For teammates to experience the dangers of one-way communication and to evaluate their ability to communicate without feedback.

A pen and 3-4 pieces of blank paper per person.

Everyone find a partner and sit facing each other.  Each person will need a flat surface in order to draw.

Explain that this is a drawing exercise to determine how well you can communicate.  Sample objects to draw are at the end of this document but feel free to add your own.  The rules are as follows:

  • Decide who will describe and who will draw.

  • Hand out an index card to each pair.

  • No discussion or feedback is allowed.  Only the describer talks.  They describe what to draw with no discussion.

  • The description has to be in shapes, angles, lines etc.  For example, if you were supposed to describe how to draw a bicycle, you CAN’T say, “Draw two wheels, handlebars and a seat.” They will know it’s a bicycle immediate.  Instead, you need say something like, “Draw an upside-down triangle.  On each side of the triangle, draw two circles.  Draw a straight line from the center of each circle to the top of the triangle and so on.

  • No words or numbers are allowed.  Even using shapes to spell words or numbers is not allowed.

  • Describe until you’ve have no more clues.  Have your partner guess what it is.  If they get it, great.  If they don’t, show them your card.  Ask for a new card and switch roles.  You should spend a maximum of 3-4 minutes before guessing. 

  • Switch roles and ask for a new card.

  • You’d like to have the pairs each draw and each describe at least three times each.

Ask the group how it felt?  Was it hard? Why?

Point out, if the group does not, how difficult it is for there to be comprehension without two way dialogue.  Without feedback, questions and discussion it’s hard to be on the same page.

Also explain the curse of knowledge.  You know what the answer looks like but describing it to someone else is difficult since they do not know the picture in your head.

We use one way communication a lot without even knowing it.  Emails, voice mails, texts, one on one discussions without feedback, team meetings without discussion.  This is why there are so many communication failures.



  • One way communication causes a lot of problems and conflict.

  • Two way dialogue on both sides means we make sure we are on the same page prior to engaging in work so we only have to do something once.

  • Don’t assume everyone understands your instructions (curse of knowledge).  You message has to be clear them.  If it is not, it is a failure our your part as the communicator.

  • As the communicator, make sure you ask others their understanding, in their words, as to what the message is.

  • As a receiver, make your sue ask for clarity to ensure you only have to do this once.

Download the worksheet below for all the necessary materials for this exercise.