Teamwork Activity: Are you puzzled?

illinois puzzle

Through the years, I have used a puzzle of a United States map to demonstrate principles of personality, productivity and communication at workshops I conduct. When preparing for my latest workshop, I discovered that Illinois had come up missing. My husband carefully took a printout I made of the state and crafted a brand new piece. Sweet, right?  (It worked at the event, but guess what I found a couple of weeks afterward?)

Puzzles are a great way to inspire teamwork in the workplace, so today I’m offering you a practical suggestion to build a sense of camraderie with your coworkers. That type of culture helps us all beat stress and feel a little less overwhelmed.


This exercise requires cooperation, strategy, and project management. It cannot be completed by just one person, although various employees may spend more time on it than others. The goal is to complete a project using something from everyone, and to celebrate the accomplishment without having to identify the “best” contributor.

What you’ll need:

  • A puzzle made up of enough pieces that you can equally divide among all employees in a particular department.
  • Sandwich baggies or envelopes to divide the pieces equally. Each employee should have no more than 10 pieces.
  • Flat surface in a reasonably open area, but not in the way

What to do:

Announce that the team will be assembling a puzzle together over the course of a period of time that you select. (I recommend your first puzzle take no longer than two weeks to complete.)

Distribute baggies or envelopes with an equal number of puzzle pieces to employees to each employee.

Tell employees that they are to contribute to the puzzle one time per day. Contributing can be as simple as laying one of their pieces on the table, or spending a couple of minutes trying to fit together pieces that are there. They can only “work on” the puzzle for less than five minutes per day (either contribute pieces or trying to assemble.)

Throughout the time period (for our example, two weeks) you should begin to see the puzzle come together. At first, there will just be loose pieces on the table. However, as the supply grows, there may be some attempts to fit pieces together.

Be sure to encourage along the way and establish some type of reward the whole team can enjoy once the puzzle is completed (i.e. lunch brought in.)

You may wish to frame the puzzle and hang somewhere to remind team members of the fun you had!

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