43 command tasks and leadership activities to strengthen your cadet lesson plans
Command tasks are group exercises used by cadets and...
Who’d have thought that playing with Lego could teach communication, collaboration, and teamwork?
If you’ve ever been involved in a corporate team building day it’s quite likely you’ve come across the Lego Challenge. This simple and elegant Lego team building activity is considered to be a quick and easy way to develop teamwork, making it a popular choice for facilitators.
There are limitations to the task though which we’ll explore here, along with recommendations on how to develop team skills more effectively.
Here’s what you’ll find in this blog post:
Take me straight to the free downloads! These documents will help you to run the challenge quickly and easily.
The Lego Challenge is the most common name for the Lego team-building exercise designed to improve communication and build better teams.
It’s important to note here that this challenge is not the same as Lego Serious Play (LSP). LSP lets users bring ideas to life by building them in 3D and using them as a basis to test out different scenarios. We’ve written more about LSP here – check it out to learn more.
The goal of the Lego Challenge is to build a model as close to a provided diagram as possible, with the exciting twist that only one member of the team has seen the diagram, and they’re not allowed to touch any bricks or be anywhere near the building process.
Facilitators commonly use a chicken as the target model in this activity, thanks mainly to the popular version of the activity published by the guys over at Get Me Coding. You have free reign over what to build, however, meaning you can let your creativity run wild.
Lego team building activities for adults are popular because most people have a few bricks laying around (or know someone who does) meaning a low-cost barrier for the task.
There’s a little more information about the challenge below, but if you want to jump straight to the instructions you can click here.
By keeping the team member who’s seen the diagram separate from the rest of the team, this team building Lego activity forces communication and collaboration, both of which are crucial aspects of team building.
By describing the model and attempting to provide instructions, the person with knowledge of the diagram must communicate clearly and concisely – a skill they may find surprisingly difficult!
Then, once the mediator returns to the builders and relays the instructions again, another opportunity for confusion arises. How well were they listening? How well can they not only visualise the instructions they were given but communicate them to the rest of the team?
Participants quickly realise that clear communication is harder than it looks, and effective facilitation helps them to explore this realisation. With the right follow-up questions and an opportunity to repeat the task, valuable and lasting change can be achieved.
To summarise, the Lego Challenge helps with teamwork in the following ways:
There are some limitations however, which we discuss later.
Here’s how to do the Lego Challenge in nine simple steps:
Full instructions below:
This challenge doesn’t need much equipment, and if you’ve got kids (or you’re a Lego fan yourself) it should all be fairly easy to get hold of.
Here’s what you need:
For best results, you’ll have teams of 4, although the challenge works with as little as 2.
Each team needs the following roles:
Sit each team at their table and spread out 30 Lego blocks on the surface. They’re allowed to choose a pool of 18 bricks to work with, and the others must be kept separate.
Send the lead designer into a different room, or otherwise isolate them from the team. Once they’re separate, give them the diagram of the model they’ll be building and give them three minutes to memorise it in as much detail as possible.
After three minutes the lead designer returns to the main space, but they must sit away from the rest of their group.
Set a 20-minute timer, then allow the lead developer to act as a mediator between the lead designer and the other developers.
If needed, teams can swap a piece of Lego for another piece in their surplus bricks, however, be aware that each exchange adds a point to their final score.
The lead designer can also go and look at the diagram again if needed, but each visit adds a further point to the team’s score.
Once the 20-minute timer runs down, all teams must stop building. At this point you review the completed models and decide the winner:
To tap into the experiential learning methodology, participants should be given an opportunity to repeat the task after their initial experience and structured reflection. This allows them to refine and develop their ideas and increases the likelihood of lasting change.
We recommend using a different model for repeat tasks because the need for effective communication will be greatly reduced if everyone already knows what the model should look like!
The below resources have been created to help you to run the marshmallow challenge as effectively as possible. The presentation will help you to set the task up, the facilitation document will give you everything you need to run an effective session which leaves participants with real learning and the reflection sheets will help all participants to think critically about what they’re learning from the marshmallow challenge.
Download Powerpoint slides for running the Lego Challenge –
to present while facilitating
Free PDF Lego Challenge facilitator guide download –
so you have full instructions
Free Lego Challenge worksheet download –
a review sheet to help people reflect on the task
If you decide to go with a chicken, as per the popular version of this challenge, there are many ways to get there. This is one example of what a simple Lego chicken can look like, just six bricks for the left model or nine for the right:
We’d recommend avoiding anything overly complicated like the chicken below, for a few reasons. Firstly, sourcing enough bricks is likely to be prohibitively expensive. And secondly, any expectation to effectively communicate such complex instructions is unrealistic, and the resulting stress will interfere with participants’ ability to benefit from the task.
Still, it is an impressive model:
While there’s no denying that the Lego Challenge is fun and useful, it does have several drawbacks that greatly limit its value as a tool for developing team-building.
These limitations centre around the fact that the activity claims to be more useful than it is in practice. Here’s why:
Overall, the situation in the task deviates from what will be useful in the real world, particularly in the workplace. In situations with unclear expectations for example, rather than having to recreate a simple Lego model, very different skills will be required to function effectively as a team.
There’s also one significant logistical drawback, in that the creation of the instructional diagrams for the Lego models you’ll use in the challenge is quite difficult.
Building a Lego model is easy enough, but tools for creating printable instructions are few and far between. Several online tools are now defunct, and the ones that are still live are very complicated.
Using pre-existing kits isn’t really an option because they involve far too many bricks, and the resulting instructions would be challenging for the lead designer to memorise, let alone communicate!
The Lego Challenge is great, but as we’ve seen, it’s by far from the best team building activity. Here we’ve rounded up a handful of alternative activities to foster teamwork and collaboration in your teams.
This comprehensive experiential learning kit contains 53 high impact experiential learning activities and is designed to develop team skills, communication, problem-solving, and more.
With an expansive range of activities and full facilitator guidance materials, this kit is able to create lasting behavioural change amongst participants. Unlike the Lego Challenge which has limited applicability in professional settings, each of these activities has been designed and refined to put the learner at the centre of the process.
Learn more about MTa Insights here.
In this MTa Insights activity, participants must work together to build a large assembly that consists of four sub-assemblies. Pairs within the larger group work together to build each sub-assembly, with one person having a picture of what needs building and the other person having the required materials.
This activity achieves what the Lego Challenge claims to achieve, in that effective two-way verbal communication is required, along with other crucial team-building skills like appreciating and working with others’ restrictions, giving and receiving clear instructions, and appreciation of the bigger picture.
In The Culprit, participants take on the role of detectives on a tough murder case. Pressure is high, and in order to solve the case, effective collaboration is required. Participants collect and evaluate clues, all while exploring and improving their ability to work in a team.
While the Team Kit and The Culprit are both indoor team building activities, sometimes it’s good to have a bank of outdoor team building activities. Moving things outside when the weather allows is a nice way to shift the dynamic, and this game is the perfect example.
If you’re not familiar, the objective of the Egg Drop Competition is to drop an egg from a roof, safely contained in a contraption designed and built by you and your team. Generally, any team whose egg survives the fall is crowned winner, but it’s not uncommon for no eggs to survive. In this circumstance the victor can be determined by least damage, best design, or one of several other criteria.
It’s up to you to decide which building materials are available, how long teams have to build, how high the drop is, and many other factors that shift the difficulty of this task. The Egg Drop Competition is reliably fun and is a great way to get people psyched up about working together.
Kolb, D., A. (1984). Experiential Learning : Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Prentice-Hall.
Wheeler, S., Passmore, J. & Gold, R. All to play for: LEGO SERIOUS PLAY and its impact on team cohesion, collaboration and psychological safety in organisational settings using a coaching approach. Journal of Work-Applied Management, 12(2).