The Hula Hoop: A Tell-Tale Of Great Teams

workshop exercise

Try this with your teams. Divide into groups of 6-8. Starting with two people facing each other around a hula hoop, have them stick out their pointer fingers with the rest of their fingers wrapped in a fist, holding their hands about chest high. Then have a 3rd person rest the hula hoop on top of those 4 out-pointed fingers. Now, at this stage I must point out that there are only two rules: First, under no circumstance, no matter how creatively you try, are you allowed to grab the hula hoop in any way. It must simply rest upon the tops of your fingers using no other force than gravity. And second: all people involved must maintain contact with the hula hoop at all times. Once a person loses contact with the hoop, once their fingers are no longer touching it, the team must go back to the beginning.

Objective: Together move the hula hoop: raise it up to your head, down to your knees, then to your chest, and repeat, remembering rule number 1 & 2.

Now, with only two people, this is quite simple. You lift it up, lower it down, lift it again, and no one loses contact. Easy Peasy. Now add a third person and see what you find, then a fourth, a fifth and so on — until all eight are around and in contact with the hoop. What do you notice as you add people? With three people, it’s still pretty easy to stay connected, isn’t it? What happens when you add the 4th person? It’s a lot trickier! That hula hoop starts to levitate with a mind of its own, and maintaining contact becomes increasingly difficult with each added person. Four is bad enough, but by the time you get to eight, it’s virtually impossible! You can’t even stand still without someone losing contact with the hoop. Since everyone is pushing up against it, trying to maintain contact, it goes pretty high, pretty quick. It’s incredibly difficult to synchronize your movement.

Why is that so difficult? Well, that’s the topic of conversation, isn’t it? Why is it hard? What would make it easier? Can it be done? These are great questions to ask your team. Explore their answers. See where it leads you. You might be shocked at the creativity that ensues. I typically use this when working with teams and talking about vision, or dysfunction, the lack of trust or the disconnection that leads to poor communication between team members. If those are topics you are addressing, try this exercise, then share with me how it goes! If you do, I’ll share with you the key take-away I typically point out to drive home our work.