April 2010 - Birthday Lineup
This is a simple exercise that reinforces important communication issues. It is a great ice breaker, too.
Instruct the team members that they are to remain silent during the exercise; i.e., no talking.
Their task is to line up by birth date, month and day. (There will usually be some laughing about birth years, but this isn’t part of the challenge.)
The group members will then start trying to communicate with each other regarding their own birth date. They’ll use fingers for counting, and a wide variety of gestures. Usually those with birthdays in January and December will quickly form two ends of the line. It may take a few minutes for them to work out the middle months and dates.
Allow the group several minutes to complete the task. When they have it, tell them you are going to do a little quality check. Start from the January end of the line and have each person tell their month and day of birth. If there were any errors in their positions in the line, have them switch places. Ask them how they might have better communicated the message across the team.
As with most teambuilding exercises, effective processing begins with what happened in the exercise.
Ask the group to describe in general this communication challenge.
- How did they begin?
- How did they calibrate their communication techniques?
- Were their specific challenges, and how were they solved?
Check to see if any frustrations were encountered.
- What was working well?
- How did you handle any struggles or stress?
In facilitating the discussion, turn the attention to actual workplace challenges.
Ask the group about all of the forms of communication they are involved with at work.
- Where and how do you communicate when you are not face-to-face? ( e.g. fax, email, v-mail, etc.)
- What challenges accompany your many forms of communication?
- How to you confirm that messages are received correctly at work?
Discuss the importance of being able to clearly send and receive information in a variety of ways.
Again, this is a very simple exercise. It requires no props or equipment. The activity can be completed in almost any setting.
It is surprising how much discovery about communication can occur within a group following such a simple exercise as Birthday Lineup. If you are aware of specific challenges your particular group has with communication. weave those elements into your facilitation/processing of the activity.