created by the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council
Activities for Teams, Innovators
and Change Agents
MindShift is a collection of tools, games, and activities to inspire innovation, teamwork and engagement in health care settings.

Tent Pole

This activity is a powerful exercise for learning how to work together and communicate to small and medium-sized groups.


Download Activity Worksheet

  • 25-30 minutes
  • Groups of 8-12
  • 1 thin, lightweight tent pole per group

  • Source: Unknown

What to do

  • Lay tent poles at on the ground throughout the room – you’ll need one tent pole for each group.
  • Divide participants into multiple groups of 8-12 (depending on the number of participants).
  • Have group members line up on either side of the tent pole, lift up the tent pole to shoulder height and balance it on their index fingers. Note: no pinching or grabbing of the pole is allowed.
  • The object of the activity is to lower the tent pole to the ground from shoulder height. Easy, right? Wait, there are a few additional steps:
    • a. The team must work together to lower the tent pole to the ground from the starting position of shoulder height.
    • b. If at any time a team member’s finger loses contact with the pole, the team must go back to the start and begin again.
  • As the facilitator, if a group is struggling you can o er suggestions to the group to help them out. If a group is moving too quickly remind them if a team member’s finger loses contact they must start over again.
  • Finish when at least one team has gotten their tent pole to the ground.

Debrief

  • What was your initial reaction to this exercise?
  • How did your group cope with the challenge?
  • What skills did it take for your group to be successful?
  • What would an outside observer say were the strengths and weaknesses of your group?
  • What other situations can work like this?
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