What’s Your Cat’s Name? a Team-Building Exercise

Games are an ancient and fun way to get people interacting, even in stressful situations. At one of my seminars, an attendee, Susan Peters of BorgWarner PTC Shared Services, shared this technique that she and her colleagues had found very valuable.

“After one of the sessions,” said Susan, “we spoke briefly about our company’s struggles while we are combining five divisions under one ‘happy roof’ with a shared services department acting as the building cheerleaders. In addition to the day-to-day payroll, our jobs are HR, IT, and finance, getting everyone to work together as a team.

“As a team-building exercise within the Shared Services area, we were all instructed to send three interesting facts about ourselves to the meeting organizer, Laurie Schamber, Manager of Organizational Learning. Her staff then took these facts and made up bingo cards, no two alike. When we got to the meeting, we were each handed a card and given twenty minutes to quiz the others in the room, trying to match the people to their squares on their card.

“What ensued was actually quite funny. A conference room with 26 people, most of whom had never worked together before, and everyone was scurrying around, asking: ‘Do you speak Croatian?’ — ‘Did you meet your husband on the internet?’ — “Are your cats named Boom-Boom and Bam-Bam?’ Prizes were awarded for the first four people who got ‘Bingo!’ There were questions about family, pets, years married, hobbies, how many years the person had worked for the Company, where they grew up and went to school. The exercise also offered insights into which people were willing to disclose personal information and which were going to be ‘strictly business.’

“We later did this with a group of over 100. For this exercise, Human Resources provided basic biographical information, rather than polling participants. The questions were less exotic, but still intriguing: ‘Who went to school in North Dakota?’ ‘”Who once worked as a cab driver?’ ‘Who has twins?’

“While this exercise wasn’t a magical key to getting everyone working as a team, we each learned more about the people we will be working with. That was the organizer’s intention.”

Organizer Laurie Schamber says this game of People Bingo has been around for some time. “I can’t tell you who originated it, but what I can tell you is that it works!”