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Golden Gates Paper Bridge - Group Initiative

The Golden Gates Paper Bridge Group Initiative

This group initiative is from the UNC-Charlotte's Venture Group Initiatives Manual.

I've used this initiative to discuss team work, leadership, followership, understanding the client and may other issues that arise during the debriefing.

In one training at SolutionsIQ the teams were given the requirements (build a bridge of 12" span - but when the customer acceptance was done the boat that had to pass under the bridge had towers and antenna that exceeded the specification height.  The teams had to negotiate with the Product Owner on the physical acceptance test - a toy boat passing under the bridge.

One team created their own "Unit-Test" - the box.

Golden Gates 

(Facilitator Info)

60 sheets of paper per group, paper clips per group, approximately 60 feet of string, tape for the string, copies of rules (next page) for each group, a ruler, flip chart for debrief.

Set up:
•  Lay down string in two parallel lines 3 feet apart.
•  Count out the paper and paper clips for each subgroup.
•  Separate the practice materials: 5 sheets of paper and 5 clips.

•    Divide group into sub-groups of approximately 5 people.
•    Hand out the instructions and read though them with group; allow clarifying questions. •    After 14 minutes, remind the group they need to choose a leader and have that person report the plan to the comptroller in one minute (as per instruction sheet). Comptroller (facilitator) informs the leaders that they have been hired by a new company (they must switch groups). Their task is to ensure that their company (the new one now) builds the best, most cost effective bridge possible. As per instructions they have 5 minutes to finalize plans.
•    After 5 minutes: it is time for construction; each group gets a space at the river. Start stopwatch.
•    When a group is done building they inform you and you tell them how much time has elapsed on the stopwatch. From that number they can calculate their costs. You need to keep track of the 1 minute the bridge needs to stay standing, as well as call out times for other groups as they finish.
•    Once all groups are finished, they should calculate their costs and profit margins. Have each group announce their profit- you then announce the winner.

Common Debrief Question Focused on Leadership:
•    It is helpful to let each subgroup do their own mini-processing with suggested questions.
•    In your small groups, please answer the following questions:
     How was the original leader chosen?
     What criteria were used?
     What effect did the new leader have on the group?
     What are the characteristics of effective leadership?
•    Come back together in large group and have sub-groups share their thoughts.

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Contractor Guidelines

Your bridge-building company has been contracted to build a paper bridge over the 'river' which has been marked out in the middle of the room. The only materials you may use in this enterprise are the paper clips and scrap paper provided. You will be given a planning/ practice phase before construction begins.

The bridge must be:
•    capable of standing for 1 minute without any extra support (other than provided materials
•    at least 30 cm (12") above the river at its central point


Your group will be paid $10,000.00 for a bridge built according to this briefing. From this you should deduct construction costs as follows:
•    $100 for every sheet of paper used (paper clips are free)
•    $2,000 for every support/stanchion which is built in the river
•    $100 for every 10 seconds (or part of 10 seconds) it takes you to build the bridge
•    Your profit is $10,000.00 minus your construction costs.

Time Frame:

     Phase I = Planning and Practice (15 minutes)
     Phase II = Group leader presents plans to comptroller
     Phase III = Final planning (5 minutes)
     Phase IV = Timed construction of bridge

•    During the initial planning phase you will be given only 10 sheets of paper and 5 paper clips with which to practice.
•    At the end of the initial planning phase, you must select a group leader who will present your plans (including projected costs) to the comptroller for approval.
•    You will be given a final 5 minutes planning before the construction phase begins.
•    During the construction phase each group may use up to 50 sheets of paper and up to 20 paper clips.
•    The 'river' is one meter wide
•    The group who makes the greatest profit, will be awarded the contract.

# Remember, you need to build a bridge quickly while using as little paper and as few supports as possible; and it must stand freely for one continuous minute.
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