The Nail Game

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The following activity provides an opportunity to discuss the attitudes in team work and prerequisites of a fruitful team work.

Time 45 minutes

Material 2 working rooms, 20 nails, a piece of wood with one nail in it

Group Size 8-30 people

Keywords Teamwork, Collaboration





The activity aims at making the participants experience a team-working exercise and have a chance to discuss effective team-working on the example of the activity.


Before the participants find themselves in project teams you should at least once stress the topic of team work:

  • Why is it important?
  • Why do we want them to work in teams?
  • What are the advantages?

Now ask the participants if they know the solution to the Nail Game and if there are people who do, they will be in the observers group. You might split the group in two parts. About ten people leave the room. The others will be the observers. Tell them they should look how the individuals work in the team. Take special focus on the communication! Note some verbal quotes. Give one or two numbers to every observer and lead the other again into the room. Give everybody entering the room a number so that the observers know whom to observe but the observed don’t know who is their trainer.

On the table in the center of the room there is a piece of wood with a nail inside. The people who entered the room will place itself around the table, the observers or “trainers” will make a bigger circle around them. Now tell them: Put another 15-20 nails on the standing nail! You have in total 20 minutes, after 10 minutes you can ask three questions to get help.

In the question break try to help them a little if they do bad in the first half. You can say the following: Use all resources a nail has: it’s stable (it could hold others), it has a head… In the second half try to make it possible that they can achieve to goal if they do good. This is a challenge which seems to be impossible. Very few individuals could find the solution; only in teams you have a chance when everybody shares ideas and try-outs. Here communication is crucial. If you tell your colleagues that it “cannot be possible”, that “this is a waste of time” or you express your frustration you can also destroy the mood and courage of your colleagues. After the 20 minutes give the observers 5 minutes to give their feedback to their trainee.


After the participants come back into a big circle and ask questions like:

  • Why is team work important?
  • What is important in team work?

In the end it should be clear why positive communication is so important and why for complex challenges you’ll always need a team. Who on earth could ever build a mobile phone on his own?



Non-governmental organisation and facilitators network from Moldova for sustainable development, Education for Sustainable Development and environmental learning.