Mission impossible

Learning point:

A seemingly difficult/impossible task can sometimes be achieved through sheer hard work, or sometimes ingenuity.

Good for:

Team building, testing initiative and perseverance.

Resources needed:

One sheet of A4 paper (80/100gsm) and a pair of scissors. (At the trainer’s discretion teams are allowed several sheets of paper to experiment on.) Takes 20 minutes.


Ask groups of three or four to cut a hole large enough for an adult to ride a bicycle through in an A4 sheet of paper. The paper must be kept as one continuous piece – no joins etc. (We know two ways to achieve this: one is slow and painstaking, cutting from the middle outwards in a spiral. The faster method follows the principle of the chinese lantern. Fold paper in half lengthways. Cut narrow strips alternately from the fold to 1cm from the edge, then from the edge to 1 cm from the fold. This produces a ‘lantern’. Then, to open out the hole, cut all the joins at the fold, except the ones at the very top and bottom). Usually one group out of four solves the problem.


Find out the high point/low point, breakthroughs, emergence of a leader, if anyone got left out or sat back etc. As with many tasks in the workplace, this puzzle demands certain kinds of skills, which some people immediately leap into or opt out of. This in itself is worth taking a few minutes to explore.