The Barter Puzzle 


Ready, Set, Go.

Six teams were given different jigsaw puzzles with ‘encrypted’ questions or messages regarding Socialist political ideology. All puzzles with the same difficulty level, however some puzzles were more challenging than others in terms of the color compositions.
The first problem that all teams faced was the fact that almost half of their pieces were in other teams’ pile. The second problem was that the question or the message was written on the back side of the puzzle.  Therefore, each team’s goal was twofold: (1) Complete  the jigsaw puzzle the fastest; and (2) Get the message ‘deciphered’ on the back of the puzzle without breaking the entire puzzle in order to answer the question or solve the ‘political’ riddle.
Each team must come to a consensus on how to get missing pieces back — either through negotiating, trading, or exchanging tokens. Whatever they decide to do, they must decide as a team.

How things went & what we learnt:

Team Lightbulbs in Action

Team Lightbulbs in Action


Our team’s strategy was mostly collaborative, inside and outside of our team. Inside we helped each other to figure out the flipping challenge, which pieces are missing, etc. Outside of the team, we were just negotiating, not really aggressive, putting ourselves in others’ shoes, considering our benefits as well as the other team’s benefits.

 This exercise taught me that sometimes I have to be aggressive while negotiating, since people are not always considerate. Also it taught me that teamwork matters a lot, i.e. brainstorming and helping each other really brings out the best result in any situations.


There wasn’t a leader in the group since we all shared our ideas and respected other’s actions and thoughts…

This activity taught me the importance of teamwork and seeing things from different angles and spotting the big picture.


We collaborated. In our group, we helped each other out and kept communication as an important tool. Outside of our group, the negotiators stuck to a “give and take” tactic.

It taught me the importance of teamwork. Our group didn’t have any difficulties other than technical difficulties, so it was easy to complete the task. Also, with everyone working together, there’s always a better idea than the first. However, what was interesting was that in other classes someone needs to take up the role of the leader, but for this time, we did not need one. It was interesting to see how everyone took up a suitable role by their own to contribute and be able to function as a group.


“I have your puzzle, but it is a big piece. Can we have 2 pieces of our group in exchange?” It worked 3 times for me. I could get 3 pieces of the puzzles for free :).

The exercise helped me learn more about teamwork, negotiation skill and problem solving.

The Holy State of JAASOD

The Holy State of JAASOD & LaLaLand teams in mutual cost-benefit analysis


The hardest point of this exercise for me was to find the right moment to start moving around actively. “The waiting strategy” worked well in some aspects, but one group didn’t come to us to get their pieces and finally I went to them to negotiate. I think I should have judged which team is active
or not earlier and started to move.

What I learned from this exercise is the first estimate is so important. I was not able to imagine what the whole picture was like which made our team careful. To be careful is not a bad thing, but sometimes taking a risk and speed are needed. 


Since we initially did not adopt a concrete strategy, we were exposed to a lot of risks, like not being able to complete the puzzle in time, not getting the other pieces we needed, and lastly, not being able to see the question underneath the puzzle.

It wasn’t bad, since a lot of things are best done and understood through trial and error,  but in a time-constrained exercise like this, it would’ve been better to have adopted a good strategy, especially in the negotiations.


Our heads were quite clear and we were able to establish a nice rhythm working together and aiding each other where required. We had a neutral strategy and didn’t have to go to other groups often to get our pieces because many of the other teams approached us to swap, sell or buy pieces. That is how we ended up with most of the puzzle pieces.

In the end we did very well and learnt how to do what needs to be done, fill the gaps that needed filling and how to motivate, compliment and appreciate each other’s efforts. 

The A-CLASS Team in their classy 'We just did it!' mood

The A-CLASS Team in their classy 'We just did it!' mood


While playing this game, I tried to get missing pieces by asking to exchange same number of puzzle pieces. This tactic worked because the interaction has advantage on both our team and the other team.

From this experience, we learned that if we want to make audience understand the theme especially abstract one, it is necessary to give an example that’s found in our daily lives. Moreover, unbiased perspective is important because in the society there are various concepts, so we learned that we have to be neutral and present it as simply as we can in order not to support only one back.


After analyzing the options, we chose the best for us, and then we divided the tasks. I started off by putting some parts of the puzzle together, and then I gave them to Gabriel and Masri so that they could put them in the ‘flipping folder’, meanwhile Mana was trading the pieces.

I really liked this exercise, and I’m really proud of the way we worked as a team, despite the fact that we had a small technical problem related to flipping the puzzle… we even found a way to solve that. We all collaborated, took care of the task that each one had, and kept communication during the whole activity.


The activity helped us think outside the box and collaborate to find the solution that might meet the need.

Learning through playing has many advantages, and breaking what’s left of the ice in the group might be the most important one of them. However, the instructions were a bit vague at the beginning and we couldn’t get the idea of the tokens and how they might be helpful but it was good to be out of the comfort zone and challenge ourselves and risk trading what we had and get the missing pieces from other teams.


The puzzle activity was very successful due to the fact that we were the first ones to read our question, even though we used two ‘flipping folders’. It was very important for us to solve firstly what was the first half of our picture because that put us ahead during the time of negotiations and trading of pieces.

We had a very harmonious team work and we did it very quickly.

The Aurora Team solving the 'flipping problem'

The Aurora Team solving the 'flipping problem'


During our work we did not have a particular leader. Sometimes, one of us organized the work for others. I do not think that for this activity leadership was an issue, because we managed to work in a balanced and organized way.

We ended up with an interesting question about socialism and Jesus. Three of us on the team are not Christians, that is why it posed a challenge. I think the exercise taught us to art of delegating responsibility. 


Some of the teams offered me 2 tokens for 3 pieces of our puzzle. Instead of falling to their unlovely offer, I bought quarter of every other teams puzzle, and did some negotiation with some members of other teams to cooperate with me and buy the required pieces together. In the end, we managed to finish our puzzle pieces and got our question!


My role in our activity was completing the puzzle. It was very difficult because we didn’t have a lot of pieces of the puzzle. I thought this activity needed luck. In addition, we had to find the best way to attach pieces and see the document at the same time. In the end, our team came up with a bunch of good ideas.


Min was the one who had strategies for trading pieces. He played an important role in collecting all the pieces. The risk we had was that we didn’t know which one was our piece, so we had to be very careful not to trade with the wrong ones. The hardest part of this activity was negotiating because some teams took a lot of time on which one to trade so we had to wait. This exercise thought us negotiation skills, imagination, and patience.

The Rectangle Team in search of 'rectangles'

The Rectangle Team in search of 'rectangles'


This exercise taught me the importance of splitting the work. Some are good at talking and negotiating with other people, while others are good at observing and calculating how many pieces we still need or which team has how many of our pieces.


This exercise taught me how to better function not only as an individual in a group but also how to find the best way to get the group unit to better function together by setting good communication ground and understanding the members strong and weak points.


This exercise helped to think fast and divide the task, as it would be more effective. It also showed me how to work in groups and rely on my classmates, be sure that everyone will do their job correctly, exactly as it happened in our team.


We began with a divided mindset on how to proceed on the task as we had little cohesive plans, likely due to less than average motivation due to vague rewards and/or instructions. Surprisingly events proceeded rather quickly despite nobody stepping up to take a leadership role.

If I had to pinpoint a single takeaway point from this exercise, it would probably have been to be even more focused on the completion of the end-task.

The Last Minute's Negotiation with LalaLand and Aurora teams

The Last Minute's Negotiation with LalaLand and Aurora teams

LalaLand Team Away in Search of Missing Pieces

LalaLand Team Away in Search of Missing Pieces


Since we had other teams’ puzzles with us as well. Our team first tried to figure out the big picture that needed to be seen fist in order to figure out which big puzzle was really ours. We had some arguments which delayed our progress because we were confused about the picture itself.

The exercise taught me about cooperation and how liberal trading can bring about a win-win situation for both ends of the deal.


When we found out that there was a group that was taking a long time to figure out their puzzle and denied all negotiations, there was a risk that we may not be able to complete our puzzle, but at that point, we knew that we did our best and got all the pieces we could. So, it was not that much of a big deal for us.

This activity taught me that even in the most difficult circumstances, there is a way. It just takes some creativity and flexibility.


In our team, we used various strategies to complete our task, such as collaboration and cooperation. For collaboration we tried to exchange the puzzle pieces with others without using any tokens. For cooperation, we tried to cooperate with other team members in order to get our own puzzle pieces back.

This exercise taught us some lessons, such as flexibility, responsibility and cooperation with other groups.



Images by: Murad Ismailov