Split your team into pairs and explain that you will all be thinking about barriers in communication and how to overcome them.
One person from each pair will need to draw, and one person from each pair will need to give instructions. Give your pairs a moment to decide who will be who.
The task to complete will be for the person who is drawing to accurately reproduce a picture which their partner will have. The only catch is, the person drawing will not be able to see the picture – their partner will be giving them instructions on how to draw it giving only details of shapes and lines, and not giving away what the picture actually is (For example, if the picture is of a house, the person giving the instructions cannot say “Draw a door”, they will have to say something like “Draw a rectangle with a small circle halfway up its length and towards the right hand side of the triangle.”)
Give each of the “drawers” blank pens and paper as well as a clipboard or something to lean on. Give each of the “instructors” one of the pictures.
Make sure your team members are seated so that the pairs are facing each other, but the people drawing cannot see any of the other instructor’s pictures.
Ask the pairs to begin, and give them five minutes or so to draw the picture.
Once done, ask the pairs to show each other their drawing and the original picture. There will probably be quite a lot of laughter in the room, as the drawings are often very different from the original pictures!
Pose the team a few questions.
- Drawers – how did you find that?
- Instructors – how did you find that?
- In terms of the way you communicated, what worked well?
- What didn’t work so well?
If you have time, you can repeat the activity, with the pairs swapping roles and using different pictures. If so, you can ask the following question once done – Was that activity any easier to do, now you have had experience of being in the opposite role?
If you like, you can stick the drawings up on a wall and ask the team to vote on which one was the most accurate representation of the original picture, giving out a prize to the best pair.
Reassemble the group and ask them how this relates to their work. Draw out observations relating to the difficulties of communication when you can’t see exactly what the customer is seeing – that communication over the telephone or via live chat can produce these same barriers. You can also probe a little into the questioning and listening techniques used during this activity, and draw parallels to customer communication. What types of questions were most effective? In what ways did you check information given for accuracy?