Participants: 8 – 16
Location: Outside, unless you have a large amount of room inside.
Activity Level: Medium
Time Needed: 45 to 60 Minutes plus debrief – 75 to 90 minutes total
Objectives: Coaching, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Communication
This event is often considered impossible in the beginning and can be mentally tough, but with tenacity and perseverance, teams complete this challenge.
This exercise will test your team’s critical thinking under a deadline, which no amount of physical brawn can overcome. A need for very clear communication and common vocabulary is key to solving this exercise and can show the need for perseverance and determination by all participants.
In addition, a variation will eliminate the natural leader in the group and show the need for using the skills of each individual on the team. This kind of role-switching is key for good teams and this exercise is a great place to practice letting other individuals take the helm.
Creativity, coordination, communication, leadership, perseverance, determination and many other team and personal skills will be put to the test during this activity. It is tough.
It is important for teams to find different ways to look at situations and support each other even when there is no clear path and no one is the expert.
The solution is a mix of creativity, logic and an extreme amount of great communication! Even the best of teams will have difficulty completing this exercise.
Brief outline of China Syndrome:
Two buckets of sand or water are inside a 60’diameter circle. Participants may not go inside the circle. Without entering the circle, the bucket of water must be poured into the second bucket. Participants are given several ropes and a circular bungee.
Attaching the ropes to the bungee and pulling from all sides can stretch the bungee to fit around one bucket. Then they can pour the contents into the second bucket by manipulating the ropes.
Anyone handling the ropes must be blindfolded, and therefore coached on what to do by another member of the team.
You should allow at least an hour or so for this event. It can be done inside with enough room for the circle and substitute water for balls so water is not spilled.
Again, this is technically very difficult but has a tremendous amount of value for the right team.
We have seen the benefit for participants using this event in both communication and leadership and specifically how these two areas impact problem solving strategies.
If you are blindfolded, you must completely depend upon another person to get your ‘job’ done. How often does this happen at work? All the time. It can be very frustrating to the blindfolded person when (s)he is given the same instructions over and over the same way, but obviously does not understand. Also, it is very difficult to be any kind of leader when your communication is hampered like this. How often do executives have too little information and have to make decisions? All the time.
If you are the person coaching a blindfolded person, it can be very difficult to convey the right information in a way that is meaningful. It is very frustrating when the blindfolded person does not understand and you cannot seem to think of any other way to say it. How do you change your communication to make your instructions meaningful? How often do executives have to tell the same manager/employee the same thing over and over again and they do not ‘get it’? Part of the problem is the executive and their communication to the manager/employee.
This event requires leadership, leadership and more leadership. Many times, the event will bring out the ‘natural’ leader. This person is neutralized in the first few seconds of the event so the group will have to decide who is the new leader.
Leadership will change during the event. This happens almost every time. Sometimes it is a group decision and sometimes one person will simply start being the new leader. It is very interesting to watch to see how the leadership forms.
In theory, all of the executives have been trained to be leaders, but we know this is not true. What are the different leadership styles that the different participants have. This event will help everyone see what type of leadership works. However, what people like to do is extrapolate that style of leadership to other situations where it may not work.
One possibility is to assign a leader at the beginning, after the ‘natural’ leader is neutralized.
This event is perhaps our most difficult with regard to problem solving as it appears impossible in the beginning.
Many times, leadership will change as one leaders ideas and solutions are discarded. It is interesting to watch how participants treat each other while ideas are being discussed. Also, many times they stick to the same solution even when it isn’t working.
Both leadership and communication interweave the problem solving aspect of this event. This event will help groups discuss the difficulties, how the same difficulties are seen at work and how to change for better future results.
Interesting things that happen:
- Leadership may change when the current leader gets frustrated or when there is a split in the group about how to accomplish the task. Watch to see how the rest of the group reacts. How does the old leader react? Does (s)he pull back from the group or jump in and do all (s)he can?
- If using a time management variation, it is interesting to see how the group changes strategy, leadership and/or communication styles as time gets short. This can make the event very similar to work because everyone is always under a time crunch at work and don’t have time to be anything but a dictator (leadership) or a poor communicator.
- Almost no one who is coaching uses a blindfold to try and understand what the blindfolded people are going through or how they may be seeing the event.
- Many great ideas are thrown out, but other participants do not consider them. Why not? Does this same thing happen at work? Is it the same person whose ideas are discarded without discussion?
- Many times some participants will become disenfranchised with the event. What was the cause?
Summary of China Syndrome
This is a very difficult but fun exercise that groups will want to try over and over again, even after they know the solution. With the variations included, this event becomes monstrously difficult.
This particular activity is technically difficult and appears to be impossible at the beginning. If you have a group that enjoys difficult problems solving, this is a great game.
What comes in China Syndrome?
The team building activity comes in an easy-to-use storage bag and will include the following:
- Comprehensive information on purpose of the game, how to set it up, the storyline and the safety measures necessary during the course of the exercise.
- Instructions on how to debrief the exercise and questions that you should ask the participants.
- Professional materials and props necessary to conduct the exercise.
It includes everything you need to provide a good quality, well thought out and meaningful team building experience for your organization.
With each team building purchase, you also receive:
- Unlimited Support Monday through Friday from a Professional Facilitator.
- Two-Year No-Hassle Replacement Warranty
And what’s more, you are also entitled to 100% Lifetime Money Back Satisfaction Guarantee.