Recently, I was planning an offsite retreat for a team with a significant number of new members who didn’t know each other very well. The first goal was to help them learn about one another beyond their public resumes and job descriptions. The second goal was to play and laugh together. When people feel seen and understood, and have fun together, work becomes a more human place.

Jenga is just about the simplest game you can imagine. Take 60 rectangular wooden blocks, stack them into a tower, and then take turns removing one block at a time without causing the tower to collapse. It’s a game of escalating risk and calculated choices! In the spirit of playful familiarity, I thought to myself, what would happen if, after removing a block successfully you had to answer a question written on the block?

Here’s what I noticed during the course of what the team came to call the “Truth and Jenga” game:

* Team members’ answers to simple questions often led to conversations about values, and personal identity. In other words, the questions launched a deeper inquiry about one another.

* Team members got to practice their listening skills in an informal setting, acknowledging what they’d heard and asking follow up questions. The only instruction I gave was, “Be curious.”

* People laughed a lot. We know from neuroscience that laughter triggers the release of endorphins which are the brain chemical associated with social bonds.

Sharing personal information with receptive listeners increases psychological safety, an essential condition that helps people feel like they belong and can trust each another. So, if you would like to create your own version of Truth and Jenga, buy a set at your local toy store. They come in regular or jumbo-size. You’ll also need a fine-tip Sharpie pen to write an interesting question on each block. Be sensitive to cultural and gender assumptions as you create your questions. Here are 15 sample questions to get you started. Have fun!

1. What’s your favorite “comfort food?”
2. If your home was on fire and you could save just one personal possession, what would it be?
3. What superpower would you most like to have?
4. If you had one month off work and unlimited money, what would you do?
5. If you could interview anyone living or dead, who would it be?
6. What activity recharges you or makes you smile?
7. What’s one talent you have that others here don’t’ know about?
8. What is the name of one of your favorite charities?
9. What would you like to be famous for?
10. What’s the last movie that made you laugh or cry?
11. What’s the most recent book you’ve read?
12. In what Olympic sport would you most like to win Gold?
13. What characteristic do you most admire in others?
14. What country do you dream of visiting?
15. What’s one word your closest friend would use to describe you?

What trust building question would you add to this list?

Photo Credit: Tormol

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