The maps and pins team building and diversity activity helps people to learn more about each other. It’s particularly useful where team members have diverse backgrounds.

Summary by The World of Work Project

Maps and Pins Team Building and Diversity Activity

This premise behind this team building activity is to help individuals share some of their personal history. They do this through disclosure of countries or cities that are important to them. It’s a simple activity that can help people explore their individual differences in a safe and limited way.

The activity quite intimate and works well in small to medium teams (4-12) when done face to face. Variants of the activity can work fairly well as inclusion activities at much larger scales if done virtually, provided you have the appropriate technology. The activity is particularly useful for multi-cultural teams.

How the Maps and Pins Team Building and Diversity Activity Works

As with most activities of this nature, the world maps and pins team building exercise should be facilitated. The facilitator should talk the participants through the activity before it is started to ensure everyone knows what to expect. They should also fully take part in the activity.

The facilitator should prepare for this event by drawing two maps on separate “flip-charts” or similar. One of the maps should be of whatever country you are in. The other should be of the whole world. The maps really don’t need to be of a high quality, they just need to be recognizable.

Once all the participants are in the room, the facilitator should ask everyone to mark two places that are important to them on either map. One of the places they mark should be where they grew up. The other place should be anywhere in the world that’s important to them, for whatever reason they choose. To help distinguish the marks, it might be worth having the participants use their initials.

Once everyone has marked their places, the facilitator guides a conversation around the group. They ask each participant to share the places they’ve identified with everyone else in the room, and to spend a few minutes explaining either why they have chosen them or what they’re like. The facilitator should start this process off and set the tone for the conversation. They do this by identifying and sharing the places that they have identified as important to themselves first.

The activity ends once all participants have talked about the places that are important to them. It may be worth saving the maps and keeping them in a team room or similar, if appropriate.

A Large Group Alternative

Several variations of this activity can be used for much larger groups.

In a large office context it’s possible to use a physical world map as a way to show the diversity of employees. Doing this can raise awareness of diversity and increase inclusion. To do this, simply place a world map on a cork-board in a public space and ask individuals to place pins in the board to represent where they come from. The populated map becomes a visual reminder of the offices diversity.

In a virtual context, it’s possible to repeat the same activity but with a virtual map. Again, individuals can drop virtual pins, they can simply write their initials where they are from. This requires a bit of technology, but can be useful in larger organizations as a diversity tool and as a conversation starter.

Learning More

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: team name and logo, participant bingo, find your partner, interesting facts and Human Rock, Paper, Scissors.

This activity is particularly helpful as it can be used to open conversations about diversity and inclusion. To learn more about this topic, you can listen to our podcast introduction to it below:

The World of Work Project View

Maps and Pins Team Building and Diversity Activity works well because it helps people share things that are important to them and helps them disclose their history.

It’s particularly powerful in teams where individuals come from a range of countries or have a range of ethnicities. Using tools like this is helpful because conversations about “where you come from” are sometimes seen as inappropriate. It’s also surprising how many commonalities are discovered through the exercise.

This activity should be facilitated in a relaxed and informal way. This helps ensure everyone is at ease. Some participants may feel slightly nervous or feel that the places they choose might be looked down on by others. Given this, it’s important to instill a sense of inclusion. Facilitators need to demonstrate and that there are no wrong answers. This isn’t a competition, it’s just about getting to know each other.

We think this activity works well for most small groups, so it’s worth practicing your ability to draw a map… And remember, sometimes being bad at drawing a map can be an icebreaker in itself!

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Sources and Feedback

The information supporting this post comes from our experience at work. There are no specific references for it.

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