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3 fun ways to improvise great start-up teamwork

One of the most important things investors look for when deciding to work with a start-up business is the character of each founding team member and the functioning of the team. As is said in this article http://bit.ly/ZFyxr5: "It is your team that is going to win me over, not your half-baked idea!" Because the idea is likely to change and evolve (often many times) and it's up for the team to move it along.

I have worked for a few startups and now in the journey of building my own business. Some are Ace teams with people that I admire and learned a great deal from, and also teams where everyone suffered and things didn't work.

3 fun ways to improvise great start-up teamwork

We can practice and improve teamwork by playing simple, fun improvisation games.

I had the opportunity to organize workshop with some great improviser in town and played many fun inspirational games. I found there is so much wisdom in each little game - if you pay attention during the game and reflect after to learn. Here are three quick and easy games I played and believe can teach us a lot about how to work better as a team.

1. One-word-at-a-time

Instruction: Get a small group of 2-8 people. Stand in a circle. One person says one word at a time. Start with 'Once-Upon-A-Time'… then keep going. The group together tries to create a story.

Tips: Try not to overthink a word; Pay attention and relax; Do not try to impress but rather just play at your top intelligence and trust others will do the same.

Insights you are likely to have by playing this game:
- It is important to listen attentively to others;
- Do not judge yourself and do not judge others, you will enjoy the process better and be more creative;
- Trust people that come before and after you;
- Stop trying to control everything and let go - after all you contribute by creating the final story only one word at a time and nobody is in full control of the final result.

2. I feel…

Instruction: This is good as a pair game. Person A starts by sharing his/her feeling "I feel…". Person B responds by sharing how he/she feels after hearing A: "I feel…". Use one word to express your feeling or a sentence but keep it short. Play for a few rounds.

Tips: Try to really connect with your own feeling and express it as best as you could; Hear your partner - I mean really hear it first then take some time to respond.

Insights that you are likely to have:
- We are constantly filled with feelings and they greatly influence how we look at things, but we are actually not very good at telling how we are feeling at the moment and even worse at expressing it.
- It feels so great to know that the other person hears how you feel, and as a result you feel connected with each other.
- Feelings can change in an instant.

3. Count from 1 to 10, together

Instruction: Be in a group of 5-8 people. Stand in a circle. Close your eyes. One person starts 1, then each person takes his/her turn to give the next number. Try to count to 10 as a team. If more than one person gives the same number, start again from 1.

Tip: Be sure to close eyes.

Lessons you may learn from this game about teamwork:
- Everyone has their pace but what counts is the pace of the team, and it takes some tries till the team finds its pace.
- You will always accomplish the task if you just be patient and keep at it.

3 fun ways to improvise great start-up teamwork

Play and apply the lessons to real-life teamwork

Try the games with your start-up team and friends. After each game, spend a few minutes sharing your learning after each game - remember to give everyone the opportunity to do so. Then play again and see how fast you are getting better at it together. You will generate a lot insights together, and have fun!

The more challenging part is to consistently apply the lessons in real-life teamwork.

I think I get the insights deeply when I play them myself, but I do often catch myself not following them in reality: I don’t listen well sometimes; I distrust instead of trust; I forget to acknowledge my own feelings and connect with others; I feel the team is moving too slow and I want it faster; I want to feel certain of results and have things controlled…

The answer is simple: practice more.

Because, these insights are just knowledge; to be able to consistently apply knowledge to real life situations is about developing a new skill. The only way to get better at a skill is to practice it more till it comes with no effort. That’s why I picked a few games that are quick and easy to play and can offer great insights.

BTW, these games are also great activities to improve meeting dynamics so you can play them to start your team meetings.

Note: From my experience the simple instruction is enough for anyone to play without previous experience. But if you need more help to play the games or want to join some improvisation workshops in town, feel free to contact me at yan@2innovate.asia. I’ll be happy to provide more information.
Image by Iyk3_0n3_tym3 @Flickr

To read more blogs by from 2Innovate about personal mastery, leadership and innovation, go to
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3 fun ways to improvise great start-up teamwork

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