Team Building Activity – The Dangers of Chinese Whispers in your Organisation

Team Building Activity – The Dangers of Chinese Whispers in your Organisation

EML Team recently ran a team building workshop for a client who were looking to take a longer-term approach to the development of their teams.

The client’s management team of 20 were well developed, the business was over 20 years old with some 14,000 employees and a highly experienced inhouse HRD team. With such an experienced inhouse HRD team it is always a challenge for our consultants to suggest fresh ways to enable them to achieve their desired learning objectives from their conferences or team meetings. But we are always up for a challenge!

Firstly our client wanted to have a meaningful team building activity in the afternoon of their conference, this was the easy part for us. Our consultants ran through a number of options to achieve their aims while staying close to their Learning and Development goals and language used. Options included Lego Master BuilderBuilding Bridges and a Communication Workshop – the client opted for Lego.

The morning ice breaker was a slightly different matter as it had a very specific brief. The client had identified 3 ‘tests’ that they had set themselves within their revised business structure. These 3 tests needed to be developed, committed to memory and easily explained in a visual and fun way.

The output of this session needed to be able to be taken away by the client’s employees and used with other teams within the business as a part of a wider piece. The things discussed in the conference needed to be disseminated through the rest of the business and a fun, visual solution was identified as a great vehicle for doing this.

The answer came in the form of the old game of Chinese Whispers. We chose not to use ‘language’ instead we used visual hand movements. A few of the delegates first discussed and then agreed on a series of hand movements and gestures to represent and explain the 3 tests to the rest of the management team and then on to the employees not attending the conference.

Guests were lined up facing the front of the room and then the first recipient of a message was tapped on the shoulder and asked to turn around where upon they were then shown the message. The message had to be passed down the line one by one to the rest of the team.

The results on this occasion were interesting to say the least. The core 3 messages were quickly lost and the relatively complex movements that the delegates had agreed upon had been replaced with a simplified, erroneous version.

Clear Communication is Key 

This activity demonstrated that positive reinforcement and accurate communication are key when rolling out new systems and initiatives. In this case we only had 20 guests from a senior team – imagine what it will be like getting this information across to 14,000 people without significant loss of program integrity.

In short this was an excellent way of clearly demonstrating how easily imprecise communication can degrade an information stream, ultimately leading to the failure of a program which may have had many thousands of hours and a good deal of money invested in it.


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“This is the third time I have used EML for our annual One Supply engagement day (90 Associates) they are professional, helpful and supportive, their proposed team building activities are fun, engaging and inclusive of all. Would highly recommended.”

Marc Ledger | Production Manager | Lavazza

Professional, knowledgeable and friendly team to work with from beginning to end. Thank you for making our day a great success!
Caroline Greenfield | Aramco Overseas
You actually listened to the criteria I asked and followed up with a call to discuss options, out of 4 contacted no other company did that.
Michelle Duberry | Galliford Try
Really enjoyed working with Jon, Ruth and the team, exceptional customer service and support, would definitely work with you again.
Nicola Newman | The AA
Great day had a wonderful time thank you to all the team for making it such a successful event with many happy memories.
Mark Hoggard | Depuy J&J
Very professional and engaging company to work with. Great ideas and energy on the day resulted in some excellent staff feedback.
Jenny James | RoSPA
Just a big thank you again for a brilliant date. So well organised from start to finish and the team on the day were all amazing. Everyone had a great time and the feedback has been brilliant.
Laura Heaton | Hazlewoods
We have had lots of positive feedback from many members of staff. They really enjoyed all the activities and felt that it allowed them to have fun and to get to know colleagues better. Thank you!
Sonia Johnson | Bracknell Forest CC
Brilliant facilitation, really understood our needs and worked with us to create something amazing. Feedback from staff has been really positive. They were engaged, and it really did support us in our messaging. Thank you!
Clare Salerno | Saints FC
Many thanks to Neil and Ruth for leading our virtual team building exercise... Many laughs were had while scrambling to collect the twenty items...!!! The Murder Mystery was my favourite and my team winning was the icing on the cake. The Haka showed how uncoordinated we are but the laughs ...just proves what an enjoyable experience we all had.
Suzanne Mitchell | Beckton, Dickinson & Co
Our team really enjoyed the event - they are already asking when we can do another!
Karen Wilson, | Zhero
EML delivered a great virtual training afternoon for our new Graduates, Undergraduates & Apprentices. Everyone found it to be a fun and engaging afternoon.
Victoria Goodwin | Croudace Homes
Thanks for organising and facilitating our online Christmas social. I've had some great feedback from the participants and it was lovely to do something together even though we couldn't meet face to face.
Michelle Hammersley | GKN Aerospace
Great fun had by all. Both inclusive and engaging. We will be looking to use EML again next year.
John Williams | ECCTIS

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