A Team Is as Strong as Its Relationships

Know Your Connections

The relationships among team members can weaken or make the team unbreakable. This exercise is a fun and insightful way for people to experience it in an emotional instead of a rational way. It’s also a nice icebreaker to kick-off a teambuilding activity or in-between more serious exercises.

What?

Participants build a string web and explore how its dynamic is affected by their behavior. The web is tested until it collapses. Team members reflect on how relationships and interconnectedness make the team weaker or stronger.

A group of hands building a web with a thread

How?

Form teams of 5-8 people– they must stand up and form a circle. Provide each participant with a piece of string or yarn (approximately 20 inches-50 centimeters each).

First, ask participants to hold one extreme of their string.

Second, ask them to ‘share’ the other extreme with someone else, without letting go of their end of the string. They are free to choose if they want

Third, ask them to start creating a web by weaving the various strings.

Fourth, now the team has to make sure the web can support an object (ideally, provide all teams with the same; e.g., a notebook, a book, or phone). Allow some time to make their web stronger. Once they are ready, place the selected object on top of each web. Hopefully, none falls– if they do, that team is ‘eliminated.’

Fifth, ask the team to slightly start moving the web to test how the dynamics and motion affect its strength and stability.

Sixth, challenge them to test how much tension their web can hold. In the end, all objects will end falling to the floor.

Time to reflect

What have you learned about connectedness?

How did you feel about your web once it was originally built? And when you were asked to hold an object?

What happened to the web when people started shaking it?

How did you feel when the object fell to the floor?

What lesson for team building and collaboration could you draw from this experience?

Coaching Tips

Connect the exercise with real-life experiences. No team lacks tensions, but if they are not addressed on time, projects can collapse.

You can do two iterations. The first without people being able to talk. The second, with dialogue. Reflect on how feedback and open communication help teams address tensions before things get worse.

Also, you can ask one member to let go of one end of the yard–an analogy to detaching themselves from the team. Discuss how it feels when one team member lets go of his/her responsibilities.

This exercise is simple and powerful. Rather than an intellectualized approach to how a team is a web of connections, people can experience it amusingly.

Additional Reading

Your Success Depends on the Strength of Your Relationships

Why Tension Keeps Your Team at the Top of the Game