Team Building Activity: Aardvark and Antelope

Posted by Kristin Arnold on April 30, 2012

I love to use this team activity to creatively demonstrate the idea that we can’t rely on the team leader or expert to make all the decisions!  Perfect for a group of 6 to 20 people.  It takes about 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll need two different colored marking pens OR one aardvark and one antelope stuffed animal!

Have the team to sit in a circle or U-shape. Introduce the person at the end of the “U” or one person in the circle as the “fount of all knowledge about aardvarks.”  Hand that person a marker or the aardvark stuffed animal.  “Whenever anyone needs to know anything about aardvarks, they have to come to Jane, oh fount of all knowledge about aardvarks.”

Introduce the person at the other end of the “U” or the person sitting next to the “fount of all knowledge about aardvarks” as the “fount of all knowledge about antelopes.”  Hand that person a different colored marker.  Restate, “Whenever anyone needs to know anything about antelopes, they have to come to Bob, oh fount of all knowledge about antelopes.”

Explain to the team the rules of the activity:  “This is how it works:  Jane, you tell the person next to you (not Bob, the other person, Sally), ‘This marker is an aardvark.’  Sally, because she is NOT the fount of all knowledge asks Jane, ‘A what?’  Jane replies, ‘An aardvark.’  Sally then understands, and takes the marker from Jane.”

Now Sally needs to explain the aardvark to the next person in the line, Kelly.  But Sally is NOT the fount of all knowledge.  She has to go back to the fount of all knowledge (Jane) and ask “A what?”  To which Jane will reply “an aardvark.”  Sally will then tell Kelly, “It’s an aardvark.”  And so the process begins.  The only person who can verify that it is, in fact, an aardvark is Jane.

Same thing holds true for Bob and the antelopes.  Make sure both “sides” understand the rules before you continue.

Now here is where the fun starts.  The goal is to ensure that Bob (at the other end of the “U”) understands about aardvarks and that Jane understands about antelopes.  Pass the marker down the line, recognizing that you need to have the founts of all knowledge verify each time it passes from one team member to the next.

Then stand back and watch the confusion, especially when the two pens intersect in the midway point.  They will be VERY confused!

Debrief and Summarize
After the aardvark and antelope have made it all the way around, debrief this activity with the following questions:

  • What do you think about the founts of all knowledge?
  • Was it necessary to keep going back to them?
  • Do you see this dynamic on our team?
  • How can we prevent this dynamic from occurring?

If you like this activity, check out my book, Team Energizers, for 49 other team activities!

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