Human Knot: Step by Step Guide

Home » Resources » The Human KnotUpdated: March 31, 2022

You found our guide to doing the Human Knot.

The Human Knot is one of the most popular team building activities. This challenge involves team members forming a circle, grabbing random teammates’ hands, and untangling themselves without breaking their hold. No matter how many times you perform the challenge, the task is equally tricky.

The human knot is an example of a team building exercise and a team building game and is an idea for team meetings or company retreats.

This guide covers:

  • What is the Human Knot?
  • What does the Human Knot look like?
  • What are the steps to do the Human Knot?
  • Why should you do the Human Knot?

Here we go!

What is the Human Knot?

The Human Knot is a team activity that requires group members to form a circle, grab two opposite participants’ hands, and then untangle the resulting jumble without ever loosening the grip.

What does the Human Knot look like?

For all of you visual learners, here is what the Human Knot looks like in action.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyM9k8vrMwY

This example illustrates the setup, untangling, and final results.

What are the steps to do the Human Knot?

1. First, do some crowd control

Split groups into teams of five to twelve members. With four or less participants, the knot solves too quickly. Add more than twelve teammates, and the knot grows complex and unwieldy. Experts recommend eight to ten participants as the sweet spot.

2. Circle up the wagons

Each team forms a circle, standing shoulder to shoulder. Participants should stand close enough so that all members can reach the center of the circle. If this is not possible, you may need to break the teams into smaller groups.

3. You put your left hand in…

Players extend their left hands towards the middle of the circle. Once hands reach the middle, a player will grab the hand of a team member across the circle. The teammate must not grab the hand of an immediate neighbor, but rather a participant opposite the circle. If this is not possible, some teammates may need to drop initial partners to reconfigure.

4. You put your right hand in…

Players reach right hands across the circle and grab a different participant’s hand. In order for the game to work, players must pick a new partner.

5. Now, time to untangle

Teammates must try to untangle the jumble without releasing hands. To do so, participants may duck, twist and turn, squeeze through gaps in legs and elbows, step and jump. As evidenced in the above video, this game requires a lot of communication and strategy. The exercise concludes once no hands remain in the middle of the circle and participants form one large ring.

Why should you do the Human Knot?

Some benefits of playing the Human Knot are better communication skills, heightened problem-solving abilities, and increased group familiarity. The game puts teammates into close proximity and initiates conversation. Group decisions become imperative. If teams do not act in unison during this activity, the game will result in an unsolved tangle and a bunch of sore arms.

No player can squirm across the circle solo. Participants must discuss the best move, agree on a route, try the action, and adjust or regroup as necessary. This lesson is a great reminder that team success depends on the ideas and contributions of all team members.

Final Thoughts

The Human Knot is a quick and simple team building activity that requires no setup, equipment, or costs. The rules are easy to explain, and the game requires no special skill besides flexibility. Each Human Knot is unique because each group is different.

Just because an employee mastered the knot in the past does not mean this present round will be effortless. To succeed, employees must communicate effectively with current teammates, meaning the game could vary wildly from one group to the next.

The Human Knot hones in on specific group dynamics and helps teammates analyze each other’s problem solving approaches and communication styles. The shared sense of purpose helps groups learn teamwork. The activity serves as a great icebreaker since moving in close proximity cuts out smalltalk and helps teams talk about subjects with substance, particularly, “how are we going to unravel this mess of hands? I really need to use the bathroom all of a sudden.”

Check out more community building activities and connection games.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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