the participants to answers those questions anyway they see fit.

After a moderate amount of time has passed, ask the participants to come back to the group, circle or square up, and introduce their partner to the group by telling everyone their partner’s answers to the questions. Allow the participant who is being introduced to clarify any statements made by the participant.


  1. Ask the participants to create a secret handshake to share with the group.
  2. Have participants switch their position in the circle or their seat after each introduction. This keeps participants engaged.

Have you facilitated this activity? What suggestions do you have to encourage conversation amongst participants?