The Puzzles Game

Expected outcome:

To get people thinking outside the box; to stimulate creativity and cooperation; to make visible the advantages of sharing information.


The puzzles games is played by three teams that need to assemble a puzzle each, without knowing that the pieces have been mixed and so the task is impossible, unless they cooperate. They must work in silence and finish in a given time (a few minutes). At some point the trick is discovered and the teams start to cooperate, and usually complete the task very quickly. Debriefing after the game and share the experience. For groups between 12 and 30.


Buy three different but similar children’s puzzles with medium sized pieces. Wrap the covers, mix up the puzzles and place a similar quantity of pieces in each box.
Quickly create three teams and give them each a workspace. Announce that there is no more talking, this is a teamwork activity and they need to work in silence. Give each team a box and say they need to “complete the picture” as quickly as possible. 
What happens, of course, is that people assume they have all the materials and information they need to get their assignment done.  In addition, a competition often begins between the teams, sometimes they even “hide” their work from each other. If they are really struggling and you are concerned about time, you can give little statements about teamwork as hints (get help when you need it, think outside the box, take time to reflect and create a plan). Eventually someone realizes what is going on — there is a “Eureka” Moment when s/he lifts his/her head and looks around the room, then tries to communicate to others about what they’ve noticed. How the group works together from that point on is also very telling — do they readily share, do they move their workspaces together, do they work on each others’ puzzles?  They need to continue to work in silence. 
Once the puzzles are together, after a good laugh, talk about 1) assumptions made 2) what happened when the teams worked in isolation 3) how did the Eureka Moment occur 4) what happened once people realized what was going on. Only then ask how it relates to their work.


30’ from beginning to end


3 puzzles, a medium sized room or outdoor space.

Origin of the tool:

Jeff Miller, Ph.D. Innovative Leadership Solutions, Inc. 6526 Oxford Drive Zionsville, IN 46077 office: 317-733-8635 fax: 317-733-8636

Your name:

Submitted by Nara and adapted to the template by Lucilla.