Birthday ordering is an entertaining and challenging team building and energizing activity which works for medium to larger groups and which focuses on the theme of communication.Summary by World of Work Project
Birthday ordering is an activity which requires a group of people to do something simple. Line themselves up in order by their days of birth in the calendar year, but there’s a twist.
How the activity works
This energizer activity requires a facilitator and works well in medium and large groups, provided adequate space and physically able participants. As usual, the facilitator needs to explain the activity to the participants.
The facilitator splits the room into at least two groups of between 15 and 40 people. They then explain that the groups are about to race against each other. Once the activity starts, each group will need to order its individuals from left to right in order of the day of the year in which they were born, starting at 01 January and finishing on the 31st of December (ignore years of birth).
Once they complete the exercise, the group should shout out that they’re done. Let that sink in as it sounds simple, then explain that there’s a catch…
The catch is that the participants are not allowed to speak or write anything down. The facilitator shouldn’t provide any more information than that. The groups will need to work out their own ways of communicating (they inevitably mime, but it is a bit clumsy).
The facilitator then counts down to “go” and starts a timer. The facilitator observes the groups and keeps a note of the order they complete the exercise in. Once everyone completes, the facilitator gets the participants in the first group to say their days of birth in the order they are lined up in. If they’re all in the correct order, the group has been successful and they are the fastest winners, if not they are eliminated. Once all the groups have completed this, the facilitator declares a winner and awards a token prize.
Team building and ice-breaking activities are very important. They help build trust in teams and help progress team maturity. They can also reduce the risks of social threat and improve interpersonal awareness.
Being able to deliver them is a helpful facilitation and meeting skill. A few specific activities we’ve written about include: Weekend Chairs, Vegetable Introductions, Two Truths and a Lie, and the Questions Cocktail Party.
Laughter and play are also great ways to help build a team. You can learn more about how playfulness helps teams in our podcast on the subject:
The World of Work Project View
This activity works surprisingly well for large groups and is worth considering for larger conferences, provided there is space for it.
The activity also has a few added advantages to it. Firstly, it can easily be linked to several common development topics such as problem solving, communication, empowerment, challenge and so on. Secondly, it’s almost inevitable that through the course of the activity some people will discover that they share a birthday with someone else in the room / group.
Overall this is a fun activity that it’s worth knowing and keeping in mind.
Sources and further reading
Where possible we always recommend that people read up on the original sources of information and ideas.
This post has been informed primarily by our experiences over our careers and does not reference any specific sources.
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