Paper, Scissors, Rock On

Megan Hartline —  June 5, 2013 — 2 Comments

Last week I had the rare pleasure of watching 81 well-caffeinated library staff members battle for supremacy in an elaborate Paper Scissors Rock tournament.

The bracket-style elimination competition was the warm-up exercise for  our staff retreat. Because our division within the library spans multiple locations and shift times, we hardly ever get the opportunity to gather in one place and put faces to email addresses. The focus for the staff retreat wasn’t elaborate problem-solving or strategic planning; rather, we just needed to get acquainted.

photo of a stone marble rock

Rock is a winning strategy

The challenge for the retreat was to create structured, pleasant, and productive opportunities for a very large group of staff to mingle and get to know one another. We created table teams of staff from different departments, plied them with breakfast refreshments and coffee, then pitted the teams against one another to create instant team spirit within the groups.

The game: Paper Scissors Rock. The house rules: 1, 2, 3, throw. The twist: team-based play.

Each team had ten seconds to consult about what move to make next. They faced off against other teams, and everyone on the team made the same play simultaneously. The team with the best out of three plays went on to the next round. In about 20 minutes, we winnowed down from 14 teams of 6 people to the ultimate group of champions.

Some may observe that this tournament was a little silly and didn’t apply to our everyday jobs. True facts! The real value of the exercise was in banding together with 5 colleagues, working strategically with them, and, admittedly, getting a little silly.

We’ve all been subject to icebreaker games at the beginning of events. Rock Paper Scissors was easy to roll out, didn’t put anyone on the spot alone, and pumped up the camaraderie right away. What offbeat exercises have you employed in the name of team building?

Megan Hartline


Megan Hartline (@awrybrarian on Twitter) is a librarian in Denver, Colorado. In addition to librarianship, Megan's background is in nonprofit leadership. She would love to visit your library to talk about management, workflows, or customer service.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Found: June 3 – 7, 2013 | Library Lost & Found - June 8, 2013

    […] rocked on and built teams with a friendly rock, paper, scissors […]

  2. How to Use Icebreakers in Library Meetings « Library Lost & Found - August 15, 2016

    […] the agenda starts off with an icebreaker. Some of us love goofy icebreaker activities like a group paper scissors rock […]

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