Team Building Exercise: Sort the Cards

Team Building Exercise: Sort the Cards


In this team building exercise teams work together on a common problem. The problem is intentionally designed to be simple to understand though when several people are involved it may not be as obvious as on how to go through it. The exercise will highlight weaknesses and strengths. To succeed a team must work cooperatively and with foresight.

This exercise is also ideal to examine how a group of people self-organise, assign a leader or approach a problem solving task under pressure.


Sort a deck of playing cards together as a group.

What You Need

  • A deck of playing cards for each group of about 4 people.
  • Tables
  • Prizes


  • Divide the delegates to groups of 4 or 5 depending on the total number of delegates. Aim to have equal-sized groups and don’t have any group with less than 3 members.
  • Distribute a deck of playing cards.
  • Allocate a separate area for each group so they can freely work there without disturbing other groups. For example, you can assign a large table to each group.
  • Ask groups to shuffle their decks thoroughly and place the deck at the centre of their table.
  • Explain that the objective is to sort the cards and place them back into a deck. They should then leave the deck at the centre of the table to indicate they are finished.
  • The sorting should be as follows, from the bottom of the deck to the top:
    • Clubs 2 to 10, J, Q, K, A
    • Diamonds 2 to 10, J, Q, K, A
    • Hearts 2 to 10, J, Q, K, A
    • Spades 2 to 10, J, Q, K, A
  • Explain that the teams can address this problem in any way they wish. All that matters is to see which team sorts the cards in the quickest time possible.
  • Start the competition on your mark.
  • Allocate enough time so that at least three groups finish so you have a winner and two runners up.
  • Applaud the winner and give them a prize.
  • Follow with a discussion to analyse how they approached the task.


Explaining the Exercise: 5 minutes

Activity: 30 minutes

Group Feedback: 10 minutes


What was your general approach to solving this problem as a team? Did you assign yourself a leader? Did you divide the problem to smaller tasks so you could all work in parallel? Why the winning team won? If you were not the winning team, why were you not as good as the winning team? If you had another chance to go through this exercise, what would you do differently? Was there a lot of confusion on what strategy to follow at the start? Was everyone trying to convince everyone else about his own strategy? Did you just get on with sorting the cards straight away, or did you pause to think of a strategy so all your resources, i.e. team members, could be utilised? What was the most important lesson you learned in this exercise and how does this apply to teamwork at your job?

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Team Building Exercise: Leaky Pipes
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