The Map Game is a team building activity that focuses on communication. Facilitators must prepare to lead this game and it must be played by pairs, though many pairs can take part simultaneously.Summary by The World of Work Project
The Map Game Team Building Activity
The map game is a team-building activity in which individuals sit back to back and try to communicate directions to each other.
The facilitator prepares for this game by finding two different maps of the same area, one with street names on it and one without. You can can make such maps from the internet quite easily.
The facilitator takes their maps and copies them into a document so that one is in landscape orientation and the other is portrait.
The facilitator then puts two place-markers on the portrait map (location A and location B). The facilitator then prints the maps out so that there are enough copies for half of the participants to receive a landscape map, and half to receive a portrait map.
Some example maps are provided here so you can see what they may look like. However, it’s better to complete the activity with maps you make your self. This is particularly the case if they can have some relevance for your participants.
To undertake the map game team building activity, the facilitator splits the room into pairs. One member of each pair is a “navigator” and one is a ”listener”. The paired participants are asked to sit with their backs together. This way all listeners are facing one way, and all the navigators are facing away from them.
The facilitator then gives all the navigators a copy of the portrait map (showing the place-markers for locations A and B). They then give all the listeners a copy of the landscape map (without the place-markers on it).
The facilitator starts the exercise by explaining that the exercise is simple. Everyone in the room has a map and all that’s involved in the activity is for the navigator to explain to the listener where points A and B are on of the map, and for the listener to draw a route between them. The exercise ends when all pairs have completed the exercise.
The pairs then complete the activity. They usually all start with their maps held as they have been received (landscape / portrait) and struggle significantly to communicate effectively. Over time the participants will start to identify useful points of reference and then ultimately they will be able to complete the activity. Some of the listeners may even realize that their maps are not the right way and and rotate them.
If things are particularly difficult, a facilitator may provide a few hints and tips.
Once all of the participants have completed the map game team building activity the facilitator can debrief the room. This usually is done through questioning of the participants to see what they experienced.
The purpose of the debrief is to draw out messages related to communication, most specifically that everyone goes into relationships with different perspectives. When people have different perspectives and starting points, communication can be difficult.
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: The tennis ball game, fizz-buzz, disassociated words and the maps and pins activity.
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
The map game team building activity works quite well for the right audiences and can help create a memorable experience relating to communication and perspective.
Some people, however, can find it frustrating. Unfortunately though, it’s often those who most need the lesson who find it most frustrating.
Overall, we think this is a decent activity to be aware of. It requires preparation and is more complex than other activities, so it needs to be used in the right place and at the right time.
Sources and further reading
Where possible we always recommend that people read up on the original sources of information and ideas.
This post is based on our experiences delivering and facilitating the map game team building activity in the world of work. There are no specific references for it. If you’re aware of an appropriate attribution for this game, please let us know.
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