Custom Built Team Building and Leadership Initiative Training

Posts tagged “Initiatives

College Admissions Rank ‘Em

Ever wondered what your participants thought was the most important reason for picking a college? College Admission’s Rank ‘Em will start the conversation amongst students about the different reasons for deciding on a future college.

Paradigm Shift

Number of Participants: You can use this activity with any size group, but to help with ease of communication, try to limit the group size to fifteen. If you have a larger group, separate the group in to several smaller groups, even groups as small as two – three.
Time: 15-45 minutes (depends on how many are in the group, different personalities, etc.)
Activity Level: Low
Props: Type of a list of factors that any student would consider when choosing post-secondary education. Place each term on a single piece of paper or at least a half sheet of paper. It helps to have each term on their own paper so that the participants can move them around and actually rank them on the floor or table

Objective: To rank the reason to pick a college from most important to least important as an entire group.

Set Up: Simply place the factors on the floor or on a table so each participant can see the different words.

Description: The rules for this activity are very simple: the group must come to a consensus and rank all the college admission factors from most important to least important. This means that they must all agree to the final rankings. It is often hard for the group to come to a consensus, and it is more important that they begin talking about these factors than if they come to an actual consensus. Feel free to put a time limit on this activity to keep the activity from lasting several hours!


  • For large groups, create two or more sets of cards.
  • Instead of printing the cards ahead of time, encourage a brainstorming session from the participants. They may come up with factors you hadn’t thought of, or they may become passionate for the ideas they generated, which hopefully will create more conversation.
  • This activity isn’t related to just college admissions. Place whatever words you feel need to be discussed on the cards to create dynamic conversations.
  • Have the participants view the factors and then write their own rankings on a piece of paper. They can then share their list to the group and explain why they ranked them

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why did you decide on these final rankings?
  2. Did anyone compromise for the sake of the group?
  3. Were there times when you felt passionate about a particular card?
  4. If you did this by yourself, would you have come up with a different outcome?

Facilitator Notes:

  • Take notes during the activity to some of the things the participants are saying to each other as they rank the college admission factors.
  • Use your experience as a professional to help guide them after the activity to the most important factors in their own individual college admissions decision.

Examples of College Admission Factors:
Type (Private or Public)
Academic Rigor
Campus Life
Campus Aesthetics
Your Friends Go There
Your Family
Majors Offered
Greek Life
Setting (Urban, Suburban or Rural)
Admissions Criteria
Housing Options
Religious Affiliation

Let me know if you have any questions on how to implement this into your program or have any ideas on how to use College Admissions Rank ‘Em.

Ryan Eller
Founder, Paradigm Shift

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Pipeline – A Classic Team Building Activity


Project Adventure’s Pipeline is a classic activity that will encourage your group to work together to achieve a common goal. Pipeline teaches your group that each participant has a part to play and is important to the overall success of the team.

Paradigm Shift

Number of Participants: 5-25 with the traditional Pipeline set.

Time:  20-25 minutes

Activity Level:  Moderate

Props:  Project Adventure’s Pipeline Kit: Includes Pipes, Webbing, “Eggs” – Marbles, Golf Balls, Ping Pong Balls

Objective:  To transport the eggs from their nest, down the trail, and into their safe haven – the pipe.

Set Up:

Place the “eggs” into the lid of the Pipeline Kit. Unwind a 25-50’ rope from the lid across the room ending at the pipe. Make the rope line about 10 feet longer than the length of the participants if they were lined up in a straight line.


This activity works best if related to the group via an incredibly story. I always tell the group that they are special scientists who are a traveling to a far away land to save a nest of very special eggs. These eggs belong to the Riverhawk, a rare and endangered species. These birds are rare due to the fact that they have very fragile eggs. Eggs that can only be transported by special tools that the group of scientists invented (the pipes). However, the eggs can only be transported in their special pipes if the scientists observe some simple rules. (See below). If these rules are broken, the eggs are returned to the original nest, and must be transported from the beginning.

  • Rules:
  1. The pipes may never touch each other.
  2. The eggs must never touch any part of the participant.
  3. Once in a pipe, an egg can never move backwards. It must always move towards the pipe at the end of the rope.
  4. If a participant has an egg in their pipe, that participant can not walk around the room.
  5. The pipes can not touch each other.
  6. The eggs follow the trail prepared by the facilitator.
  7. The trail and nests can not be moved.

The scientists’ special task on this adventure is to move these eggs as a group using the pipes given. They must follow the rules and must follow the trail. The eggs are being moved from the original nest to the safe haven (the pipe).  I will then give each participant a pipe of their choice and will encourage them to spend some time brainstorming ideas. When the group is ready, the facilitator will place an egg into the first participant’s pipe, and will let the adventure begin.


  • For large groups, use two pipeline kits, and have the participants follow two separate paths that lead to the same pipe.
  • Make the rope trail curvy or include obstacles in their path.
  • Attach a point value to every egg they successfully move to the final nest. Make this a timed activity and see how many points the team can accumulate in the time period.
  • Each group is different, so feel free to alter the rules to match your group’s physical and emotional levels.

Questions for discussion:

  • What steps did the group follow to complete the activity?
  • Did the group allocate adequate time for pre-planning the activity? What pre-planning steps did the group take?
  • What ideas did the group find to be the most successful to complete the activity? Which participants developed the ideas?
  • What adjustments were made when using the different eggs?
  • How did the group communicate during the activity?
  • Did any members of the group take charge? Who? How?

Facilitator Notes:

  • This activity can relate to many objectives for the group. Pipeline is an excellent communication, team-building, and problem-solving activity. Focus on the positive aspects of the team.
  • Some teams quickly understand and efficiently complete Pipeline. Other teams self-destruct and Pipeline becomes very difficult. Overall the activity is fun and very well liked by the majority of participants.
  • You can purchase or create your own Pipeline Kit. I would encourage you to buy the kit from Project Adventure because at $55 it is typically cheaper than making your own…even though I have seen people use pool noodles as the pipes and they swear by it.

I hope you enjoyed this post…below is a video of some kids in Africa playing Pipeline. I hope you get the real importance of Pipeline while watching these participants laugh and celebrate together.

Ryan Eller
Founder, Paradigm Shift

101 Ways to Line Up a Group

Every once in a while, I like to reach way back into my game bag and pull out some classic activities that have been tried and tested with thousands of groups over the past few decades. Nothing describes “classic” as much as Group Line Up.
Group Line Up Paradigm Shift

I’m sure you have done this one before, either as a participant or a facilitator, and you know that it is both fun and challenging. You can ask a group to line up as quickly as possible, without talking, without using their hands, and even with their eyes closed (be sure to have built a sincere level of trust before attempting this one). Depending on how much time you have, you can even sequence these line-ups from easiest to hardest to develop a sense of community and learning within the group. Be sure to use as much space available and have loads of fun playing.

Below you will find 101 different ways to line up a group. Most of these we picked up along the way, either playing, facilitating, or improvising.

101 Ways to Line Up a Group

1. By First Name
2. By Last Name
3. By Middle Name
4. By Initials
5. By City Born
6. By Grandmother’s First Name
7. By State/Country Born
8. By High School Mascot
9. By Favorite Food

10. By Height
11. Color of Hair (Lightest to Darkest)
12. Color of Shirt (Lightest to Darkest)
13. By Shoe Size (Smallest to Largest)
14. Smile Size
15. Length of Time at their Job/Organization/School/Church
16. Size of Thumb
17. Hand Size
18. Eye Color (Lightest – Darkest)
19. Who Lives Furthest Away From the Room (Closest-Furthest Away)
20. Length of Hair (Longest – Shortest)
21. Length of Nose
22. Length of Commute Time
23. Straightest Hair to Curliest Hair
24. How High You Can Jump
25. Arm Length
26. Who Can Reach The Highest
27. Wing Span
28. Distance from Thumb to Pinky
29. Size of Big Toe
30. Rank of Embarrassing Moment
31. Ear Size
32. Foot Width
33. Ring Finger Size
34. Size of Head
35. Average Time Getting Ready
36. Length of Tongue
37. The Furthest You Have Traveled From Home
38. Amount of Facial Hair (Most to Least)
39. Year of When Your First Vehicle Owned was Manufactured
40. Year Your House was Built

41. Birth date (From Youngest – Oldest)
42. Month They Were Born (Jan-Dec)
43. Birth Order (First, Second, Third, Etc.)

Deck of Cards
44. Alphabetically (Ace of Clubs – Two of Spades)
45. Deck Order (Two – Ace for each Suit)
46. By Suit (Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades)

Numbered Disks
47. Number of Letters in Each Number (Two has three letters, so it will come before five, which has four letters)
48. Alphabetically by Number (1-12 = Eight, Eleven, Five, Four, Nine, One, Seven, Six, Ten, Three, Twelve, Two)
49. Lowest to Highest (1-infinity)

50. By Cell Phone Number
51. Zip Code
52. Mailing Address Number
53. Likert Scale (1-10)
54. Area Code
55. Number of Letters in Full Name
56. Number of Children
57. Number of First Cousins
58. Salary – Lowest to Highest (Play this one Carefully)
59. Number of Books Read This Year
60. Number of Countries Visited
61. Number of States Visited
62. Number of Times You Have Moved
63. Number of People in Your Immediate Family
64. Number of Total Roommates
65. Number of Pets You Have Owned/Own
66. Number of Pieces of Jewelry You Have On
67. Number of DVDs Owned
68. Number of Roller Coasters Ridden
69. Number of Amusement Parks Visited
70. Total Number of Vehicles Owned
71. Number of Ball Caps Currently Owned
72. Number of T-Shirts Currently Owned
73. Number of Cups of Coffee Per Day
74. Ounces of Soda Per Day
75. Pairs of Shoes Owned
76. Number of Siblings
77. Number of Books Owned
78. Number of Times You Have Visited Wal-Mart This Month
79. Number of Times You Had Eaten Out Last Week
80. Number of Trash Cans in House
81. Number of Lamps in House
82. Number of Scars
83. Number of Piercings
84. Number of Tattoos
85. Number of Broken Bones
86. Number of Jobs
87. Number of Keys on Key Chain
88. Number of Cards in Wallet/Purse
89. Number of Items in Your Pocket
90. Number of Schools Attended (Preschool-College)
91. Number of Speeding Tickets
92. Average Mouse Clicks Per Day
93. Number of TV Shows Watched Consistently
94. Number of Movies Watched in Theater This Year
95. Hours Sleep Per Night
96. Number of Times You Have Checked Facebook Today
97. Number of Text Messages Per Day
98. Number of Potholders in House
99. Number of Drawers in House (Including Dressers, Kitchens and Bathrooms)
100. Number of Coffee Mugs Owned
101. Number of Years You Rode the School Bus

As you can tell, you can pretty much line your group up in any manner you desire. Try these out and let me know which one is your favorite. Do you have any you can add to the list?

Ryan Eller
Founder, Paradigm Shift

Pitfall – AKA Money Pit: Actually a Fun Financial Literacy Activity

As a TRiO professional, I work with students everyday who need guidance in the tricky area of financial literacy (really…who doesn’t need guidance in that area). I often find it so hard to explain budgeting, foolish spending, and even savings to participants who are usually disengaged and disinterested. I like to use this sequence of activities to more easily explain financial literacy in a fun and interactive way. I first play Pit, one of my all-time favorites, to lighten the mood and encourage group cohesiveness and laughter.

Pit Paradigm Shift Activity


This wonderful game is based off of the classic card game Pit. Pit emulates the trading floor on the New York Stock Exchange, and is ridiculously fun and full of energy.


I have used several things as Pit cards, basically you need cards, papers, or play money that is only printed on one side. I like to play Pit with leadership words on the printed side of the cards, however put whatever you want on the front of the cards. There needs to be enough cards for each participant to have nine cards, and each participant has a different word on the front of their nine cards.


To “corner” the market and collect nine of the same cards.

How To:

  1. Shuffle or mix the cards, and deal them to all of the participants.
  2. Open the market by ringing the market bell, or just yelling market is open as loudly as possible.
  3. Start trading cards.
    1. A participant can only trade cards by holding out one, two, three or four cards of the same type (or word) face down.
    2. While holding out the cards, they will yell the number of cards they are trying to trade.
    3. They will then trade cards with someone else who is trying to trade the same number of cards.
    4. Once the player has collected all nine of the same cards, they yell “Pit,” and the game is stopped.
    5. Collect cards, shuffle, and play again.

After a few rounds of Pit, I ask the participants to share a financial goal with the group. It doesn’t matter what goal either, it could be a goal to go on vacation, save $10,000, or even when to retire. After we have set our goals, I like to ask everyone to grab a tennis ball that will now represent their financial goal during the next activity…Pitfall.

PitFall - Paradigm Shift


Number of Participants: 8-40

Time:  20 – 25 minutes

Activity Level:  Low – Moderate

Props:  Tarp with holes cut in it, 15-20 Tennis Balls, Bucket

Objective: To transport the tennis balls to the bucket via the tarp.

Set Up: Set the tarp on the ground about 15-20 feet from the bucket.


  • The participants must keep ahold of the tarp with both hands throughout the activity.
  • If a tennis ball falls through a hole, and not into the bucket, the group must start over from behind the start line.
  • A group can not move to the next round unless all tennis balls from the current round are placed into the bucket at the same time.
  • The group has 15 minutes to complete this activity.
  • The group has a mandatory 2-minute planning period before the 15-minute timed period starts.
  • The tennis balls must start from the corner of the tarp.


The group picks up the tarp, holding only the edges as the facilitator places one tennis ball on any corner of the tarp. The group must then transport the tennis ball to the bucket via the tarp. If the team can drop the tennis ball into the bucket before it falls through to the floor the team will get one point. After each successful round, the facilitator will add a tennis ball to the tarp, thus increasing the team’s chances of scoring points.


I explain to the participants that the tarp is like the road of life, and sometimes our financial goal will make it to fruition, and sometimes it will fall by the wayside. Either way, if we work as a team and openly discuss our goals and communicate them effectively, we will have a much higher chance of achieving them.

I follow up the initiative by asking the participants to relate their observations during the activities to their own financial successes and failures. It is during these times that powerful stories and revelations are discovered.

Try this out, I think it will work with your group. Contact me if you would like more instructions or tips on how to smoothly transition from activities to debriefing and processing discussions.

Ryan Eller
Founder & President, Paradigm Shift

Traffic Jam

Happy First Friday of 2012!

I hope you all had an excellent break and a great start to the year. Over the break I had some time to “research” different experiential  learning and team-building activities (i.e. I watch a ton of things on YouTube). I came across several great videos from these fellas, and I feel they did a great job explaining Traffic Jam. I first learned Traffic Jam at Project Adventure in Boston, and I have loved facilitating it ever since.

Traffic Jam
Number of Participants: 6-16 (It sure helps to have an even number)
Time: 15-30 min.
Energy Level: Low

Traffic Jam is a puzzling activity. I use this activity as a real problem-solving initiative for the participants. It is perfect for participants to think outside of the box, learn through trial by error, and of course to challenge the communication skills of the group.

I pair this activity with a decision-making worksheet or workshop. This really encourages the participants to think about different ways to solve a common problem. I will invite the participants to share their frustrations, obstacles, successes, and failures with the group. Often times I will take note on the different times participants deem this activity impossible, and reread those statements to the group during processing.

Questions for Review:
1. What types of difficulties did you encounter by standing in a linear row?
2. How did you finally determine the solution?
3. In our everyday walk of life, how do we handle poor communication? What are ways we can overcome poor communication?
4. Have you ever encountered an activity that seemed impossible and you overcame it? How did you accomplish that task?
5. What ways can we work as a team to overcome a daunting task?
6. What decisions needed to be made for us to be successful?

You can play the activity online to see if you can solve the puzzle. Click the link or the picture to play the game! Do you think you can figure it out?


Experiential Adventure Traffic Jam
Traffic Jam

Please do not hesitate to email me if you need any advice, have questions, or suggestions for this activity.

Ryan Eller, Founder
Experiential Adventure