How to Build a Team: Lessons From Squid Game Tug of War

A small recap: Ten people team up to play tug of war in a life and death game. This particular set of people in team Number 4 are considered weak and a loser for having three ladies and an older man in their team. But they won. And you can learn how to build a team from the scene.

Squid Game is a popular series on Netflix. It features many Korean games, with the promise that winners will get monetary rewards and the losers will die.

While we watch the losers die and others try to hang on, something remarkable happens in Episode 4. The weakest team survived a bigger and stronger group.

They look like they would lose, but they instead show the features of a tough team. Things like:

Of course, their lives are at stake in the series, and they have to fight to stay alive. It is either “win” or “die.”

Real-life is easier than that. Except you are an officer on an important operation, there is an easy way out in the outside world. If you fail your employer, it is unlikely that you will get killed instantly.

But if we look closely at the scene in Squid Game, the team shows some of the characteristics of a high-performing team. There are lessons for all of us, including startup founders, teachers, coaches, managers, and parents, on how to build a team.

Squid Game Tug of War

It is Game number 3 in the series: Tug of war. It starts in Season 1, Episode 4, and is concluded in episode 5.

You can learn one or two lessons from the scene, whether you are building a startup, starting a business, or managing a company.

For the sake of those who have forgotten the scene, you can refresh your memory here.

That said, let’s start with some profiles.

How to Build a Team: the people you need in your team

There are 10 people in team number 4. The group includes three women, an older man, and six other men. Sadly, the other team is all men, so they seemed to be at a disadvantage.

Looking at this team, we can group all of them into seven. We will refer to them by the numbers on their shirts and their role as they overcome their opponents.

#1. The leader/Player 456

This is someone who cares about others. He has empathy, listening skills, and courage, which are important.

In this group, the person is player 456.

Emotions influence us. So, having control over your emotions and having empathy can be quite difficult.

More specifically stated, emotion regulates the allocation of processing resources and determines our behavior by tuning us to the world in certain biased ways, thus steering us toward things that “feel good” while avoiding things that “feel bad.”


Player 456 has some level of self-control. Then he steps up as their leader during the game and deservedly so because he listens, cares about others, and has the courage.

#2. The experienced/player 001

There is a reason employers would ask job applicants for some years of experience. They know the person will kick the ground running immediately after hiring. Therefore, experience matters.

The experienced person in Team 4 is player 001. He has been there… done that many times for many years. He acts as a guardian and is helpful when they need a strategy. He creates the plan they all need.

#3. Panic announcer/player 212

The panic announcer is the person who calls everyone’s attention when trouble starts. She has a loud voice because she needs to express her fears. A strong team needs this person because she will notice the danger and won’t keep calm. She will call their attention if others relax too much or too long.

#3. The fast thinker/player 218

When things go wrong, the fast thinker has to come up with a plan fast. Usually, he is good at thinking on his feet. His decisions might seem risky to others, and that’s the point. When everyone is scared and losing it, he hatches a plan quickly. He comes up with something when everyone’s brain goes on a break.

#4. The hard worker/ player 199

The hard worker is strong and confident in his strength. He is a worker, and once he knows what the job is about, he does what’s expected of him: hard work. A team needs him because he always gives his all at all times.

#5. The followers

These are the other members of the team. They know what they are facing and would do what others are doing. They are followers, though, so their work rate is relatively dependent on how they are monitored or the situation at hand.

Lessons from the scene on Squid Game Tug of War on How to Build A team

Now that we have looked at the team members, let’s see some lessons from when they started working together.

They won’t have won if some conditions aren’t in place or they haven’t made some decisions.

Here are the lessons:

#1. Know what you are up against

Before you start building a team, you should know what you are playing against.

The worst fight is the one that catches you unaware. Even Lao Tzu talks about preparation in the Art of war:

He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.

So let’s get back to Squid Game Tug of war.

While they sit, they watch other teams play. Therefore, they have a full scope of what this is all about.

Everyone understood the assignment. Understanding the mission is important in building a strong and efficient team.

I have taken this advice even seriously as a freelance SEO content writer. For instance, marketing a product through SEO content writing isn’t easy. Unfortunately, many clients do not understand it until you explain it in detail.

I have to tell them what SEO means for local businesses and the best practices. Working with them when they don’t know the full scope has led to disagreements or confusion. So unless you are certain they understand, you should not start working.

That’s just my opinion, by the way.

#2. When planning, seek experience

As they make their way to the stage, the team is scared of their fate. They all feel their destiny has been sealed because they have three women and an older man. So they need a miracle or a plan.

The older man, player 001, gives them a plan, and it works for a while. He comes up with a good idea because he has a lot of useful experience.

If you are running a business or startup, you might be afraid. The question you might ask is, what if I fail?

However, when you start asking questions from experienced people, you’re giving yourself the chance to understand the hurdles that other people have gone through.

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

Sir Isaac Newton

You don’t have to look too hard to find experienced people, though. You can seek their advice not only by hiring them.

You can:

  • Read books
  • Chat with them
  • Listen to their interviews
  • Visit forums
  • Join communities
  • Follow them on social media

When I started as a writer, I read many books and blog posts on becoming a better writer. It is one of the ways I could understand what I’m getting into. The other method is either my own experience or paying for courses, which can both cost a lot. Too expensive.

So, in fact, if you want to know how to build a team, start with people who have built one and learn from them.

#3. What your team believe is as important as who is leading the charge

Leadership is important in any group. History attests to this fact, from Churchill to Mandela to Mahatma Gandhi to Cleopatra (a female pharaoh who was famously praised for her intelligence). They were leaders who reiterated that leadership demands many responsibilities, innate talent, or soft skills.

The power of leadership is also tested in team number 4.

As the team climbs up to fight “Tug of war,” player 001, the old man says something along the line:

“First off, the leader is very important. The person gets close to the face of the opposition’s leader, and the rest of the team looks at the leader’s back. If the leader seems weak or dispirited, then the game is over.”

— Season 1, Episode 4, 10 minutes to the end.

#4. The team can be the strategy

Many organizations work from the inside out. First, the organization has a goal, and then they hire or look for people who can help achieve that.

For instance, if you run a business and need a marketing strategy to reach a certain number of sales, you will start with the goal first. Then you go out looking for who or what agencies to hire. Maybe you decide to do social media marketing, paid advertisement, or hire an SEO consultant. It all starts with your goal first: to meet a target.

This situation doesn’t work that way in the scene from Squid Game. They already have a team before knowing what they are up to.

As a business owner, that’s a bad choice. You can’t hire people before you know what you need them for. You can’t build a team first.

However, during the long run, situations change, and you need an immediate plan. That’s when you can use this point: the team is the strategy.

In the middle of a crisis or urgent decision, it will be too late to build a new team. So look back, think of the strength of your team and then the problem — inside >>>>> out.

“Who can do what” and “how can they achieve that.”

Again, inside out.

#5. Disagreement should be resolved as soon as possible

The longer it takes to settle disputes or quarrels, the longer the team will be working at a level short of their best. After all, it is teamwork, and all ten people should work towards a common goal. Disharmony in the group is like running a four-wheeled car while a tire is flat. Or worse, imagine a tire heading in a different direction.

In the Squid Game, the team started arguing as they headed to the top. Thanks to 456, a good leader with good emotional intelligence. He asks everyone to listen to the Old man, player 001, when he tries to talk. If not for 456, the old man wouldn’t have shared his experience. The team would have played the game without a strategy.

Another moment where an argument would have started again is when their opponents regain control and 212 screams out.

She panics and calls, Hey, do something.

Then the fast thinker suggests an idea.

It seems like a bad idea to everyone, and the argument would have continued.

But 456 comes to the rescue again when he says, let’s give it a shot.

The shot saves them.

Building a Team Is Hard.

People are so different. We have different beliefs, opinions, backgrounds, personal goals, and cultures. We like what we like even though we can pretend. For example, someone might say they like their job or the company’s goal even if all they ever want is the money. So knowing how to build a team is really hard.

If you like this, you might also like what I wrote about the best marketing tip.

Or you can hire me for your SEO content writing needs.



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A. Ogunmokun

A. Ogunmokun

I write fiction stories & essays about human experiences on medium. You can read my blog and learn how to grow a small business at