Written by: Kirsten Williams and Gioel Gioacchino; Edited By: Denisse Albornoz

By simulating a notebook production company, this team-building game helps groups of co-researchers become aware of their team’s dynamics. This is a great exercise to reflect on the challenges of working together under time pressure.

Our experience using this technique:

We first played this game in Berlin, during a workshop with the Art of Living Foundation. The instruction was: ‘produce a tennis ball’. To do so we each had to touch a tennis ball but in order of every other person (i.e skipping the person next to you) until everyone had touched the ball. When we had all touched it, we had to deliver it to our ‘client’, played by one of the facilitators. We played this game with the launch group of Recrear and found ourselves having a profound reflection on the roles each of us played in the group. Since then we’ve adapted the technique to observe teamwork in action and to draw awareness around what each individual brings to the process. We’ve played with this technique in the Dominican Republic, Canada, Cuba and Colombia.

Research and Development:

What are we trying to understand about the community?
This is a GREAT team-building exercise. When applied to research, it becomes a tool to facilitate a discussion around how people are working together, taking on different roles and coordinating.
Why is it important for the community’s development?
Young people all over the world constantly remind us that working together is what makes us more effective. But working together is oh, so hard! This is a brilliant experiential learning activity to become aware of who we are within a group.
At what stage(s) of the research cycle is this method used?
Community Building, Data Collection.


What do I need?
  • A4 sheets of paper folded in two and stapled together to make 3 ‘blank notebooks’. Note: How many sheets depends on the size of the group. There should be at least one page that each person can create.
  • Pens, coloured markers… anything to decorate the notebook.
How long does it take?
30 – 50 minutes
  1. Form the group(s). It should be ideally one large group of no more than 15 people. If the numbers are bigger, split the groups. Make sure to have one observer for each group.
  2. Have the group sit in a circle facing inwards. Place the pens, coloured markets etc. in the middle of the circle.
  3. Announce that they are a notebook production company and a new client has ordered a notebook from them. Showing the blank notebook in your hand, explain that in order to produce this notebook everyone has to contribute to it once before handing it back to the the ‘client’ (ideally represented by someone who is not involved in the game but present in the room – e.g. a second facilitator).  The notebook is passed to every other person in the circle (i.e always skipping the person next to the participant who is working on the notebook) until everyone in the circle has contributed.
  4. As participants work on the notebook, remain quiet and observe. Time their work.
  5. When they are done announce that they did a great job. The client is very happy with the notebook. But unfortunately they took too long and the client is considering giving the production to another company. Ask them if they can do the exact same notebook but quicker.
  6. Time players as they re-do the exact same notebook, but quicker. Remain quiet and observe.
  7. When they are done, announce that, again, they did great, but unfortunately the client is still not happy with the time. Tell them they have one more chance to do it, but this time they need to propose a time themselves. Give them 3 minutes to agree on their time proposal, and maybe to design a strategy.
  8. Time as they re-do the notebook one last time.
  9. Facilitate a discussion:
  • How was the experience? What happened?
  • Put the 3 notebooks next to each other. What is the difference between the 3 notebooks?
  • How did the time pressure impact the team work? What do they make of it?
  • In the third round, was it helpful to have a moment to plan?
  • What were the different behaviours in the group?
  • What did they learn about themselves in the group context?
  • How did you manage expectations in the group? Individual vs team expectations.


Benefits and Challenges

What are the benefits of using this technique?
Participants can experience what it means to manage time, expectations, and other people in the team. Beyond the team building, this exercise helps participants reflect on and identify the individual role they play in a group. Ultimately they also understand how these dynamics are mirrored in a research project involving other people.
What are the challenges of using this technique?

As the ‘pressure’ increases, people’s conflict reactions surface as some people take leadership while others pull away. It means there are different levels of participation and these are fundamental observations to discuss during the debrief!


How to adapt the technique
If you want to do this exercise quicker, you can use an object that people just need to pass around, instead of a notebook.
Tips and Traps :
This exercise might take a lot of time if players are very detailed oriented. As a facilitator, resist the urge to stop or hurry the process. Instead, use the experience as a reflection tool. Share your emotions during the game. Share what you observed in their change of behaviours during the 3 rounds.

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