Creativity Exercise: Get the Keys with a Broom

Creativity Exercise: Get the Keys with a Broom


This is a memorable exercise that covers several concepts in an engaging exercise on creativity and teamwork. Delegates are challenged progressively to come up with better creative solutions. They also learn that they can reach a solution much quicker if they are not selfish and don’t hold back their ideas, perhaps because in an attempt to show they are cleverer than others in solving problems.


Solve a given physical puzzle progressively as the challenge is increased.

What You Need

  • A set of keys with an O ring.
  • A clean broom with the following requirements:
    • Use a modern broom for wiping hard surfaces.
    • The head of the broom must contain a solid material perpendicular to its handle. Hence, you cannot use a cloth-based or soft broom.
    • The O ring of the keys should be of a similar size to the diameter of the handle, though the handle should NOT fit into the O ring.
    • The broom must not have any hooks.
    • It must be possible to unscrew the head of the broom. The tapered head of the broom must fit into the O ring.
  • A small stool
  • Masking tape
  • A cloth
  • Timer



  • Place the keys with the O ring on top of a stool. Make sure the O ring points upwards and it is easy to insert something into it.
  • Draw a line on the floor with the masking tape in a location which is about the length of the broom away from the stool.
  • Place the broom on the floor on other side of the line away from the stool.
  • Cover the keys with a cloth.


  • Explain to delegates that they are about to participate in an exercise on creativity. Explain that you will ask for them to come forward one by one and have an attempt at solving the problem. Each person has 1 minute to try. Explain that this is not a competition as everyone’s attempt helps others to prepare for their own attempt.
  • The objective of the exercise is to bring the keys to this side of the line by using the broom. The keys cannot touch the floor and your feet should not cross the line on the floor.
  • Ask for a volunteer to start the exercise.
  • Expectations:
    • Most people start by an attempt to put the handle into the ring. They will then realise that this is not an option.
    • During this process they are likely to push the keys further away and might also accidentally move the stool. This can trigger an idea in their head that leads to a potential solution; to pull the stool towards themselves using the broom’s plastic end.
    • They could come up with other straight forward solutions depending on the shape of the broom you have provided.
    • Once they offer the straight forward solution such as the “moving stool” solution, explain that now you want to increase the challenge and this solution is no longer allowed. Now ask them to have another go.
  • Expectations:
    • Now watch them struggle a bit in solving the problem since they search around their original solution rather than alternative methods.
    • Eventually, expect them to discover that the broom head can come off and that the tapered head of the handle would fit into the O ring.
    • It is possible that they come up with even more ingenious solutions. Record these solutions across various courses for your own records so you can improve the exercise over time by challenging the delegates further.
  • Once a new solution has been suggested, congratulate everyone (and not just the last person) and follow with a discussion.


Explaining the Exercise: 5 minutes

Activity: 15 minutes

Group Feedback: 10 minutes


How difficult was this creativity exercise? Did you go for the most obvious solution first (putting the handle into the ring)? Did it become more difficult when you realised that this was not possible? Did you feel the problem become more interesting because of the difficulty involved? What does this suggest about real-world problems?

How did you feel when you discovered a solution such as moving the stool? What happened when you were told this is no longer allowed? Did you find a new solution despite the challenge?

Do you think you performed well as a team or did you hide ideas from others so you could be the one who offered the final solution? What does this behaviour suggest about teamwork in the face of increasing challenges? What did this exercise teach you about facing challenges and teamwork?

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