Last updated July 1, 2024

If you are training a team of participants on strategic thinking, here are 21 strategic thinking activities that can also be used for team building.

Free Strategic Thinking Activities for Teams

Benefits of Strategic Thinking Activities

Strategic thinking is a great skill to have not only for managers but also for team members, especially when they work together to achieve a common goal.

Strategic thinking is a lot more than simple strategic planning, as it involves a series of other skills, which include:

  • The ability to construct a clear vision of what you want to achieve
  • Awareness of what is going on around you and of possible trends that can shape your future course of action
  • Seeing the big picture, i.e. identifying connections between items and events
  • Creativity, in the sense of imagining future scenarios and challenging assumptions

With this in mind, strategic thinking activities can help team members develop and practice these skills.

In addition, engaging in these games and creating a strategy together can help team-building as it fosters a sense of achievement and collaboration in employees.

21 Strategic Thinking Activities for Employees

Below are the strategic thinking exercises that you can start using in your training.

1. Escape Room

Escape room

Objective: This team activity fosters teamwork, awareness, and strategic thinking by challenging participants to solve puzzles and find clues under time constraints.

Escape Room is one of those strategic thinking activities that helps participants observe details and also see the big picture by connecting the dots, which is a very important part of strategic thinking.

This activity needs a bit of time and thought to organize but it is worth the effort and it is a good idea for a team away day.

Instructions: Set a physical space for participants to simulate an escape room, in which to distribute clues, puzzles and riddles.

Split your participants into small teams.

Provide a storyline that sets the scene. Then, explain that the objective is getting out of a locked room by figuring out all the puzzles.

Each team will need to work together to progress through the challenges of the game (e.g. solving riddles and puzzles, answering questions, finding clues and other tasks) to finally escape from the room.

Give the teams a limited time to escape the room, for instance, 30 or 60 minutes depending on how much time you have and how many challenges they will have to overcome.

Materials Needed:

• Physical props and puzzles
• A timer
• Storyline and clues

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion: To start a discussion, you can ask questions such as the ones below.

  • How did your team approach solving the puzzles?
  • What strategies were most effective in finding and interpreting clues?
  • How did observing details help you solve the challenges?
  • How did seeing the big picture help you when doing some of the tasks?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: You can use an online escape room platform or create a custom digital escape room using tools like Google Forms or specialized software.

Participants will then work together via video conferencing to solve the puzzles.

2. Blindfolded Treasure Hunt

Treasure hunt activity

Objective: This is one of the strategic thinking activities that are useful for enhancing teamwork, communication and overall awareness.

The idea is for participants to guide a blindfolded team member to find a series of imaginary treasures using specific commands.

Instructions: Designate an area with hidden imaginary treasures.

Split the participants into small teams. One participant in each team is blindfolded and can only follow specific commands, while the other(s) give directions to find the treasures.

Give each team a set time to find the treasures.

Materials Needed:

  • A designated search area
  • Commands list
  • Blindfolds

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • What strategy did your team use to find the treasures?
  • How did you ensure that you communicated effectively?

3. Charades

Objective: This is a popular game that can be used as an energizer when you sense that participants are getting tired or just after a lunch break.

During this activity, participants need to guess what one of them is trying to portray by using gestures only. Therefore, this strategic thinking exercise helps develop creativity and imagination (if you are miming the concept) and awareness and observation skills (if you are trying to guess what the person acting as the mime is trying to convey).

Instructions: Divide the participants into groups of 4 or 5 people.

Choose one person in one team to act as a mime and show them a card with the name of an everyday object or an abstract concept (or it can be the title of a movie or a book).

The mime has to communicate what the item is to their team without speaking and the rest of the team will need to guess within 30 seconds. If they guess correctly within the time limit, they get 1 point.

Move on to the next team and continue the activity until each person in each team has had the chance to act as a mime.

The team with the most points wins.

Materials Needed

  • Pre-prepared cards with objects, concepts or titles for participants to guess
  • A timer

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion: If you want, you can follow the activity up with a group discussion and you can ask some questions to help the discussion develop such as:

  • How did your team’s approach to guessing evolve as the game progressed?
  • How did you go about trying to convey your concept without words?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: This activity can be adapted for online teaching using a virtual platform with video conferencing capabilities.

4. Murder Mystery

Objective: This is a very popular activity and it involves finding the murderer as part of a fictional murder mystery story.

This is one of those strategic thinking activities that enhances participants’ observation skills, ability to gather information and spot trends, and to see the big picture by having them piece together clues to solve a fictitious murder case.

This activity also encourages questioning skills and overcoming biases by considering multiple perspectives and challenging assumptions.

Instructions: For this activity, the participants work individually and each of them is given a role in the murder mystery story.

So, you will prepare in advance a storyline involving a fictional murder with characters, motives, and clues.

At the start of the activity, assign roles to participants (e.g., suspects, detectives) and distribute character descriptions and background information.

During the activity, participants will interact, ask each other questions and gather information to identify the murderer. Through the activity, provide additional cues at timed intervals.

At the end of the activity, which can last 1 hour or more (depending on how long you have), the teams will reconvene to identify the culprit.

Materials Needed:

  • Character descriptions and background information
  • Clues
  • Timer

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • How did you approach the process of gathering and analyzing clues?
  • What assumptions did you have to challenge to solve the mystery?
  • How did considering multiple perspectives help in identifying the murderer?
  • What are your conclusions about the importance of asking insightful questions?

Adaptation for Online Teaching:

You can use a video conferencing platform (such as Zoom or MS Teams) to run the activity and send participants the characters’ descriptions and clues via email or a shared document.

5. SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis

Objective: The SWOT analysis is a popular tool for strategic analysis. You can also use it as an activity when teaching strategic thinking.

In terms of strategic thinking activities to use, doing a SWOT analysis helps participants analyse and isolate information first, and then create connections between different elements. So, in the end, by evaluating internal and external factors, you can come up with a big picture that can help you forge a way forward.

Instructions: First, provide your participant with a scenario or case study. This can be a fictional one, or it can be a real project they are working on.

Depending on how many participants you have, you can have all of them work together or split them into small groups.

At the end of their SWOT analysis, if you have more than one team, ask each team to present their findings to the larger group for discussion.

Materials Needed:

  • Scenario or case study descriptions
  • Flip charts or whiteboards
  • Markers

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • How did your team identify each component of the SWOT analysis?
  • What insights did you gain from considering both internal and external factors?
  • How might this analysis help a company’s overall strategy?
  • What connections did you identify between different elements of the SWOT analysis?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: Use a video conferencing tool to convene the participants.

Share the scenario or case study via email or a shared document. You can adopt a collaborative online aid like Miro for the SWOT grid.

If you split the participants into small teams, use virtual breakout rooms for them to work in their small groups.

6. Role Reversal

Objective: Role reversal is a useful activity to encourage creativity, empathy, and the ability to see different perspectives by having participants switch roles and approach problems from a new viewpoint.

Instructions: Create a series of scenarios in advance that include 2 or 3 characters (e.g., manager, employee, customer, competitor) that interact, each with their own agenda.

On the day of the activity, divide your participants into groups of three. Give each group a scenario and assign a role from the scenario to each person in the group. If there are only two main characters in the scenario, the third person will be an observer.

Each person in the group will put forward an argument based on the role they are playing. After 5 minutes, ask participants to switch roles so that each participant has the chance to cover at least two roles.

Each participant must approach the given problem or task from the perspective of their assigned role.

Materials Needed

  • Role descriptions and scenario details
  • Discussion prompts

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • How did switching roles change your perspective on the problem?
  • What new insights did you gain from seeing the issue from a different point of view?
  • How can role reversal help in overcoming biases in strategic thinking?
  • What was the most challenging thing about adopting a new role, and how did you deal with it?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: Use a video conferencing tool with breakout rooms to enable the participants to work in groups of 3. Share the scenarios with them electronically.

>> Strategic Thinking Training Course Materials

7. Devil’s Advocate

Objective: This is one of the strategic thinking activities that helps participants challenge assumptions by having them argue against an idea or plan.

This activity can be especially useful to assist participants in identifying confirmation bias and overcoming it.

Instructions: Present a strategy, idea, or plan to the group (e.g., launching a new product, or entering a new market).

Assign one or more participants as Devil’s Advocates who will argue against the idea.

The rest of the group defends the idea while the Devil’s Advocates raise objections and questions. Make sure to encourage open discussion and debate.

Swap roles so everyone has an opportunity to play Devil’s Advocate.

Materials Needed

  • A strategy, idea, or plan to discuss
  • A set of discussion guidelines

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • What new perspectives did the Devil’s Advocate bring to the discussion?
  • How did challenging assumptions impact your view of the idea or plan?
  • What insightful questions were most effective in revealing potential flaws?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: Use a video conferencing platform and share the strategy, idea, or plan via email or a shared document.

8. Reframing

Objective: This is another one of the strategic thinking activities that encourages participants to view problems and situations from different angles to discover new opportunities or solutions.

This activity enhances creativity and the ability to overcome rigid thinking and biases.

Instructions: First, present a problem or challenge to the group.

Next, Ask participants to reframe the problem by altering their perspective (e.g., viewing it from a customer’s perspective or considering it as an opportunity rather than a threat).

Finally, have your participants discuss and list possible new solutions or opportunities based on the reframed perspectives.

If you have a large number of participants, you can split them into smaller groups and ask every group to summarise their insights to the rest of the class at the end.

Materials Needed

  • Problem or challenge description
  • Flip charts or whiteboards
  • Markers

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • How did reframing the problem change your approach to finding a solution?
  • What new opportunities or solutions did you discover through reframing?
  • How can reframing help in overcoming biases and rigid thinking?
  • What was hard about trying to view the issue from a different angle?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: Use an online conferencing system with breakout rooms in case you need to split the group into smaller groups.

Share the problem electronically and use the electronic whiteboard of the online conferencing system or another collaborative online tool, for participants to write down and share their ideas.

9. Lego Challenge

Lego challenge

Objective: This is a good activity for engaging kinaesthetic style learners as it involves the manipulation of Lego pieces.

In terms of strategic thinking skills, this activity focuses on vision, creativity and the ability to see the big picture by having participants build structures that represent strategic concepts or solutions.

Instructions: Split your participants into small teams and give each team a batch of Lego bricks.

Assign a concept that each group will need to represent visually by building a structure made with Lego bricks. Allow teams a set time to complete the task.

At the end of the set time, each team presents their Lego creation and explains how it represents the given concept or solution.

Materials Needed: Lego sets for each team.

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • How did your team decide on the design for your Lego structure?
  • What was the hardest thing you had to do, and how did you master it?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: You can ask participants to use Lego Digital Designer or similar online tools to create their structures.

10. Paper Tower Challenge

Objective: This is another one of the strategic thinking activities that is good for engaging kinaesthetic style learners.

The Paper Tower Challenge helps promote vision, creativity and teamwork as participants build the tallest possible tower using limited material.

Instructions: Split your participants into smaller groups and provide each team with some sheets of paper and other materials such as tape and scissors.

Explain to the teams that their task is to construct the highest free-standing tower within a short time (no more than 15 minutes).

At the end of the activity, measure the towers and check their stability. The team with the tallest tower, which does not fall apart at the slightest touch, wins.

Materials Needed:

  • Sheets of paper
  • Tape, scissors and any other additional material you want to give the teams to build the tower
  • A ruler or a tape measure

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • What strategy did your team use to build your tower?
  • How did you overcome challenges while you were building the structure?
  • What vision did you have of what the tower would be like at the end?
  • What helped you to collaborate as a team successfully?

11. Gutterball

Objective: The aim of this activity is to promote teamwork and vision, and to imagine different outcomes by having participants navigate a ball through a system built by the participants.

Instructions: Split your participants into small teams and provide them with materials to create a gutter system (e.g., pipes, tubes, cardboard).

Ask each team to design and build a gutter system that allows a ball to travel from start to finish without leaving the track.

Give the teams a set time to accomplish this task, such as 15 minutes.

At the end of the activity, test each team’s gutter system to see if the ball successfully navigates the obstacles.

Materials Needed:

  • Pipes, tubes, cardboard, or other materials for constructing gutters
  • A ball (e.g., marble or ping pong ball)

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • What strategy did your team use to design your gutter system?
  • How did you address obstacles or challenges during the construction?

12. Classify This

Objective: The objective of ‘Classify This’ is to enhance participants’ awareness and strategic thinking by categorizing various items or concepts based on specific criteria.

This activity encourages identifying connections, spotting trends, and organizing information logically.

Instructions: Provide your participants with a list of items or concepts connected to a specific topic (it may be something business-related such as market segments, product features, or something completely different).

Split the participants into smaller groups and ask each team to classify the items into categories based on given criteria or their own analysis. End the activity with each team presenting their reasoning to the other teams.

Materials Needed:

  • List of items or concepts
  • Criteria for classification (optional)
  • Flip charts or whiteboards
  • Markers

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • How did your team approach the task of classifying the items?
  • What patterns or trends did you identify during the classification process?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: You can adapt this activity for online teaching by using a virtual video conferencing system with breakout rooms and sharing the list of concepts electronically.

This is one of those strategic thinking activities for teams that work well online.

13. Bridge Build

Objective: This is one of those strategic thinking activities that is hands-on and that focuses on creativity and team collaboration.

It does so, as it requires participants to build a bridge using a set of given materials.

Instructions: Divide your group of participants into smaller teams.

Give each team some construction materials, for example, spaghetti, cocktail straws, sellotape and cardboard.

Explain to the teams that they will need to build a bridge that can support a specified weight (e.g., a book) within a set time limit (e.g., 30 minutes).

When the time limit is over, test each bridge to see if it can sustain the weight required.

Materials Needed:

  • Straws, tape, paper, or other building materials
  • Weight for testing (e.g., a book)

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • What strategy did your team use to design your bridge?
  • How did you go about setting your vision for the completed project?
  • How did you address challenges during the construction process?

14. Deceivers and Loyals

Objective: This is one of those strategic thinking activities that focus heavily on observation, awareness of what is happening around you, attention to detail, seeing the big picture and questioning skills.

Instructions: Secretly assign roles to your participants (i.e., deceivers and loyals). You can distribute cards to do that.

The game has two settings: the night and the day. During the night, the deceivers gather to decide which loyal to secretly eliminate. During the day, the loyals talk openly and have a poll to banish a suspect.

The night phase of the game is played by having all players (who are sat in a circle) close their eyes. The deceivers though will open their eyes and communicate silently to decide who they want to eliminate. Once they have decided, they point at that person and the deceivers close their eyes to signal that the night is over.

For the day phase, all players open their eyes and have a discussion to decide who might be a deceiver and they vote that person out. A person is banished once the majority of players have voted for them.

The trainer or a game facilitator acts as the moderator.

The game continues until either all deceivers are banished or the deceivers surpass the loyals in numbers.

Materials Needed:

  • Role cards or descriptions
  • Timer

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • How did you approach the process of identifying and eliminating suspects?
  • What strategies were most effective in persuading others and avoiding detection?
  • What role did biases play in your decision-making, and how did you address them?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: Use a video conferencing platform and assign roles via private messages.

Conduct the night phase through private messages with the facilitator and the day phase through group discussion in the main session.

15. Tower of Babel

Objective: This strategic thinking activity presents participants with the challenge of working together to create the tallest tower they can.

Also, the rules impose an additional challenge by prohibiting the participants from talking to each other, so they have to communicate through gestures alone.

So, this activity fosters communication and observation skills, creativity, teamwork and vision, which are all important elements of strategic thinking.

Instructions: Divide the group into smaller teams and provide each team with unconventional building materials (e.g., spaghetti, marshmallows, paper, string, tape).

Explain that each team will have a tower as tall as possible, using the resources you gave them. They will work together but they will not be able to talk, they will just be able to communicate through gestures.

Give teams a set time to complete the task, e.g., 15 or 20 minutes.

The winning team is the one that builds the highest tower.

Materials Needed:

  • Building materials (e.g., spaghetti, marshmallows, paper, string, tape)
  • A timer

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • What strategy did your team use to build your tower under communication barriers?
  • How did you manage to communicate without words?

16. Capture the Flag

Objective: The objective of Capture the Flag is to stimulate participants’ collaboration skills, the ability to evaluate the environment and other people’s actions, and vision.

The aim is for each team to try and seize the other team’s flag while trying to stop the other team from seizing theirs.

Instructions: Divide the group into two teams.

Designate a play area and place each team’s flag at opposite ends.

Explain that each team must strategize to protect their flag while trying to seize the opposing team’s flag.

The team that seizes the other team’s flag first wins.

Materials Needed:

  • Two flags
  • A designated play area

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • What strategy did your team use to defend your flag and capture the opponent’s flag?
  • How did you adapt your strategy to counteract the other team’s moves?
  • What role did anticipation and proactive thinking play in your success?

17. Common Thread

Objective: This is one of the strategic thinking activities that help participants identify connections and see the big picture.

Common Threads is an activity that encourages participants to spot connections by having them find commonalities among apparently random objects or ideas.

Instructions: Provide the group with a list of unrelated items or concepts.

Divide the participants into small groups and ask each team to identify common threads or connections among the items.

At the end of the activity, ask each team to explain their findings to the rest of the participants.

Materials Needed:

  • A list of random items or ideas
  • Flip charts or whiteboards
  • Markers

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • How did your team approach finding common threads among the items?
  • What connections did you identify, and how did you justify them?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: Use a virtual video conferencing tool; set up breakout rooms for the participants to work in smaller teams, and share the list of items with the participants via email or a shared document.

Classroom lesson plans

18. Spectrum Mapping

Objective: Spectrum Mapping helps participants develop awareness, spot trends, prioritize, identify patterns and see the big picture by having participants organize ideas or opinions along a spectrum based on specific criteria.

Instructions: Present a topic or question to the group (e.g., “What are the biggest challenges facing our industry?”).

Then, split the group into smaller teams.

Ask each team to generate ideas or opinions related to the topic and to organize their ideas along a spectrum (e.g., from most to least important, urgent to non-urgent).

Give teams a set time for the discussion and then ask each team to present their ideas to the rest of the class.

Materials Needed:

• Flip charts or whiteboards
• Markers

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • How did your team decide where to place each idea on the spectrum?
  • What patterns or trends did you identify during the mapping process?
  • What difficulties did you encounter, and how did you deal with them?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: Use a video conferencing tool with the option to create breakout rooms so that participants can work in small groups.

Use a virtual whiteboard or a collaborative online tool for participants to write down their ideas.

19. What Would “X” Do?

Thinking exercise for adult training

Objective: As part of this game, participants are required to analyze how a famous figure or fictional character would approach a given problem or scenario.

So, this is one of those strategic thinking activities that promote imaginative thinking and seeing things from a different perspective.

Instructions: Present a problem or scenario to the group (e.g., a business challenge or a market entry plan).

Divide your participants into teams and assign each team a famous figure or fictional character (e.g., Steve Jobs, Sherlock Holmes).

Ask each team to discuss how their character would approach the given problem.

At the end of the activity, ask each team to explain, through a short presentation, their analysis and solutions to the larger group.

Materials Needed:

  • Problem or scenario description
  • List of famous figures or fictional characters
  • Flip charts or whiteboards
  • Markers

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • How did your team approach analyzing the problem from your assigned figure’s perspective?
  • What unique insights or solutions did you discover?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: Use an online conferencing platform and collaboration tools.

Have participants work in breakout rooms for the small group discussion and share the scenarios electronically with each team.

20. Flip It Over

Flip it over game

Objective: This is one of those strategic thinking activities that help participants analyse a problem from a different perspective.

The aim is to find alternative solutions or perspectives to a given problem or scenario.

Instructions: Present a problem or scenario to the group (e.g., a product failing in the market).

Divide the team into groups and give each team a scenario to discuss.

They will need to “flip” the problem or scenario and find an alternative approach or perspective. For example, instead of focusing on why the product is failing, focus on what successful competitors are doing differently.

At the end, ask each team to give a short presentation to the larger group with the outcome of their small group discussion.

Materials Needed:

  • Problem or scenario description
  • Flip charts or whiteboards
  • Markers

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • How did your team approach flipping the problem or scenario?
  • How did this exercise help you in identifying alternative solutions?

Adaptation for Online Teaching: You can adapt this activity to virtual teaching by using an online video conferencing tool with breakout rooms and a virtual whiteboard or chat facility.

21. Crocodile River

Crocodile training activity

Objective: the objective of this game is for participants to cross an imaginary river using strategy.

This activity focuses on creativity, teamwork, vision and identifying connections.

Instructions: Designate an area as the “river” and provide stepping stones (for instance, you can use, pieces of paper).

Ask participants to form small groups.

Explain to the participants that the teams have to use the stepping stones to go across the river without touching the ground.

Set rules; for example, only one person per stone, stones cannot be moved once placed and so on.

The first team to cross the river wins.

Materials Needed:

  • A designated area
  • Stepping stones (pieces of paper, foam mats, etc.).

Possible Questions for Follow-up Group Discussion:

  • How did you address challenges during the activity?
  • What role did having a vision for your strategy play in your success?

If you found these strategic thinking exercises useful, you might also be interested in the training materials below:

Dr Valeria Lo Iacono
Latest posts by Dr Valeria Lo Iacono (see all)