6 Creative energiser, team building and icebreaker activities that you can do outside

If you want to get your team or delegates outside and enjoy some fresh air and, hopefully, sunshine, here are some super quick and easy activities that you can use to help build collaboration, energy and enjoyment into your workshop, meeting or event.

Photo: Dr. Jo North

I’ve used all of these activities – and they have all worked 100% for me, regardless of the group I have been facilitating. Senior executives are up for some interaction and enjoyment, as long as it’s time-efficient and purposeful of course, just as much as anyone else. So, I’d encourage you to be bold and try some of the more unusual activities. The key is that if you, as the workshop leader, are confident with what you’re asking people to do, your participants will be confident with it too.

These things always sound a bit awkward and weird and when I write or read them, but honestly, they do work really well in practice!

And, as a final word, although some of them have a few steps, they can be done quite quickly and effectively too.


Give me my free Outdoor Energisers for Workshops resource now, please!

Why we should go outside when we can

It is so helpful to take your team outside when you can because:

  • The change of environment is refreshing and helps people to re-set. Harvard physician Eva M. Selhub and colleague Alan C. Logan, who co-wrote the book Your Brain on Nature, say that natural environments are more likely to promote positive emotions, and viewing and walking in nature have been associated with heightened physical and mental energy. Being exposed to green spaces if you’re working in an urban areas are beneficial too – you don’t need to be on a countryside retreat to benefit.
Photo: I love to sit outside and work in the summer
  • Research also shows that physical movement helps to create new ideas and insights. In Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking, Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford University used four different methods to assess the impact of walking on creativity. Their results showed a link between movement and improved creativity each time, both during exercise and shortly after. They conclude that “walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.” 
Photo: Working outdoors with the fab team from The Distance, the UK’s leading app development company, at their tenth birthday event this year at Bowcliffe Hall
  • Most people – if not everyone – will simply enjoy the change of scene of going outside. Especially if they usually work in offices and meeting rooms.
  • Natural light energises us and helps with productivity. Plus, many of us generally spend much too much time inside sitting down. So getting up and going outside is a great thing.
  • Some delegates find that ideas come to them better when they’re spending time informally with colleagues in green spaces, parks or cafes where there’s a ‘buzz’. These spaces have a positive energy which almost feels infectious.
Photo: Great place to work – Rudding Park Rooftop Spa

Of course, make sure that the environment you choose for any of your activities is clean, safe and appropriate and that your delegates are wearing appropriate footwear and clothing for what you have planned!

6 creative activities to do outside

The 6 creative activities I’m going to cover in this article are:

  1. Outdoor bingo
  2. Random stimulus
  3. Great egg drop
  4. Pass it on
  5. Second look
  6. Selfie treasure hunt

For each activity, I’ve included:

  • The length of time I usually allocate for it in my facilitation plan
  • The purpose of the activity
  • A brief description
  • Instructions for you to brief your delegates or colleagues
  • A list of the materials that you’ll need (these are usually minimal)

As well as reading them here, you can download my free Outdoor Energisers for Workshops resource here.

You can also modify any of these activities and do them indoors, of course, if you have the space.


Give me my free Outdoor Energisers for Workshops resource now, please!

Right, let’s crack on…

Activity 1: Outdoor bingo (15 mins)

Purpose

To get people talking, collaborating and energised towards a shared goal.

To get people thinking differently, and positively “disrupt” and refresh their thinking.

Description

Delegates work in small teams to go outside and find as many items as possible on their outdoor bingo cards.

Instructions

Before the event, create a number of different outdoor bingo cards, I’d suggest a different card for every five or so delegates.

To create the cards, use a nine-box grid and put something different inside each box for the delegates to find. This works really well if you combine random descriptions, rather than specific objects. I’ve created an example below that you’re welcome to use:

Outdoor Bingo Card Example

Something orange and square

Something that includes the letters a, h and e

Something that’s less than 3 inches long and alive

Something that squeaks

Something musical

Three different things that are identical

Something that is hidden

Something you could eat right now!

Something that is a home, under six inches tall

My preference is to give out only one card per group as this encourages collaboration.

On the day, give them a maximum time limit to go out and find as many things as possible that meet the items in their bingo boxes. You might want to ask them to take photos of the items, depending on your overall group size. They can enter more than one item per box. Then see which group has got the most and have some fun by asking them to share some of the most creative things that they found. I like to show a couple of fun items on screen.

Materials

  • Enough bingo cards for everyone.
  • Marker pens to write on the cards.

Activity 2: Random stimulus (15 minutes)

Purpose

To get people talking, collaborating and energised towards a shared goal.

To get people thinking differently, and positively “disrupt” and refresh their thinking.

Description

Delegates work in small teams to go outside to find one interesting item between them, and then bring it back in the room. They will then use it as inspiration to wake up their brains. This is great as a post-lunch energiser.

Instructions

  1. Give delegates a time limit and ask them to go outside and, in small groups of about 5 people, come back with one object between them that they find interesting (i.e. one object for the whole of the small group). At this stage, don’t give away any more than that.
  2. When delegates are in the room, ask them to work in their small groups together to create a list of 12-15 words that describe their interesting object. One person in each small group will need to write these words down. Again, at this stage don’t give any more information away on what people will be doing with the words. Create some time pressure and allow delegates just a few minutes to get their list together.
  3. Ask delegates to use all their words to create a vision related to the theme of your day in just 2-3 sentences. They must use every word!

For example, at an event recently to begin the process of a 2050 Innovation Hub for the maritime industry at Port of Tyne, I asked delegates to “create sentences that describe your vision for the 2050 Innovation Hub”, and at a Collaboration in Action training event for Northumbrian Water and its supplier partners, to “create sentences that describe your vision for collaboration as a result of today.”

  1. Finally, ask each group to read their statements and enjoy the results together!

Materials 

  • Pens and paper.
Photo: Unused traffic cone random stimulus, which delegates affectionately named “Bigfoot” in a recent innovation session.

Activity 3: Great egg drop (30 minutes)

Purpose

To get people talking, collaborating and energised towards a solving a problem together.

To get people thinking differently, and positively “disrupt” and refresh their thinking.

Description

Teams of between 3 and 5 participants are asked to make a structure from limited materials, which will prevent a raw egg from breaking when it is dropped by either themselves or the facilitator from a height of 10ft.

You may wish to check that delegates are ok to use an egg beforehand, as some people don’t agree with animal products being used, depending on your group. Alternatives to an egg are: a really ripe plum, a brick of soft tofu, a sandwich… I’m sure you can think of others!

Instructions

  1. Split the group into small teams of 3 – 4).
  2. Say this is a creative challenge with very few rules.
  3. State that the objective is that each team must design and build a structure that will prevent their egg from breaking when dropped from a height of 10 feet onto a solid floor (Don’t say any more about the design, just repeat the objective if anyone wants to know how).
  4. The teams have just fifteen minutes in which to build their structure.
  5. Ask the teams to work where they cannot see each other.
  6. During the activity, check in with each of the teams and give them a time update.
  7. After 15 minutes call the teams together around the drop area.
  8. As the facilitator, ideally you will drop the eggs to make sure it’s fair but check that the teams are happy with how you’re setting up your aim and making the drop or you they might blame you if it breaks.
  9. You may also want to include a rocket launch countdown before you drop the eggs.
  10. After each drop, ask a team member to unwrap the package to see the state of the egg inside.
  11. Decide on the winner(s).
  12. Clean up!
  13. Review the activity.

Materials 

  • Enough eggs for one per team, plus two extras. Make sure you’ve seen my note above about some people not wanting to use eggs.
  • Used and clean paper, cardboard packaging and other materials that delegates can select from for their structure. (Used in order to be as environmentally friendly as possible).
  • Stuff to clean up with (just in case someone makes a mess!).


Give me my free Outdoor Energisers for Workshops resource now, please!

Activity 4: Pass it on (10 minutes)

Purpose

To show how messages can change as they are passed on from person to person.

To get people thinking differently, and positively “disrupt” and refresh their thinking.

To have some fun and energise the group.

Description

Teams pass on a message to each other, one-by-one, using non-verbal communication.

Instructions

  1. Split your delegates into small groups of between 8 and 15 people.
  2. Tell them what’s going to happen, as follows:
    • Each small group will form a line, one behind the other, like a queue.
    • No one can turn around or move until the person behind them taps them on the shoulder.
    • The person at the back needs to pick up and turn over a card with a single sentence written on it when you say “go”. Examples of sentences are: “The sun has got his hat on and is coming out to play,” or “I was riding my bike really fast, hit a bump in the road and fell off.” I give each small group a different sentence when I run this activity as it seems to work better that way.

    • The person at the back then taps the person in front of them on the shoulder, who turns around so that those two people are facing each other. The person at the back communicates the sentence using physical actions and no speaking, writing or words.
    • That person then turns back around and taps the person in front of them on the shoulder and conveys their interpretation of the sentence, again physically and non-verbally. The person who has conveyed the message may stay facing forwards.
    • The process repeats until the it reaches the final person at the front, who also acts out the message, and then the team guess what the sentence was. The original sentence is then revealed.
    • The team who comes closest to the original sentence and completes the activity the fastest wins.
    • Review the activity.

Materials 

  • Enough cards with a different sentence on for each group.

Activity 5: Second look (15-30 minutes)

Purpose

To show how fresh perspectives, and the use of photos, can show things that we might otherwise miss, especially in the context of thinking about customer experience.

To get people energised, moving and working together on a common task.

Description

Teams take photos on their phones of things they see outside that create a negative customer experience, or that aren’t ideal for customers.

This activity is adapted from a design thinking creative technique.

This activity is one of those that’s hard to describe, but surprisingly effective, especially when used in customer-focused workshops or new product or service design sessions.

Instructions

  1. Split your delegates into small groups of about 3-5 people.
  2. Ask them to go outside and take photos on their phones of anything they see that creates a less than optimal customer experience. Give them a time allowance.
  3. When they are back in the room, ask them to whatsapp or airdrop the photo of the example that they think is the most interesting and challenging to correct to you.
  4. Put these photos on screen and discuss:
    • How looking at items via a photo focuses the eye on details that often go unnoticed.
    • How small details can sometimes make a big difference.
  5. Ask delegates to sketch a solution in their small groups that would solve the issue, encouraging them to be creative and imaginative. This is to be done under some deliberate time pressure.
  6. Each small group presents their solution.
  7. Review the activity in the context of your day.

Materials 

  • Paper and pens for sketches.
Photo: Sometimes I bring clean “junk” that’s going to be recycled and ask delegates to create 3D solutions in the Second Look activity

Activity 6: Selfie Treasure Hunt (30 minutes, sometimes 45 – depends on the location and purpose of the event)

Purpose

To get people energised, moving and working together on a common task, and having fun – as well as creating shared memories.

Description

Teams take group selfies on their phones alongside items they have been tasked to find.

Instructions

  1. Before the event, take some photographs of places and objects outside within the vicinity of your venue. Here are some examples of photos I’ve taken for this activity for one of my clients in Gibraltar. Print enough copies for every person to have one.

Photos: Treasure hunt challenge at Ocean Village, Gibraltar

  1. Split your delegates into small groups of about 3-5 people. Give them a time limit that’s reasonable but still has an element of pressure to it, and ask them to find as many items as they can in your photos, and take a photo on their phones that’s as close you your original as possible, but with all of the group in it as a team selfie.
  2. When they are back in the room, with their permission, ask them to swap phones with another team and give each other a score of one point per photo.
  3. Agree the winner.
  4. Review the activity in the context of your day.

Materials 

  • Treasure hunt photo handouts.

What next?

Of course, you can take almost any activity you’ve planned and run it outside. I do hope that you enjoy using these suggestions in your sessions and would love to hear about any additional favourites that you have – my email is jo@ideatime.co.uk.

It’s SO important to make every event count, engage your stakeholders and participants throughout your innovation journey, and keep your activities fresh, stimulating and effective.

If you’d like to continue to design workshops and sessions that will make the most difference to your projects, and get your team or stakeholder network on board so that you can get results – efficiently, creatively and effectively – why not have a look at my Idea Time Membership? You can find out more about it here.


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