Knot Exchange

Training Wheels Gear

$ 29.99 


Type of Initiative:    Problem Solving

Purpose: Groups create a large tangle of rope and then see how quickly another team can undo it. It allows for great discussions of how one team makes a mess and another team has to clean it up.

 Props Needed:  One 5-foot rope or cord for each pair of people

Group Size:   12 or more


  • Lay three or four ropes on the ground in an asterisk formation for each group. Divide participants into groups of six, and have each group form a circle around an asterisk of rope.
  • Instruct the group that you would like everyone to grab one end of a rope, lift it off the ground, and hold on to it. Have them imagine that the rope is now superglued to their hand. In other words, they may not let go of the rope or break contact with the rope.
  • Tell the group that when you say, “Go” you want them to take two minutes to make the biggest tangle of rope in the middle of their team. The more you weave it, the bigger and more tangled it will be.
  • After two minutes are up, ask the group to carefully lay their rope ends back on the ground and let go of the ropes. Have them step back and admire their work!
  • Then, ask everyone to rotate to the knot on their left and admire their knot, and see how different it is from the knot your group created.
  • Then have them pick up the ends of the ropes of another team. 
  • Wait until you give them the signal before they begin untangling their mess. Run a timer to see how long it takes them to untangle the knot.

Debriefing Topics:  

  • Tell me about how you used teamwork to untangle this mess.
  • What was your reaction when we switched to a new tangle of rope?
  • What was it like making a mess compared to undoing someone else’s mess?
  • How much longer did it take to undo the tangled mess compared to the two minutes it took to create the knotted mess?
  • How can we use this experience to help our team when we are working on projects?
  • How would it feel to constantly be cleaning up someone else’s mess
  • How does the phrase 'simplify the complicated' relate to this experience?
  • What other takeaways do you have from this activity?
  • How is this activity like solving a conflict between two co-workers?
  • Have you ever witnessed a conflict begin because you were constantly cleaning up someone else’s mess?
10 ropes, more extensive directions, and mesh envelope included.  Can accommodate a group size of 20 people.