Lines of Communication

Type of Activity: Problem Solving, Communication, Consensus

Props Needed: Rope or Webbing, Tossables, Blindfolds (optional)

Set Up: Set up 2 ropes on the floor about 15 feet apart from one another or mark with tape.  Divide your group into 3 subgroups.  Separate them so they cannot hear or ideally, see each other.  Sometimes this is not an option, but it is ideal.

Process: Slip large group into 3 smaller groups. Directions for each groups are as follows:

Group One: Can see everything that is going on, but does not have the resource of their voice.  They are given the most information about what is to happen in the activity.  Instruct this group that, from this moment on, they do not have the resource of their voice.  They cannot ask questions or talk to one another to strategize.  Tell them that they have to communicate to the rest of their team the Task: Pick up all of the tossables on the ground and put them in a bag.  They must stay behind the line at all times.

Group Two: This group has all of their faculties, but must make a commitment to never look  behind them for the duration of the activity.  Instruct them that all of the information they need to be successful in the activity will be given to them by the rest of their team.

Group Three: This group is asked to make a commitment to be blindfolded (or keep their eyes closed) for the duration of the activity.  They are then told that all of the information they need to be successful in the activity will be given to them by the rest of their team.

After each group is in 'position' you may set out all of the tossables as quietly as possible in the area where the blindfolded people are.  After you are finished laying out the items, signal to Group 1 that they may begin.

Typical Group Reactions:  Usually Group 1 starts to 'mime' directions to Group 2.  Group 2 usually takes a few minutes to figure out that they are responsible to relaying the information to Group 3.  Sometimes Group 3 members will get distracted with conversation between one another that they are not very good listeners when it comes time for Group 2 to relay information to them. Some teams will create a trio of information passers; one member from Group 1 will mime     specific instructions to one member of Group 2, which gets relayed to one specific member of Group 3.  Teams that figure out this information trio are generally the most successful.

Debrief Sequence/Topics:

1.  After the group successfully places all of the tossables into the bag, tell Group 3 they may open their eyes.  There will be a few minutes of loud laughter and conversation.  Allow them to applaud and briefly discuss their experience.  Then ask the group to sit in a circle so you can debrief the    experience.

2.  Usually I start the discussion with an explanation of what the structure of the activity was.  This is done primarily for the members of Group 3 who are generally pretty clueless as to what has just happened.

3.  After you discuss the structure of the activity, I ask the members of Group 3 to explain to the rest of the team what their experience was like.  I start with this group because they are given the least amount of information, have the least amount of resources, and generally do not know what just happened.   Allow this group to talk for several minutes and prompt individuals who struggled to discuss what it was like to be in their position.

4.  Next move on to Group 2 and allow them to discuss what their experience was like.  Ask them what was most frustrating for them and how they were able to communicate the message to Group 3

5.  Lastly, ask Group 1 to discuss what their experience was like.  Have them discuss how they  communicated the directions to Group 2.  Also have them discuss how they changed the way they communicated when the style they originally chose was not successful.

6.  After each group has had the opportunity to discuss what the experience was like ask them to start making connections between what happened in the activity to what happens back in the real world.  Here are some examples:

  • Think about how the group communicated in this activity.  Do you see any connections to communication trends on your team?
  • What are some of the challenges this team has in communicating to one another?
  • What do the tossables represent to this group in the real world?
  • How important is the element of empathy in this activity?  How does that translate to management and the different roles in our company?


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